The best commercial wines vary in price from about $25 per bottle to $75 per bottle or more. This means that fewer than 2 percent of all wines sold qualify in terms of quality and cost and volume of sales. The other 98 percent are mostly okay, with a few horrible exceptions best used by pigs trolling in bad neighborhoods. Your wine should at least compete favorably with wines that cost $25 to $50, and it will be up to you to balance the rate of return between economics and quality of life.
I have puzzled over how to approach this subject. Should I share most of my experiences from my early efforts up to the present or should I confine my subjects to only the very best of the best? This is not a trivial consideration for I have made different types of wine across many years with equipment ranging from plastic gasoline cans to very expensive Italian stainless steel fermentation vats. The truth is I have had successes and failures in all of those environments, and those experiences have been an important part of me learning to make great wine.
My experiences can help anyone serious about making great wine to avoid mistakes and to creatively compete with the high-end producers. It is up to you to decide whether you are simply a wine drinker or a lover of great wines ready to take your turn at creating perfection. Well, I will provide my recipes and engage in dialogue with those serious enough to purchase the right wine making and testing equipment and then ask for the recipes by email. Otherwise, providing my recipes and procedures will not guarantee great wine, for there are serial dependencies starting with grape selection that involve special chemicals, particular strains of yeast and bacteria, testing and testing materials, and special processing in making the wine using very specific methods and equipment.
If you read beyond this point I will assume your interest is piqued and that you are ready to make a commitment to making great wines. If that is not true then you should not waste your time, as I will be getting into technical material quickly. I do not mind if you stop here, for some of us are best as thankful recipients of great wines from their more determined friends. Alas, choose your friends carefully!
I know of only one person across the years who made great wine at home, with me as one of his happy recipients. But his simple Concord grape wine was unforgettable. Perhaps you will be lucky too as a creator of fine wines and/or as a delighted guest. As you might expect our individual tastes and preferences in wines vary a lot. Wines vary from dry to sweet, from white to blush to red for grape wines, from low alcohol content of around 8% to high alcohol content of around 16% or higher for fortified wines like port or sherry that are around 20% alcohol.
Low alcohol content wines are used regularly at meals in Europe and even the children share in the delightful tastes. There is not the childish issue of drunkenness or the foolishness of governments or religions trying to oppress the populations. In the USA, however, wine aficionados find it necessary to avoid/exclude government interference and religious zealots from ruining the beautiful experiences of making and drinking fine wines. In the Orient rice wines are common and the best of them are quite enjoyable when used as intended. Similar to Europe, families can enjoy responsible drinking at meals, and social drinking in larger amounts is reserved for special occasions, like, is it Friday evening?
A good rule of thumb for the home winemaker is to have an alcohol goal of 13% to 14%, which mirrors that of most commercial wines made in the USA. The primary reason is that wines of lower alcohol content tend to spoil unless very involved steps are used in processing and bottling to avoid wild yeasts and bacteria that will grow in/on and spoil the bottled wine (for example, pasteurization). I will later provide some techniques for the home winemaker to use successfully with lower alcohol percentage wines.
Another rule of thumb is to stick with making grape wines instead of wines from other fruits. The reason is that the natural chemicals in grapes that yield superior wine and long storage life are not present in other fruits. That means it is more complicated to make other fruit wines successfully, and mostly wines made from other fruits are more of a novelty than a beverage to be used regularly. Thus, I strongly recommend focusing on one or two types of grape wine until perfection is achieved rather than trying to make many kinds of wine, grape or other types, and confusing your learning process. I focused on making Chardonnay and Merlot.
Much has been written about the use of chemicals like potassium metabisulfite in fairly high concentrations to destroy wild yeasts and bacteria so that they do not interfere with and potentially ruin a wine while it is fermenting … or after it is bottled. My experience tells me that creating and maintaining a sterile environment is the easier and more reliable way to make and bottle great tasting wine. I do not agree with the book experts and my successes are proof of the utility of my methods, which I will describe generally later. Beyond my procedural thoughts and taste considerations, the presence of excessive sulfites provokes an allergic response in some people who might otherwise really enjoy wines.
What I have to share, from this point forward, addresses only my methods for making Chardonnay wine, though I have used a near identical process for making great Merlot wine.
Let’s assume you have acquired Chardonnay grapes and you have washed them, crushed them and pressed them to extract the juice. Ideally you will have tested individual grapes from the harvest with a refractometer first for dissolved solids content, which in a drop of grape juice from a lightly squeezed grape is essentially only sugar. The ideal reading from the refractometer is 24 degrees brix, which is a long established standard of grams of dissolved sugar per 100 grams of grape juice, for making medium dry white wines in the range of 13% to 14% alcohol.
As you will learn now a refractometer measures light diffraction according to Snell’s Law and it looks like a small telescope with a funny inclined front end prism with a hinged cover instead of a lens like you would find on a telescope. You put a drop of grape juice directly on the center of the prism surface and close the cover to spread the juice out over a larger surface area of the prism with uniform thickness. You then point the refractometer towards a light source like the sky close to the sun (but not at the sun!) and look through the eyepiece. You will notice an illuminated scale measured in degrees brix and there you will see a faint horizontal line that is the indicator of the dissolved sugar content of the grape juice.
