This batch was made from Fresh Crabapples picked from an overabundant tree a few blocks from my house ($0). I am working with Jack Keller’s crabapple recipe and am also using his yeast starter again. The yeast I’m using is Lalvin K1-V1116.

Status Date Specific Gravity Fluid Temp. Air Temp.
Primary Fermentation 2010-09-11 PM 1.118 80°F 80°F
Secondary Fermentation 2010-09-18 AM
Clearing 2010-10-03 AM
Second Clearing 2010-10-23 AM
Blending 2010-11-15 PM
Bottling 2010-11-27 PM

Primary Fermentation

I had a lot of doubts about this wine. The two home winemakers that I know have never made wine from crabapples. But of all the available fruits that I could make wine with, crabapples seem to be the most abundant (it’s a common tree but the general populatio

n considers the crabapple inedible). And I certainly can’t go to the store and buy crabapple wine.

The good news is that the fruit is relatively easy to pick. All that you need is a box or bucket to collect the fruit in and a 6-foot ladder to extend your reach. Fortunately, the tree that I found is nearby and looks to produce a great deal more apples than I require. The bad news is that cleaning and crushing the apples takes a lot of time and effort. I soaked the apples for a few hours with Campden Tablets added to the water to clear off any unwanted yeasts or molds, scrubbed a few clean and called it a day. For the crushing I followed Jack’s suggestion of using a piece of hard wood to mash them up. I ended up getting my largest cooking pot to dump a few apples into and crush that little bit at a time. After an hour and a half I had the largest pile of apple sauce/mash I had ever seen sitting in the straining bag in the primary fermenter.

The rest of the preparation was pretty straight forward. Once the boiling sugar water is added you will see a satisfying amber-colored must surrounding the pile of mash. It smells great. I’m thinking crabapple pie would be delicious.

Secondary Fermentation

Used a colander and a panel with a hole in it (to fit the colander) set on top of the opening of the primary fermenter to suspend the fruit and straining bag, allowing the remaining wine to drip (everybody says you’re NOT supposed to squeeze the wine out of the fruit pulp, not sure why just yet) out and into the rest of the wine. I allowed that to drip for five hours and discovered that the large quantity of fruit pulp, once removed, had left me 1.5 gallons or so short of a full batch. I tasted the wine and it seemed to have a lot of tannin and plenty of flavor, so after racking the wine into a carboy I added 1.5 gallons of water.

At this point the wine seems to be progressing as expected and has a peculiar orange color. I will have to continue tasting the wine as it progresses, but I’m wondering if it might be best to blend this with another wine. So far it has a lot of characteristics that some of my other wines lack, but on its own might be a bit harsh in flavor.

Primary Clearing

Since the secondary fermentation stage ended up lasting about two weeks a large amount of lees had already settled out. Regardless, I added 6 crushed campden tablets and spent twenty minutes or so intermittently trying to stir the oxygen out of the wine. Topped up with water.

2010-10-08: Seems to be clearing nicely. The dense “haze” has settled down to a few inches above the lees line. I was expecting the clearing for this wine to take longer, but we’ll see.

2010-10-22: The wine has remained in a “cloudy” state for at least a week. I guess this might be the “long clear” that so many of these homemade recipes call for. Since there’s so much lees at the bottom (3 inches worth or so) I think I’m going to rack it as soon as I have an empty carboy.

Secondary Clearing

Though not very transparent in the carboy, the wine is actually quite clear in the glass and going through the siphon hose. The taste remains to have a light flavor with a heavy tannin (maybe a little bitterness?). As a dry wine it’s not very pleasant, but I added a little sugar to my sample to find a pleasant sweet wine.

I still plan to blend this in some proportion with the Welch’s White and most likely sweeten it as well. My wife and I don’t drink a lot of sweet wine, but it is what it is.

There was a large amount of lees still in the carboy, so this racking left us maybe a half-gallon short of 6. I’ve collected some of the lees-mixed wine from the bottom in a pitcher and hope to rescue a bit more of the clear wine to add back into the carboy. After the racking I also spent 20 minutes or so rapidly stirring the wine to evacuate the carbon dioxide.

Blending with Welch’s White Wine

To hopefully improve this wine I have decided to blend it with a white wine made simply from a whole lotta Welch’s White Grape juice. It made a pleasant white wine on its own and combined in a 50/50 ratio with this crabapple wine resulted in a very pleasant wine that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Of course, when you combine two 6-gallon batches of wine you end up with 12 gallons of blended wine. For a little variety I left one 6-gallon carboy as a dry wine and added 4 cups of sugar to the other. I’ve racked both of these blends back into carboys, obviously, and I plan to let them bulk age for a few weeks before I bottle.

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