On the pages that follow, I
will be describing but a few of the thousands of wild edible
plants in the United States and Canada which are suitable in
one way or another for winemaking. Readers living outside this
geographic area should not turn away. Many of the plants featured
herein have relatives scattered all over the globe, and I have
consistently tried to identify the genus (and species) of each
plant featured so that distant relatives can be identified and
recipes adapted to suit them.
Okay, you're out walking in
the woods and come across a thick stand of salmonberries. You
pull a couple of plastic bags from your day pack and an hour
later you're heading for home with 8-10 pounds of sweet (but
slightly tart), fresh fruit. You check your well-thumbed copy
of First Steps in Winemaking and strike out. Then you fire up
the computer and start burning up the search engines. Nothing!
What to do? Well, hopefully you've got a bookmark set to The
Winemaking Home Page and are therefore in luck. No, I don't have
a salmonberry wine recipe (yet), but I can tell you how to make
salmonberry wine. More acurately, I can tell you how to adapt
a recipe to serve your purposes, and that's better than nothing.
The first thing you do is ask
yourself, "What is a salmonberry similar to?" By similar,
I mean most like in type of fruit, taste, pulp, firmness, color,
skin or rind if that applied, and type plant. It is unwise to
compare fruit from vining plants with fruit from bushes or trees
unless there simply is no alternative. So, let's compare the
salmonberry with similar berries.
Well, it looks like a salmon-colored
blackberry, but tastes more like a red raspberry, wineberry or
Except, in reality, it tastes
like none of these. Still, it comes closer in taste to a red
raspberry than a blackberry, wineberry or thimbleberry. We might
be able to narrow it down further, but this will do--quite nicely,
actually. Start with a red raspberry wine recipe and go from
there. But first, there are a few things you need to think about.
With few exceptions, the more
fruit you use in making a wine, the fruitier tasting it will
be. This can be good or it can be too much. If good, so much
the better. If too much, you have a problem. You can blend it
with a complementary but weaker tasting wine or with a "second"
wine made from the same fruit pulp as the first batch--if you
happened to have made one. There really isn't much more you can
do. Why is this important?
It's important for two reasons.
When making a wine by recipe that specifies a varied quantity--such
as 4-6 lbs--you can be assured that using the lesser quantity
will make an acceptable wine, but using the larger quantity will
make a fruitier wine. If you opt to use the larger quantity,
you would be wise to also make a "second" batch using
the pressed pulp from the first batch. This will always make
a weaker wine, but one that is almost always acceptable on its
own merit. More importantly, you'll have that "second"
wine to use in blending with the first batch should its taste
be too strong for you.
But it's also important when
adapting a recipe for another ingredient. If the substituted
ingredient lacks the fullness of flavor of the original ingredient
called for in the recipe, you'll need to adjust the quantity
upwards to make up for what is naturally lacking. In the case
of substituting salmonberries for red raspberries, I can tell
you right off that salmonberries lack the flavor and aroma raspberries
are so famous for. Thus, you'll want to adjust the quantity upwards,
but not too much. Berry wines should be subtle, not overpowering.
My red raspberry recipe calls for 3-4 lbs of fruit. If using
salmonberries instead of raspberries, use 4-5 lbs.
Another thing to consider about
fruit content is that when using less fruit rather than more,
the lesser amount, if within the recipe limitations, will usually
produce a wine that more closely approximates the taste of grape
wine, albeit the approximation may take a leap of imagination.
What I mean is this: in truth, grape wines do not taste like
grape juice, and fruit wines should not taste like fruit juice.
My favorite peach wine recipe calls for 3 lbs of peaches per
gallon, but I will reduce the amount of fruit to 2-1/2 lbs for
an exceptionally flavorable crop. Conversely, for a weakly flavored
crop I might increase the amount to 3-1/2 lbs.
Sugar Content and Supplementation
More than anything else, it
is the conversion of sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol by
the action of yeast that makes wine. A critical amount of sugar
simply must be present or you are wasting your time and ingredients.
When this amount is absent, you must add sugar.
The amount you must add, of
course, depends on how much is there to begin with. You determine
this by using a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity (S.G.)
of the diluted liquor. What I mean by prepared liquor is the
combined ingredients in the recipes less the sugar and yeast.
If you measured the S.G. of the fruit juice alone and added sugar
to attain a starting S.G. of, say, 1.095, that reading would
be meaningless the moment you added water and other ingredients.
So, combine the ingredients less the sugar and yeast, measure
the S.G., and then add sugar to raise the S.G. accordingly.
This is especially important
when adapting a recipe to a substitute ingredient. The substitute
ingredient almost certainly will not contain exactly the same
natural sugar as the ingredient specified in the recipe. You
then adjust the sugar content accordingly. This will probably
mean an amount close to that called for in the recipe, but not
exactly the same amount.
Sugar can be added in several
forms and several ways, but usually this boils down to adding
refined sugar or adding honey. Unless a recipe specifically calls
for honey, I always use sugar, and unless it specifically calls
for light or dark brown sugar, I use finely granulated white
cane sugar. Cane and beet sugar are both sucrose and are chemically
the same. Unrefined brown sugar can still be found, but it is
imported these days and usually costs more than domestic brown
sugar. Domestic brown sugar is really refined sugar with molasses
added. It will affect both taste and color of the wine, but for
some wines it is required. Corn sugar is dextrose, preferred
for beermaking but tradionally avoided by winemakers. Terry Garey
and a few others say you can use it if you want to, but long
ago I was taught "vinters scorn what comes from corn;"
this ditty may be unfounded, but I've never wanted to risk a
batch of wine testing its veracity.
Honey is another subject altogether.
It comes in many, many flavors, depending upon the flowers the
bees predominately visited while collecting pollens and nectares
used to make it. These flavors do affect the wine, but so does
the honey itself. Honey tends to mellow out a wine and contributes
ever so slightly to body. Some people prefer it for that reason
alone, while others prefer it for ecological reasons.
I use it only when the recipe
calls for it, when I know the wine will otherwise be thin, or
when I want to impart a specific flavor to the wine--such as
heather, clover, orange, or mesquite.
My problem with honey is that it slows down the clarification
process considerably. Honey contains pollen, and pollen takes
a long time to settle out. Even when settled, it can easily be
lifted from the lees by the siphoning action of racking, and
then it must again settle out. If you filter your wine, this
is much less a problem than if you don't.
Salmonberries are just a little
bit more tart than red raspberries. This means it contains something
red raspberries don't contain, or lacks something red raspberries
don't. Tartness is usually caused by acid, but it could be caused
by tannin, pectin, or simply a natural flavor. In the case of
salmonberries, it's acid. If the difference were great, you'd
want to adjust the amount of added acid in the recipe to be adapted
downward, but in this case the difference is so slight as to
be negligible. Indeed, the amount of acid blend you might remove
from the red raspberry wine recipe is so small that it might
easily be absent depending upon how you measure 1/2 tsp. A pinch
less might be justified, but that is only about 20-30 grains
of the crystalline blend, and that is not worth fretting about.
On the other hand, if the berries
were unusually tart, you might cut the amount of acid blend used
by 1/8 to 1/5. You wouldn't want to reduce it by more, as acid
is essential to the health and reproduction of yeast.
Acidity should not generally
be a worry if you have compared your fruit wisely and correctly.
If in doubt, however, use an acid testing kit and adjust acidity
to no more than 0.60% tartaric.
For these or many other great
recipes visit the Winemaking home page
Black Raspberry Wine
Black Cherry Wine
Highbush Cranberry Wine
Red Clover Wines
Red Raspberry Wine
Staghorn Sumac Wine