If corked finances have you drinking more three-buck Chuck lately than is reasonably healthy, we have a solution: Making fruit and flower wines at home is easy, and can cost next to nothing. All you need is some fruit, flowers, a food-grade bucket, a carboy and some old wine bottles or cider jugs. The process, from crushing to bottling, takes nine months to a year. Glass-half-full tells us we'll be climbing out of the recession by then, but glass-half-not gives us a less rosé-colored glasses outlook.
If you've got more money than time, Portland wine- and beer-making supply house F.H. Steinbart Co. (234 SE 12th Ave., 232-8793, fhsteinbart.com) can shave off some time at the beginning. Steinbart carries fruit wine bases and purées with recipes—pear, berry, apple and more—for those who don't want to mash and strain their own. It's like a gingerbread-house kit, only tastier—and with alcohol.
Cheap and Free Fruit
The Willamette Valley is chock-full of fruit much of the year, and anything that's not rotten or insect-riddled is wine-ready.
Portland Fruit Tree Project: Volunteer for a harvest party with this nonprofit and, in addition to helping harvest and distribute to hunger-relief agencies urban fruit that would otherwise fester and rot, you get to take home a small sack of fruit yourself. portlandfruit.org.
Pay-to-pick: Go berry-, fruit- or veggie-picking at a local pay-to-pick spot. Sauvie Island is popular, but farms and orchards on the mainland can be cheaper. pickyourown.org.
No-pay-to-pick: Find a no-spray, off-the-beaten-path or trail spot and pick wild berries for free. Bike trails are a good place to look. Just be sure you know what you're picking. Snow berries, which look like tiny white plums, are prevalent and poisonous. urbanedibles.org.
$1 bags: Comb the $1 bags of ripe and overripe fruit on the outdoor shelves at Limbo. 4707 SE 39th Ave.,
Plugged in: Scan Craigslist's Farm and Garden section and other local online forums and sites for bulk fruit and edible flowers for sale. portland.craigslist.org.
There are loads of edible flowers out there. These are commonly made into wine:
- Rose Petals
- Red Clover Blossoms
- Day Lily
You'll probably have to buy at least one or two things to start making home fruit or flower wine, but you can cobble together most of the essentials for less than the cost of a decent bottle at a restaurant.
- A carboy ($25-$30) or old cider jugs.
- An airlock ($1). A balloon over the bottle will do.
- A food-grade bucket ($10-$20). Restaurants sometimes give these away.
- Cheesecloth or a reusable filter ($5-$10).
- Wine yeast ($1 per packet) or wild berries.
- New or used wine bottles and corks or old juice jugs fitted with a rubber or cork stopper.
- Five feet of clear vinyl tubing ($2.50).
You can use any natural sweetener to make wine. Common ones include:
- Cane Sugar
- Maple sugar
- Rice syrup
It's wise to ask around before you buy anything, because home winemaking is in the beer-making, skiing and guitar-playing family—people often pick it up as a hobby and then a few months later the equipment is closeted and dusty, waiting to be given away. If you can't find it free, these stores carry the goods.
F.H. Steinbart is a one-stop wine- and beer-making shop carrying everything from carboys and siphons to all sorts of wine yeasts. Mirador Community Store (2106 SE Division St., 231-5175, miradorcommunitystore.com) has a lot of fermentation equipment if you want the good stuff: stoneware crocks, books, cheesecloth, bottles and more.
Basic Fruit Wine Recipe
Adapted from Sandor Ellix Katz's book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 200 pages, $25). This recipe calls for a 5-gallon carboy but can be scaled for any amount of wine with the same fruit-water-sugar-yeast ratio.
1. Clean, peel and de-stem fruit and place in a food-grade bucket or crock.
2. Boil 3 gallons of water and pour enough over the fruit to submerge it. Cover the bucket with a towel and leave it overnight to steep and cool.
3. In the morning, remove 1 cup of the liquid, dissolve a packet of yeast in it and let stand for a few minutes, until it appears bubbly and active. Then add it to the fruit mixture and water, stir and cover.
4. Ferment 2 to 3 days, stirring often, at least 3 to 5 times a day. No additional sugar has been added yet. The yeast should feed on the sugar of the fruit first before you give it more to feed on. During this period the mix will get somewhat frothy, but not as active as it will when the sugar is added.
5. Add the sugar or other sweetener. Pour 10 pounds (20 cups) of sweetener into a cooking pot, then add just enough water to liquefy and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves into a clear syrup. Cover the syrup until it cools, then add it to the fruit mash.
6. Ferment 3 to 5 days, covered, stirring often.
7. Once vigorous bubbling begins to slow, strain wine into a 5-gallon carboy. Place the fruit solids in a second container, and cover with water. Mash the fruit in the water and strain the liquid into the carboy. You want to leave a few inches of headroom at the top of the carboy for foam. Insert an airlock or fasten a balloon to the top of the carboy.