Home winemakers can adjust sugar content to the ideal by adding sugar to the grape juice or by diluting the grape juice with water. But the most perfect and completely ripe grapes that will make the very best wine will have a dissolved sugar content that will measure in at 24 degrees brix. What is not evident by simply measuring the dissolved sugar content is the presence of the right amounts of other chemicals found in grape juice like tartaric or malic acids and other natural organic chemicals that are essential to making great wine.
The other natural organic chemicals give the grapes and the wine unique fragrance and/or bouquet and they will not be present in ideal amounts in grapes that are not fully ripe. They will also be less than ideal in grapes that were grown with inadequate or improper soil nutrients, sunlight, temperature, water (timing specific rainfall) and chemicals to destroy such things as fungus or bacteria or virus on/in the grape leaves or vine or roots. Such deficiencies can be observed and tasted if the winemaker obtains grapes directly during visits to different vineyards. Otherwise the home winemaker has to hope for the best and make chemical adjustments as necessary, noting that trace amounts of natural organic chemicals that provide fragrance and/or bouquet are not even available to be added.
Well, given that you have or make grape juice that has the right dissolved sugar content, the first thing you have to realize is that the juice has been exposed to a lot of air and equipment contact during crushing and pressing. All the wild yeasts and bacteria that may be commonly found in the air and on the equipment you used will, if not eliminated, ruin your efforts to make great wine. You thus have two choices, using chemicals like potassium metabisulfite in fairly high concentration to kill all life forms before trying to ferment the grape juice, or, by using pasteurization to accomplish the same task in combination with small amounts of potassium metabisulfite. I use the latter method.
Note that it is important not to overheat the grape juice during pasteurization else very important volatile natural organic chemicals that provide flavor, fragrance and/or bouquet will be destroyed. Do not exceed 165º F and do not hold the juice at that temperature for more than three minutes. Use only a stainless steel pot … never aluminum or any other metal. It is optimal to use a stove with a gas burner for instant reduction of heat as the pasteurization temperature is approached. Process the grape juice during pasteurization with a stainless steel spoon and a candy making thermometer in two or three quart batches, stirring during heating, and then add each pasteurized batch to a five gallon glass carboy that has been previously sterilized with 180º F water and a suitable concentration of potassium metabisufite. Keep the top of the carboy covered with plastic wrap between additions of pasteurized juice. Use a sterilized wide mouth plastic or stainless steel funnel to transfer the juice from your stainless steel pot (again, use only stainless steel) into the carboy, returning the funnel into a pot of 180º F water between batches to keep it sterile.
If you have followed my directions you now have one or more five gallon carboys of completely sterile grape juice that has not lost any essential chemicals or in any other way been harmed. You have a small amount of the very necessary potassium metabisulfite present because of your initial sterilization of the carboy. Do note that in filling each carboy about a pint of the volume available at the top must be left empty for the later addition of a yeast culture and possibly even later a malolactic bacteria culture. Note also that the grape juice must be allowed to cool for some hours to get back to room temperature before adding the yeast culture. Move each carboy to the location you will use during fermentation when it is about done cooling. I used a hand truck with straps to keep the carboys in place, individually, and I moved them from the kitchen to the basement and then lifted them onto a bench, very carefully (they weigh about 50 lbs.). I chose the cellar because the temperature there would be maintained naturally between 55º F and 70º F, which is important during fermentation. The ideal fermentation temperature range is 60º F to 70º F. Fermentation is too slow below 60º F and too rapid above 70º F.
You can test the sulfur dioxide present in the grape juice from the potassium metabisulfite by using a small chemical measuring device called a titrette, which is discarded after the test. Additional potassium metabisulfite can be added at this point if necessary to achieve a level of 15 parts per million sulfur dioxide, which is about half of the normal recommended concentration but sufficient since the grape juice was pasteurized. Also, excessive sulfur dioxide will retard or even destroy fermentation, so I stay on the light side.
Use a top quality wine yeast (Champagne variety) along with a supply of yeast nutrient (diammonium phosphate). Mix the yeast packet (one per carboy) with one cup of cooled (105º F) sterilized water in a one pint Pyrex measuring cup that has been first sterilized by boiling water and then cooled to 105º F, covered with plastic wrap. Add the yeast nutrient and one half teaspoon of sugar and mix the ingredients well, then cover the container with the plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place (75º F to 85º F) for about two hours. At that point you should see considerable foaming activity as the yeast is activated. When that is true, even if it takes an additional two hours, you can again mix the contents carefully and dispense them into the carboy, once again putting the plastic wrap on the top of the carboy. The neck of the carboy should not contain any liquid, and if you plan to later do a second, malolactic fermentation, as I do, then allow for at least three cups of liquid to be added to the pure grape juice, without causing the liquid to rise into the neck of the glass carboy.
