Although I would love to apologize for the delay in entertainment, I can not. Being this humorous and particular in prose is very taxing and wears one out. Just kidding, I have just been a little busy. I will explain the Betty Crocker thing at the commencement of this post. Don’t you dare scroll down.
Now to the fun stuff. Last summer we had the biennial Graves family rebellion in the Flathead Lake, Montana area. Good fun, lots of picking on grandma, and a chance to check out Glacier National Park. Another nice little thing about this area of Montana is the wild fruit that the citizens have cultivated, organized, and put out for sale all along the roadside. Cherries, huckleberries, plums, apples, and more I am sure. In my desire to ferment anything sugar, I bought 25lbs of Flathead cherries, and 5lbs of huckleberries. Word to the wise, ask the price of huckleberries before telling the road side saleswoman how much you want. It was $10 per pound of the huckleberries. Idiot.
Driving back to Bozeman the little bro and I had enough cherries to feed a bear for a full year. Or that’s what it felt like. Flash forward to now, I have six gallons of Flathead Cherry Wine in the glass carboy fermenting. I also have two gallons of huckleberry mead. Mead is fermented honey, for the
idiot lay person. I followed a simple recipe, but probably not to the correct specifications.
What follows below is a quick run through of how one (easier with two) goes about bottling their vino, whether it is fruit wine, mead, grape wine, or any combination of, the process is all the same. The most important thing you will hear about winemaking or brewing is cleanliness and sanitation is a must. You can prevent alot of problems common to home intoxicant creation by just making sure everything (and I mean everything) is clean and sanitized. That being said, I recommend reading what is below with a open mind and your funny bone ready. I kid, I kid, but seriously.
By far the worst part of bottling wine is collecting the wine bottles, removing the labels, and cleaning them. Removing the labels can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 20 minutes per bottle, the way I have been doing it. I let them soak in a baking soda bath for 10 minutes to try to help release the glue. Some bottles are easier than others. Some suck, alot. I have heard that you can put the wine bottles in the oven to cook the glue off of them. I want to take a blow torch and just burn them off, but I lack a blow torch and the area to try this eventually dangerous activity. So, once all the bottles are clean on the outside, and visibly clean on the inside it is time to really clean and sanitize the inside. To do this just a few drops of natural kitchen soap into one bottle and fill it 5/8 (funny huh Ryan) the way up with water, swirl and swish it around, and then pour that into the next bottle. Then put the, one step closer to clean, bottles in the dishwasher and run on high heat, with no soap and no drying. The high heat is another step of sanitation. I have completed these steps without pictures. I promise to make a post about each step individually because it isn’t boring at all.
So here we are. Bottles de-labeled, cleaned, and sanitized. I like to go one step farther and use Potato liquor to also sanitize the bottles. This potato liquor is also known as vodka, a particularly awful choice of intoxicant in my opinion, but cheap and I wanted to try this.
Look at all the cool supplies. Two jugs of Huck Mead in its final moments of fermentation. One of the 9 bottles that will be filled. Corks, a corker, and the vinator used to push sanitizer liquid all up in the heated sand vessels.
Bottle of cheap vodka ready to be poured via funnel into the empty wine bottle. Ick Voka.So I pour from vodka botle to wine bottle, and then from wine bottle to wine bottle. Simply right? Ya, simple except for the smell of cheap vodka.
So I am not about to just dump out the vodka that cleansed my 3/4 dozen wine bottles. Check the fridge and awesome, one mixer…Redbull. I haven’t had a liquor mixed Redbull since vegas, the second to last time I was there. My heart hated me for weeks. But like I had any choice in the matter.
Now here is a neat little tool of the trade used to clean out bottles. Now if I was putting vodka back into the bottles I cleaned out with the vodka then I wouldn’t need to rinse them, but I am not sure vodka and mead will set well together in the bottles, so they must be rinsed out, again.
Bottle washer in action. ( I am cooking pretzel bread as I write this. Smiley face) A little push and the water shoots up to rinse out the Russian excuse for good spirits.
This neat little thing is called a Vinator Bottle Rinser . It is a very nice necessity to any winemaker used to sanitize the bottles one last time. You put the sanitizing liquid in the bowl up to certain point and the little springy thing uses suction to spray the inside of the bottle as you press down on it. The sanitizer is a no rinse sanitizer so I don’t have to run water through it anymore. I have also, on a previous bottling job, put a little bit of the wine I was bottling into the vinator to rinse it with the wine that will be bottled. I didn’t do that this time because I didn’t have a whole lot of wine to play around with.