8. Store the carboy at room temperature for the first month. At first, place it in a large pan to contain the mess in case it gets so frothy that it overflows. If this should occur, temporarily remove the airlock and clean it and the mouth of the carboy. Fermentation will slow gradually.
9. Test the sugar content by removing the airlock and sprinkling 2 tablespoons of sugar onto the surface of the wine. If it doesn't react dramatically as it sinks, with bubbles and agitation, the sugar content is right. If it does, add 1 cup more of sugar and ferment another few days before repeating the test. Add just 1 cup of sugar at a time and no more than 4 cups total.
10. After two months, siphon the wine into a clean carboy, leaving the sediment behind. Insert an airlock/balloon and move the carboy to a cool, dark location. Ferment there for at least nine months. Periodically check to make sure the water hasn't evaporated out of the airlock, and refill and clean the airlock as necessary.
11. After 11 months or so, bottle and enjoy.
Basic Flower Wine Recipe
Adapted from Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. This recipe requires a 1-gallon carboy, but can be scaled for any amount of wine with the same fruit-water-sugar-yeast ratio.
1. Separate the flower petals from the base of the blossoms, which can impart bitter flavors. With dandelions this can be tedious.
2. Reserving about 1/2 cup to add later, place the petals in a bucket or crock with the sugar, juice and thinly peeled rinds of the lemons and oranges (to add acidity) and the raisins (to add astringent tannins). Pour 1 gallon of boiling water over these ingredients, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover the bucket with a towel to keep flies away, and leave to cool to body temperature.
3. Add the reserved petals and berries to introduce wild yeasts. (If using commercial yeast, remove 1 cup of the cooled mixture, dissolve a packet of yeast into it, and add to the mix once it starts to bubble vigorously). Cover crock and stir as often as you think of it, for 3 to 4 days.
4. Strain the solids through a clean cheesecloth and squeeze moisture out of the flowers. Transfer liquid to a carboy or jug with an airlock and ferment about three months, until fermentation slows.
5. Siphon into a clean vessel and ferment at least six months more before bottling.
6. Age bottles three months or more to mellow wine; longer is better.
June 26-28: North American Organic Brewers Festival
The world's largest festival dedicated to organic beer, with 79 brews from 43 breweries in North America and Europe, takes over Overlook Park for a weekend of drinking and live music. Overlook Park, North Fremont Street and Interstate Avenue, naobf.org. Noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday. Free entry. Tasting cup is $6, samples are $1 a ticket, discounts for MAX ticket or three cans of food. All ages.
July 10-16: 3rd Annual Puckerfest
Belmont Station brings in kegs of 20 or so very bitter beers for a week of intense tasting. 4500 SE Stark St., 232-8538, belmont-station.com. 21+.
July 17-19: Portland International Beerfest
Taste more than 150 beers from 15 countries at this three-day bender. North Park Blocks between Northwest Davis and Everett streets, seattlebeerfest.com. 4-10 pm Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday. $20 admission includes a tasting cup and 10 beer tickets. $5 entry fee for nondrinkers. 21+. Dogs allowed.
July 23-26: Oregon Brewers Festival
Portland's 22nd annual weekend-long celebration of craft brewing is one of the nation's largest and longest-running beer festivals—70,000 are expected to attend this year to taste the wares of 81 breweries. A root beer garden will serve free handcrafted soda for children and designated drivers. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, main entrance at Southwest Oak Street and Naito Parkway, oregonbrewfest.com. Noon-9 pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday. Free admission, $10-$50 for tasting mugs, programs and tokens. Additional tokens $1 each. All ages.
July 29: Zinfandel Grand Tasting
Zinfandel Advocates Producers offer tastings from more than 40 producers, plus barbecue made by the students of Oregon Culinary Institute. World Trade Center Plaza, 121 SW Salmon St., zinfandel.org. 6-8:30 pm Wednesday. $40. 21+.
Aug. 1-2 Bones and Brew
Rogue Ales' kid- and dog-friendly Special Olympics fundraiser brings together some 30 microbreweries and 15 barbecue joints. Events include a barbecue contest, chicken wing- and rib-eating contests, and live music. North Park Blocks between Northwest 8th and Park avenues and Northwest Hoyt and West Burnside streets. 11 am-9 pm Saturday, 11 am-7 pm Sunday. $3 suggested donation. All ages.
Aug. 21-23 Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival
Across the river, a full weekend of jazz, wine and food. Esther Short Park, 8th and Columbia streets, Vancouver, 224-8499, vancouverwinejazz.com. 4-10 pm Friday, 11 am-10 pm Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday, Aug. 21-23. $20-$25 per day, $50 weekend pass. Food and drinks not included. Kids 12 and under free.