Use a device called an “air lock” to replace the plastic wrap on the top of the carboy. An air lock is typically a two or three piece plastic container that holds a small amount of sterilized water in a configuration that only allows gas to escape from the carboy and no air to get into the carboy. The air lock has a tapered plastic tube on one end that goes through a hole in a tapered rubber stopper and that combination is used, wetting the stopper first around the outside surface with sterilized water or even coating it lightly with a product like Vaseline®, to plug the top of the carboy.
The location you select to conduct fermentation should be no warmer than 70º F. The ideal temperature is actually around 60º F but 70º F or less is fine. Do not even attempt fermentation at temperatures below 50º F or higher than 72º F. In the first case fermentation will be far too slow, even though commercial wine makers sometimes ferment grape juice at temperatures around and below 50º F, and in the second case fermentation will be hot and occur far too fast with undesirable results of multiple types likely.
I will make no attempt in this section to cover the complex chemistry that occurs or can occur during fermentation. All most of us typically think about is the conversion of dissolved sucrose and fructose into ethyl alcohol, water and carbon dioxide gas. But the reality is that the success of that fermentation process and the development of a high quality wine are dependent on a whole lot of other chemistry considerations. For example, the acidity of the wine due to the presence of tartaric and malic acids will affect fermentation. Also, at different times during fermentation the presence or absence of sulfur dioxide gas in solution will aid in keeping chemicals you don’t want from forming. Of course, the presence of the small amount of potassium metabisulfite I use during carboy sterilization provides that sulfur dioxide gas in solution. Later additions of potassium metabisulfate are recommended by the professionals, perhaps to compensate oxidation during racking (to be explained shortly), but I did not find any further chemical addition to be necessary.
Other considerations include residual potassium metabisulfite or, technically, sulfur dioxide gas dissolved in the finished wine, total acidity before and after fermentation, pH, which when too high allows easy spoilage of the wine after bottling, residual sugar that will affect taste and also indicate whether or not the fermentation was successful, and of course the actual percentage of alcohol. All of these things are measured with essential testing supplies and equipment and sometimes controlled with special chemicals, like potassium carbonate.
For those of you who want a professional, more scientific treatment of wine chemistry I refer you to the book, Modern Winemaking© by Philip Jackisch, who is a research chemist wholly involved in commercial wine making and who is an editor of wine publications as well as other writings. The book is excellent and it is my bible for winemaking even though I have a few personal methods that I prefer over what Jackisch and others recommend. I will explain my reasoning later.
Fermentation rate is typically measured by the number of times in a minute that a bubble of carbon dioxide gas escapes through the air lock. As fermentation completes you will notice three things. First, the wine pretty much clarifies. Second, the dead yeast cells or lees form a sticky mess on the inside bottom of the carboy. Third, the fermentation rate slows to one bubble per two or three minutes or less.
At the conclusion of primary fermentation it is important to get the wine away from the lees so that any further undesirable chemical activity, including having a yeasty tasting wine, is avoided. The process of moving the wine from one carboy to another and leaving the lees behind is called racking. During the racking process, which is typically accomplished by siphoning, the wine is exposed to air and at this stage in the wine making process that is highly undesirable. Air exposure/dissolved oxygen in the must that was actually useful early in fermentation to assist yeast reproduction is now the enemy as oxidation of wine is very bad except for special wines like port or sherry. Racking may be done more than once, particularly and especially if after the initial racking additional lees form and/or some fermentation resumes. You will learn that my process is immune to air exposure now.
Here is where I used my determination, imagination and my education in chemistry and physics to depart from all the literature directed towards folks who make wine at home. The typical process described for racking the wine involves siphoning it from one carboy to another, which exposes a lot of the wine to a lot of air. That is most undesirable and demands further additions of potassium metabisulfite, so I designed my own system for racking that is truly superior and equal to or better than the most demanding commercial practices. See the diagram below.
The secret is in maintaining a completed closed system for the wine, from the beginning of fermentation all the way through the ultimate bottling of the wine. I accomplished that set of daunting tasks with a tank of carbon dioxide gas with a zero to thirty psi two stage regulator, a lot of plastic and glass tubing, 27 different brass valves and connections to a water faucet and a drain.
I also created within that configuration a four-stage filtration system that immediately preceded bottling and which totally clarified the wine and removed all traces of yeast and/or bacteria (0.45 micron filter), such that the bottled wine was sterile and stable and would not and could not undergo any later fermentation of any type. See the diagram on the next page.
Special safety note: Carbon dioxide gas is heavier than air and it will accumulate in any small enclosed basement work area and become very dangerous to anyone working in that area because you can asphyxiate breathing that gas rather than air that contains the right amount of oxygen. The point is to ventilate the work area while you are working there continuously with a fan that provides fresh air from outside the work area and which thus helps exhaust the carbon dioxide gas from the enclosed work area. If you ever start to feel lightheaded or experience tunnel vision immediately leave the work area, else you will collapse to the floor and be breathing pure carbon dioxide gas, and then you will die.
