This year was a big year for cherries in the Pacific Northwest. Our friend planted two backyard cherry trees a few years ago — a Rainier and a Black Tartarian — and both had full boughs loaded with big, tasty fruit this June. The birds got some, as usual, but by the time the cherries were ripe and ready they’d had their fill and it was time to pick. So pick we did. The Black Tartarians ripened first.
We had ideas for lots of different cherry preparations and one that we followed through on was cherry wine. I used Sandor Ellix Katz’s basic fruit wine recipe from his book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. If you want to check out an abridged version of the recipe head over here for a fruit wine story I wrote earlier this summer for Portland’s alt. weekly Willamette Week.
Cherry wine is really easy, like most country wines, and the hardest part is having the patience to wait the nine-plus months till it’s ready to drink.
We picked three gallons of Black Tartarian cherries for five gallons of wine and then we rinsed and sorted them into two large food grade buckets. We covered them with boiling water and let them steep, buckets covered with towels, overnight.
The next day, when the buckets had completely cooled, we added a packet of champagne yeast. For the next few days we stirred the wine regularly — I’d say six or seven times a day. Once the bubbling had slowed a bit we made a big vat of simple syrup and added that to the buckets.
The wine bubbled and fermented a lot with that for several days. Again, at this stage we stirred the buckets regularly. After a couple weeks once the fermentation had slowed and the bubbling had settled down we filtered the wine.
And then we funneled it into a 5-gallon carboy. Next we took the fermented cherries, covered them with water, and mashed them by hand to create enough juice to fill up the remaining space of the 5-gallon carboy. For the record, mashing cherries by hand feels great — especially when the mash is cool and it’s a hot day.
I tested the sugar content today and it’s good to go — I don’t need to add any more. Now it’s the waiting game. In two months I’ll rack the wine — siphon it into a clean carboy — but until then it’ll sit pretty in a corner of the kitchen. I’ll keep you posted on its gurgling.
Read about my dandelion wine here.
Ready about my hard cider here.