Bottles all ready to be filled. They are kinda like the families in matching rascals waiting outside of the Vegas Buffet 15 minutes before they open, just waiting to fill themselves to the brim, and then put a cork in themselves, or so I imagine. It is suggested to use all the same wine bottles for each batch. I on the other hand like to change it up and see if the bottle changes the taste or smell of the wine. The color of the glass determines how much light is let through to the bottle, which will effect the taste and aroma of the wine.
Bottles on the ground. This is as close to “bathtub gin” as my homebrew will get to. If you look close enough you can see that my kitchen floor is less than sparkling. I have come to the conclusion that the worst and best part about cooking, baking, and brewing is the cleaning process. For me, the initial cleanup is fine because I get to mentally prepare for the task at hand and how I imagine the final product. Final clean up is about as much fun as being at the county fair Monday morning. The only reason someone is at the fair Monday morning is because they either passed out in the German tent, or they are cleaning up cotton candy funnels, half eaten bags of popcorn, beer cans, and horse doo doo. My kitchen has never looked like the Ringling Brothers, but I feel like it sometimes. Oh ya, I can juggle.
Here you can see the auto-siphon inserted into the gallon “jug o wine”. A couple quick pumps of the inner tube and and the flow starts like the flock of salmon to the women of Capistrano, or something like that. I have not used this to get gas out of my neighbors’ cars, yet.
Fill me up before you go go. Sorry about the crookedness of the picture but I wanted to fit in the whole up and down the wine gets to travel until it’s safely at bed in its last stop before it becomes an inebrient (I just made that word up). I probably should have just cut out about two feet of the tube and put the wine bottles in the sink, but hindsight is at least 18/20. This part can be messy if done too quickly. Be sure to have ample room to place the filled bottles, or you can be stomping around in a small puddle of, what could have been drank, sweet sweet nectar. Luckily, this time I had no spilled potion, and only a few drops on my shamwow. Yes I bought enough shamwows to carpet my stairs, and yes I think they are splendid.
All the freshly filled firkin finally fit for a float (bottles ready for a cork). Corking is not nearly as bad as it sounds. The frustrating part is that I can not figure out how to get the corks all the way set below the rim of the bottle. It kinda makes the bottles look ol fashioned like you can pull the cork with your teeth as a pirate opens a drum of rum. But it kinda also makes them look not as cool. I haven’t lost much sleep because of this fact.
Oh so beautiful, all corked and ready to be stored in a dark dry cool place, or under the stairs in my case. I apologize for not taking a picture, or pictures of the corking process, but I chose to save for a later date. I do have about 25 bottles of Flathead Cherry wine to bottle and cork. I promise to take two pictures of each bottle being corked and to have a couple paragraphs personifying the cork being plunged into the neck of the bottle. There goes 1/2 of my readers. All 4 of you.
Look how fresh and awesome that looks. Its all red and huckleberry meady looking. Just waiting to be set on its side and moisten the cork into an airtight seal. I think I heard it scream “Open me up dang it. I want to be enjoyed NOW!”
Listen wine, you are my creation. I choose when, where, and how you get opened, poured, and consumed. I might make you into a nice summer spritzer, or a winter wonder with some warm honey. Maybe spring time used to cook some fresh peppers and broccoli, or during the fall looking at all the stupid leaves falling on the golf course. Whatever it is, it is my choice.
“Drink me now simpleton! You will bow to my succulent desire. Please, I am scared that you will forget about me and never get to devour my freshy goodness.”
Ok, but just one sip, you devilish hootch. I shall add you to my vodka redbull after a quick taste test, I have determined that you are correct in that you are succulent. I am correct in that you need to grow up through your bottle shock and mature into a well manneRED wine. It’s about time you are put to bed in your place of rest for the next 3-6 months. Hello crawl space. Good bye for now. It has been a real nice time getting to know you in your berry stage. Your must and fermenting months were a pleasure and you shall be a formidable drink (must is the name for the liquid before you filter out all of the berry skins and dead yeast cells). I will have to perfect a bread recipe for you to go with. How about a Cherokee Huckleberry-honey cake? That sounds nice, I’ll try that.
I hope you have enjoyed another rendition of “the world of brewing and baking according to John.” If you haven’t enjoyed yourself, feel free to check out smokinhotgolfdeals.com. It’s another pet project that might be a little more fun. Pause not. But seriously check it out.
Shout out to my buddy Logan for his endearing words of equating me to the next Betty Crocker. That lady has her name on a ton of cook books. Yes, Logan I do sometimes feel like a baking savant blessed by the butter thumb of the infamous General Mills icon.