I have never read or heard about anyone doing exactly what I did (maybe they died trying!). My specific solutions to many classic problems of wine making were unique and, except for one of the filters (which are reusable many times), inexpensive. But even I have further plans to improve my process by adding refrigeration/freezing temperatures prior to final filtration to conduct a process called cold stabilization. Cold stabilization is one way to precipitate out excess tartaric acid from the finished wine so that it can’t be present in excessive amounts in the final product and later precipitate out, creating a questionable wine appearance. The cold stabilization procedure is one way to effectively reduce wine acidity that does not involve addition of chemicals. Measuring acidity and in some instances deciding to something about it are common in winemaking. Cold stabilization is only useful for small amounts of acid reduction, and if you find yourself with a highly acidic wine then calcium carbonate can be used to reduce acidity. Moderate acidity (0.8% or less) can be reduced with potassium bicarbonate, followed by chilling to promote precipitation of potassium bitartrate.
What I intentionally avoided telling you earlier in detail is that the fermentation process I actually used is a double fermentation, the second part of which is bacterial, not yeast based. The special bacterial fermentation is started after normal yeast fermentation is well underway. It involves the injection of a special bacterial starter into the carboy that looks much like the yeast starter, but which converts the diacid, Malic acid, into a monoacid, Lactic acid. The process halves the acidity of the wine due to the presence of Malic acid, creating a Chardonnay that is buttery and smooth instead of sharp and acidic. The name for that process is a malolactic fermentation. It is a bit more complicated than simple fermentation as the lees must be mixed well with the fermenting juice multiple times during the fermentation with an inserted wing stirrer powered by an electric drill. That procedure does or can introduce some amount of air during fermentation simply by the physical process of temporarily removing the air lock to insert the stirrer to perform the stirring, which you can compensate with low flow rates of carbon dioxide gas around the opening of the carboy. Note here especially the importance of not using much potassium metabisulfate earlier in the process of making the wine because the resulting sulfur dioxide gas in solution in the carboy will inhibit or destroy the malolactic fermentation. There is plenty of time at the end of all fermentation and racking steps to adjust wine sulfite content.
The preparation of a malolactic bacteria starter is more complicated than making a yeast starter. In particular it is more difficult to get the bacteria to reproduce and consume yeast extract (a small amount from a cube of baker’s yeast can serve in place of a yeast extract nutrient), sugar, etc. Sterilized apple juice mixed equally with water is better than water alone for making a starter. Bacteria sensitivity to the carboy fermentation environment can actually result in the destruction of the starter when it is introduced into the carboy, unless steps are taken earlier to acclimate the bacteria to the environment in which it will be used. That means that small additions of the partially fermented wine are made periodically to the starter to gradually change the acidity, provide alcohol tolerance, etc. Also, the period for developing a robust starter can be up to two days or longer. Finally, the starter should be given time beside the fermentation carboy to equalize temperatures. It is surely worth the time to be careful, else the malolactic fermentation fails and the wine remains acidic instead of becoming buttery and smooth. Note that the volume of the starter when ready for the carboy will be about two cups.
The bacteria for a malolactic fermentation has in recent years largely been replaced with special enzymes to accomplish the same task. I have yet to use the enzymes so I cannot comment on degree of effectiveness or ease of use. Do note that the process of a malolactic fermentation creates some noxious gases that have to be purged from the wine before bottling. That is a real benefit of my enclosed pressurized carbon dioxide racking system, for all bubbling and noxious gas removal is done away from oxygen, and as you now understand that is highly desirable.
After both fermentations are complete the wine is racked. I do that by removing the air lock and replacing it with an air tight flexible plastic cover with two glass tubes in it. Do not use lubricated rubber stoppers during racking as the gas pressure will pop them off the top of the carboys. I fasten the plastic covers tightly to the neck of the carboys using stainless steel hose clamps. I then use carbon dioxide pressure via the short tube to push the wine out of the carboy into an empty carboy, via the long tube and plastic tubing, etc., to connect to the second, empty carboy that also has an air tight plastic cover (and has been flushed with carbon dioxide gas). The wine from the first carboy is pushed out through the long tube, which I adjust (depth and position, later tilting the almost empty carboy very slowly) during the racking process to capture wine but not the lees. A mere 4 to 5 psi pressure of carbon dioxide gas is enough to drive the entire system in all aspects, ultimately including final filtering after a few rackings. Thus, as I later bottle the wine output from the final filter I first replace the air in the bottle with carbon dioxide gas from a separate tube so that the wine from the bottling tube never is exposed to air. Corking (use the newer types of polymer, not actual corks) follows immediately, bottle by bottle.
A final part of the enclosed system I created that needs to be mentioned is that all components backflush first with tap water, then with potassium metabisulfite in water, then with pure carbon dioxide gas. That is a beautiful cleaning process … the carboys never have to be moved and the only exposure to air is from that naturally dissolved in the tap water, which at that point doesn’t even matter … the wine is long gone. Sometimes I use a long bottle brush with a cleaning agent (sodium carbonate) to assist the cleaning process, in particular if some juice components stick to the glass high in the first carboy, but, I never have to move the carboy(s). The first carboy in the process, however, must be returned to the kitchen to receive pasteurized juice from new grapes for the next batch of wine, after potassium metabisulfite and hot water re-sterilization.
For those of you who still wonder how carboy to carboy movement of wine and later cleaning water is done, think about one long glass tube in each carboy and also one very short tube. Now you can picture two way flows that with the proper use of the 27 valve system and much interconnected plastic tubing provides transport for wine, water, chemicals and the carbon dioxide gas. Even the four stage filtration system gets backflushed, which cleans the filters completely for the next use. In that situation a final higher pressure forward gas flush is used to remove all liquid from the filters and filter containers. When that isn’t sufficient to empty the filter container the filter container is unscrewed from a top housing section and the water is dumped and the gas flush is repeated to dry the filters.
I have discussed or mentioned many kinds of equipment, chemicals and other supplies in this rather long winemaking section. These things vary in ease of acquisition from trivial to virtually impossible depending on where you live. Your local wine arts clubs and stores are grossly inadequate. For that reason I am providing you the information necessary to order literally all of it, straight from the land of great winemaking in CA. Napa Fermentation®, owned and operated by Pat and Colleen Watkins in Napa California, is my source for everything except grapes. They have it all, they know what to recommend and they ship everywhere. They carry high quality equipment and chemicals and general supplies. You can find their web site using Google® and the words Napa Fermentation. Jackisch’s book, mentioned earlier, contains the names and contact information for companies that sell very specialized wine additives that Napa Fermentation® does not sell. You may never need any of the special additives.
The Internet is also the medium to use to seek high quality grape juice or “must” if you do not live in an area that grows the grapes you want to use. Quality suppliers will ship four or five gallon buckets of frozen must that has been treated with potassium metabisulfite to you. You must, however, be very careful to deal with a quality business lest they send you inferior product, as in “must” from grapes that were not fully ripe and thus deficient in quality in multiple ways, regardless of dissolved sugar content as delivered, which might have been done by sugar addition.
I had the advantage of visiting the vineyard and personally testing sugar content with my refractometer, and cutting the grapes from the vines with the grower. His grapes were perfect in every way. We then used his equipment to crush and press the Chardonnay grapes, and later to crush but not press Merlot grapes (you leave the skins in long enough to color the wine before pressing). In one instance I returned home with filled carboys of Chardonnay juice secured in my vehicle with seat belts. In the other I filled a 20 gallon plastic barrel with the crushed Merlot grapes and juice and transported it very carefully home, covered with a tight fitting lid and strapped and stuffed between other materials so it could not fall over during transit. I used my smaller wine press at home to process the crushed Merlot grapes into juice 24 hours later.
My cost was 90 cents per pound for Chardonnay grapes and $1.10 per pound for Merlot grapes. I spent at total of $90 for 100 lbs. of the Chardonnay grapes and the yield at the end of winemaking was 13 gallons, which is 50 liters or 67, 750 ml bottles. Thus, my cost per bottle for Chardonnay grapes was $1.35. Wow! And the cost for the Merlot grapes, which yielded the same amount of juice per pound of grapes, with me doing the pressing at home, was thus $1.65 per bottle.
The grower’s name is Manuel Silva. He is Portuguese and he came to the USA to buy and operate a vineyard and a small winemaking operation. He is a good guy. He runs a first class operation. We need more people like him all over the USA.
I conclude this section without providing any specific winemaking recipe and that is intentional. For those who want to make fine wine I am available to provide more information via email and also by direct conversation. What I will provide now to conclude the winemaking section is a partial list of equipment/supplies necessary to make wine using good technical methods and some of my own special methods.
Winemaking Supplies and Materials
4 or more 5 gallon glass carboys (that size is easy to handle yet holds a good volume of juice/wine)
100 feet of ½” inside diameter clear flexible plastic tubing
100 ½” diameter stainless steel hose clamps
2 one inch diameter stainless steel hose clamps
4 three inch diameter stainless steel hose clamps
21 feet of ½” outside diameter (3/8” inside diameter) clear glass laboratory tubing (7, 3 foot lengths will work fine)
one gallon stainless steel pot
one long stainless steel spoon
one short stainless steel spoon
four one hole rubber stoppers to fit the carboys and the air locks
one candy thermometer
one pint Pyrex measuring cup
one set of stainless steel measuring spoons
one large mouth plastic or stainless steel funnel that fits the carboy opening
four air locks
four flexible plastic air tight carboy covers with two holes for glass tubing
25 brass or stainless steel valves
large tank of carbon dioxide gas
zero to thirty psi two stage regulator
eight cases of wine bottles
100 polymer corks
one corking machine
one wine thief
one pH meter
pH meter buffer solutions (4, 7 and 11 pH, 100 ml bottles)
sulfur dioxide titrettes for testing residual wine sulfites
sodium hydroxide solution (0.1 Normal)
2, 10 ml pipettes and one 50 ml burette
laboratory stand with clamps to hold the burette
glass stirring rod
various size beakers (50, 100, 200 ml)
various size Erlenmeyer flasks (50, 100, 200 ml)
yeast (Pasteur Champagne)
yeast nutrient (diammonium phosphate)
malolactic bacteria culture (Leuconostoc oenos ML 34 strain)
paper chromatography paper, jar and chemical
plastic tubing adapter for tap water connection
four stage cartridge filtration system
spring loaded bottle filling tube
scale to weigh chemicals accurate to +/- 0.02 gm
cartridge filters of permeability sizes 5, 3, 1 and 0.45 microns
wine bottle labels
wine bottle decorative caps
Vinometer or ebulliometer to measure wine alcohol percent
wing stirrer for carboys
nylon straps for the hand truck
carrying handles that fit the necks of the carboys
corkscrew (buy a really good one … you will thank yourself later)
small wood blocks to position/tilt a carboy during racking
bottle brush to clean carboys
20 gallon plastic barrel with tight fitting lid
the book, Modern Winemaking© by Philip Jackisch
large ventilation fan
Research notebook to record all winemaking events in detail for future reference
BREADS, BUNS AND DONUTS:
Almond Flour Bread
My wife was on a special diet to reduce gluten intake so we started making foods like bread and pancakes using mostly almond flour. The recipe below is my second attempt to make this bread, and as usual I created a composite of a few Internet recipes.
I liked the results of my first attempt but I modified the recipe to improve it. I noted that the bread was yummy with a small amount of honey spread on it so I added honey to the recipe. I also noted that the bread needed to be sweeter anyway so I doubled the amount of sugar.
Due to the low gluten content of the dough/batter, the rising effect of the yeast is really fast ... so much so that the normal rising time of one or two hours is reduced to about ten minutes.
2 cups of almond flour
1 1/2 cups of regular flour
1/8th ounce of Active dry yeast (one half of a package)
2 tbsp. of sugar
3 tbsp. of honey
1/4 cup of melted butter
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1 cup of milk, warmed
1/2 tsp. of salt
Set the oven temperature to 350ºF.
Mix the yeast into the one cup of warmed 105ºF milk. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Let this mixture rest in a warm place for ten minutes.
Mix the eggs and melted butter and honey in an electric mixer with a regular beater.
Add the baking powder and the salt and continue to mix.
Add the yeast mixture and continue to mix.
Add the flours gradually mixing on low speed until the flours mix with the liquid ingredients, then increase the speed to medium.
Mix the dough for three minutes. It will be a loose dough, similar to a batter.
Put the dough into a buttered glass bread pan (or two).
Put the glass bread pan(s) in a warm place for ten minutes, on a cookie tray.
Check the amount of rising of the dough and when it has doubled in bulk it is ready to bake.
Bake the bread for about 45 minutes, on the cookie tray, checking for doneness with a toothpick. If necessary, bake for an additional five to ten minutes.
Put the bread pan(s) on a wooden cutting board and let the bread cool to room temperature.
Use a knife around the edges of the bread to loosen it and remove it from the pan(s).
Serve the bread with butter, and perhaps some honey.
Banana Nut Bread - ☺♥
This dessert type of bread is yummy when it is made properly. That means, among other things, the finished product should be moist but not compacted. The batter has to rise enough during baking to result in a moist cake like consistency.
My wife, Janet, provided this recipe and she proved how good the bread can be by making it for me.
Makes two loaves.
½ cup soybean oil or corn oil
2 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla
½ to 1 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts
3 to 4 very ripe bananas depending on size, mashed
1 tsp. of Baking soda
3 tbsp. of warm water
1 ¾ cups of flour
½ tsp. of salt
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Put the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla into a mixing bowl and mix at medium high speed for three to five minutes until the mixture is light and foamy.
In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and water, and then add the mashed bananas and hand mix thoroughly.
Add the flour and the salt to the mixing bowl slowly while mixing on low speed.
Then add the banana mixture and mix for two minutes on low speed. Then add the chopped walnuts and mix for one additional minute.
Pour the batter into two glass bread pans that have been buttered first to avoid sticking after baking.
Bake the bread for 45 minutes and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of one of the loaves. If it comes out clean the bread is done. If not, bake for an additional five minutes and test again. Repeat as necessary.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the bread cool in the pans for ten minutes, then remove the loaves from the pans and finish cooling on a cooling rack. Wrap the loaves carefully in plastic wrap and store them at room temperature in a Ziploc® bag.
Serve with butter or cream cheese. Yummy!
Cinnamon Pecan Raisin Sticky Buns - ☺♥
This first recipe creates great sticky buns, but after the primary recipe an alternate dough recipe is provided (brioche), and then the full recipe for Joanne Chang’s (Flour Bakery®) sticky buns, which are reputed to be the very best, but I don’t know because I haven’t tried them. If you have not made sticky buns before, think about trying this first recipe first and then consider trying the more complicated recipes later. Experience is a great teacher.
1/4 cup of warm water (105° to 115°)
2 tsp. of active dry yeast
1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk
4 Tbsp. of soft butter, plus more for greasing the proofing bowl
1 1/4 tsp. of salt
4 to 4 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
¾ cup of toasted chopped pecans
3/4 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. of Dark corn syrup
6 Tbsp. of honey
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces by weight) of coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup of raisins
Make the dough. In the pre-warmed bowl (run hot water over the outside of the bowl before using it) of an electric mixer, combine warm water, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add the milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg, salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until blended. Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining cup of flour. Increase the mixer speed to medium, kneading the dough until it is smooth and slightly sticky (add a little more flour if too wet, or a little milk if too dry), 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large, buttered bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl to coat it all over with the butter from the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or 2 hours if not in an entirely warm place). After the dough has risen, punch it down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured cutting board and let it sit 20 minutes covered.
3. Toast the ¾ cup of pecans pieces on a cookie tray in a 300º F oven for five to ten minutes, checking every few minutes and stirring the nuts to have them toast evenly. Do not let them burn. Remove them from the oven when finished.
4. Make the filling. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt the butter separately. You will use a pastry brush later to spread the melted butter on the rolled out dough.
5. Roll the dough out into a 12" x 18" rectangle. Brush it with melted butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar mixture, then sprinkle it with the toasted chopped pecans. Starting with the long side, roll the dough into a cylinder. Place it seam side down on a flat surface and cut it crosswise into 15 slices.
6. Make the topping. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, honey and corn syrup over low heat; stir until the sugar and butter are melted. Pour the mixture into a buttered 9"x13"x2” glass baking dish. Sprinkle the 1 ½ cups of raw coarsely chopped pecans evenly on the topping. Then sprinkle the raisins evenly on the topping.
7. Place the dough slices, flat side down, on top of the prepared topping. Crowd them so they touch. Cover them with plastic wrap, leaving room for the buns to rise. Let the dough rise for 60 minutes or store overnight in a refrigerator.
8. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the buns until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately and carefully invert it onto a serving tray or platter or plate. Scrape leftover topping from the baking dish and apply it to the buns. Let the buns cool slightly and serve them warm with butter.
Some bakers use a topping that contains cream and a small amount of salt, as well as honey, brown sugar and butter. The mixture is cooked first on medium heat without the cream as if you are making caramel, except it isn’t necessary to heat to a soft ball stage. Instead, heat on medium until all ingredients are dissolved, then add the cream a little at a time while whisking. Let it cool to room temperature. It is then ready to be poured into the baking dish, after which the pecans and raisins are added.
The idea is that the cream increases the volume of the topping and creates a very sticky, sticky bun. This method was developed by Joanne Chang, who owns the Flour Bakery® in Boston, MA, and her sticky buns are reputed to be without equal.
The next variation is to use a type of dough called brioche. It is commonly used by commercial bakers, including Joanne Chang, and now we will take a look at the ingredients and procedure for making/using a basic sweet brioche dough.
Basic Brioche Sweet Dough:
1/3 cup of warm water.
2 egg yolks.
¾ cup of butter, softened.
3 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour.
¼ cup of white sugar.
½ teaspoon of active dry yeast.
You can make the brioche dough in a manner similar to regular dough procedure shown in the first sticky bun recipe, but beat it in an electric mixer long enough to totally incorporate the butter, which is added last in small pieces, until it becomes easy to work.
Moving on …
Now for the big variation. I found Joanne Chang’s recipe for sticky buns on the Internet after watching her make them on TV, and it is printed below. I can’t wait to try it! Do note that missing parts of the process are the reality regarding what is shown on TV, and the recipe doesn’t tell you all the little tricks you need to know … so I added my corrections in Italics.
Flour's Famous Sticky Buns
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 170 grams, 6 ounces) of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (345 grams) of firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (110 grams) of honey
1/3 cup (80 grams) of heavy cream
1/3 cup (80 grams) of water
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
Basic Brioche Dough (recipe follows other directions)
1/4 cup (55 grams) of light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) of granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup (100 grams) of pecan halves, toasted and chopped
First, make the goo. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that's ok). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. If necessary, strain the mixture to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let it cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
Divide the dough (if you make the amount per the recipe below) in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for later use.
On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into a rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh© and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the toasted pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way towards yourself roll up the rectangle like a jellyroll. Try to roll it tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make it even.
Use a bench scraper or a chef's knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)
Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover the buns with plastic wrap (It is smart to smear butter or oil on the plastic wrap surface that will touch the dough, so the dough won’t stick to the plastic wrap.) and put the baking dish into a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.
In this procedure Joanne doesn’t completely cover the goo with the buns, like the earlier recipe. I watched her make them on TV. She packs hers in the order 2, then one, then 2, then one, then 2 as observed from the long side of the baking dish.
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350º F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.
The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325º F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving. But what about freezing, vacuum sealing, storing frozen until wanted, and then thawing in a microwave oven, followed by the regular oven warming just described?
Now for Joanne’s brioche dough recipe …
Brioche Dough for Sticky Buns: (makes a double batch)
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) of unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 1/4 cups (340 grams) of bread flour
3 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (82 grams) of sugar
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1/2 cup of cold water
1 3/8 cups of unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
Using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook*, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and 5 of the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined.
* I prefer to use the regular mixer beater early in the mixing process as it is far superior to the dough hook for early mixing. I use the dough hook later, after the butter has been added and thoroughly incorporated. Thus, I use a dough hook only when it is right to use it, as in the kneading process.
Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, beat it on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry.
Joanne never does tell us when to use the sixth egg, so I recommend adding it now, prior to the butter, with enough mixing to incorporate it into the dough.
With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.
Once the butter is completely incorporated, (NOW is the time to use the dough hook) turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat it for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.
Put the dough into a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap (Ahem! Butter the wrap first on the side that will touch the dough, or butter the top of the dough and the rest of its surface so it also won’t stick to the bowl) directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. If you want, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week and use it later.
FOR THE RECORD:
I often find that recipes provided via the Internet screw up or miss key ingredients, recommend sub-optimal procedures and in general yield a product that somehow doesn’t quite measure up to the real thing. A case in point was the Hotel DuPont® Macaroon recipe, which produced a runny dough that can’t possibly be used to create simple macaroon cookies that look like or taste like the ones served at the hotel. Thus, the creative cook must modify the provided recipes to create the desired top quality product. If you are worth your salt you will drive towards perfection.
For the dough handling in the above sticky bun recipe, Joanne never uses a proofing oven until just before baking. I can understand letting the dough proof in the refrigerator initially to develop flavor, but effective proofing includes rising time, and for that I recommend the later use of the proofing oven, which is maintained at about 100º F, just prior to rolling the dough to form the buns. Thus, the dough from the refrigerator, unless obviously fully risen, should be placed in the proofing oven for 30 to 45 minutes prior to rolling the dough. Let the yeast do its job in optimal conditions.
Corn Spoon Bread - ▲
I am happy to share this recipe with all of you. Sue Gale served this dish to Janet and me and it was, as Sue says, “Delish!” Sue got it from Weight Watchers® and that alone would normally make me steer clear of it. But the fact is this dish is really tasty. Score one for the health nuts, um, er, I mean health conscious folks!
This dish is different from the fine corn pudding Marie used to make for Thanksgiving dinners, but it is in a class by itself, as it has less goo and a whole lot of tasty substance. You want to try it as a side dish on a cold day.
Ingredients: (six servings, a bit less than one cup each)
2 cups of fat free evaporated milk
1 tbsp. of sugar
1 cup of cornmeal
1 tsp. of salt
1/8th tsp. of cayenne pepper
2 large eggs plus one egg white
½ tsp. of baking powder
¾ cup of canned corn
2 oz. of ham, chopped (the recipe calls for turkey ham … Nah!)
Preheat the oven to 375º F.
Coat a medium size soufflé dish with Pam®.
Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat until the mixture is steaming.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cornmeal.
Return the saucepan to the heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture is very thick.
Whisk the salt, pepper, eggs and baking powder in a medium large bowl.
Gradually whisk in the cornmeal mixture.
Stir in the corn and the ham.
Spoon the mixture into the soufflé dish and bake it until it is puffed up and browned, about 45 minutes.
French Crullers - ►
Dunkin’ Donuts® locations sometimes have a French Cruller that is shaped like a hypoid gear smoothed over at the top and the bottom edges. It is glazed. The cruller is light, soft, airy and rich because it is made with eggs instead of being a yeast raised donut. I love that type of donut so I decided to start making them and add them to the recipe book when I know they are top quality. Well, I guess I was a bit anxious as I added the recipe from the Internet (already modified, of course) before even trying to make them.
The recipe below is the second one I am trying. My first attempt to make crullers with a different recipe was not impressive.
I will try different approaches and upgrade this recipe once I find a truly superior way to make French Crullers.
14, 3½ inch diameter aluminum foil circles
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of butter
1¼ cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Vegetable oil or Crisco® shortening for frying
Confectioners glaze (confectioners' sugar, water, vanilla)
With shortening, grease one side of the foil circles very well.
In a heavy, 2-1/2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, butter, and 1 cup of water. Bring to boiling on medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Quickly add the flour all at once; beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until the flour is moistened.
Cook over medium heat, beating until the dough forms a ball and leaves the side of pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
Put the mixture into an electric mixer bowl.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with the electric mixer at medium speed after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla.
Continue beating until the mixture is smooth, shiny, and satiny, and forms strands that break apart. The dough should hold its shape when the beater is slowly raised.
Put the dough into a large pastry bag with a number-6 star tip.
Press the dough onto the pieces of greased foil to form circles about 3-1/4 inches in diameter, overlapping the ends slightly.
Let the circles stand for 20 minutes.
In a large, heavy skillet, slowly heat the oil (1-1/2 to 2 inches deep) to 350 degrees F using a deep-frying thermometer.
Place the raw cruller dough, including the foil, into the hot oil, four at a time. Turn each as it rises to the top of the oil. Lift out/remove each piece of foil.
Fry about 10 minutes (SEEMS WAY TOO LONG! My guess is that two minutes per side is plenty of frying time to achieve a light tan color and to allow the eggs to cause expansion and the interior to cook), or until golden, turning several times.
Lift the donuts out of the hot oil with a slotted spoon. Drain them on paper towels.
Dip the donuts into a dish of confectioners’ glaze, turning each over once to coat both sides.
Place the glazed French cruller donuts on a wire rack to cool.