catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 24 :: 2006.12.29 — 2007.01.12


If life gives you gooseberries...

Part 2 of 3


To what sources did you go to find information and supplies? What stories did you hear and create in the process?

I didn't share that my wife had made a blueberry wine the previous summer under the tutelage of her world religions professor, a local Presbyterian minister (what is it with these drinking clergymen?) and she shared it at a winter solstice party last year.  Her professor also shared a dandelion wine he made. Perhaps I'm still answering the first question: what inspired me to make wine? I was captivated by the idea of bottling up something to be consumed at a later date. I would say this idea has been instilled in me since my childhood. I fondly remember summer days on my grandparents' farm in Missouri picking and snapping green beans for my grandmother to can. I have canned various vegetables I have grown in my garden, as homage to that legacy. It is a wonderful feeling to be opening a jar of pickles, or some spicy salsa, remembering the day you planted the seed for those vegetables and all the steps leading up to its canning and preserving. My main source of information was my wife's blueberry wine experiment and I sought more advice from her mentor, whose idea of making wine is to "go as low-tech as possible." I sought recipes on the internet. Also, I checked out a couple of books from the local library. As I told people about my winemaking endeavors, I discovered the names of others who had also tried their hands at winemaking. In fact, I had a conversation with a man at my church to whom I had hardly ever spoken when I found out he made wine. He had some great stories to share.

About supplies: I have a few large crocks that belonged to my grandparents that I use as primary containers. This past spring, my wife's father passed and her stepmother gave me his winemaking paraphernalia and some of his old bottles. I felt honored to receive this gift. As I figured out what kinds of wines I wanted to make, I also realized I had the task of pairing the wine with a bottle. I started saving various bottles and asking friends for certain colored or shaped bottles. I even used my county's Freecycle service to find some bottles. For the supplies and ingredients I did not have, I did a search on the internet for a local wine supply store and decided that wherever it was, I would ride my bike there and purchase what I needed. I found a place about 15 miles away from my house and decided one Sunday afternoon to bike there and buy what I needed. On my way, I had a flat and had to get help. There were all kinds of folks outside on this warm summery day and I easily got the help I needed, made my way to the store, and purchased my supplies.

What kinds of wine did you make? What were some of your favorite parts of gathering ingredients?

I made: lilac, basil, apple, peach, blackberry-gooseberry, cherry, jalapeno-raisin, and jalapeno mead. My goal was to use as much local produce as I could. I had a lilac bush in my yard, I picked fruit from an apple and cherry tree I had planted seven years ago, I grew my own basil, picked peaches from the peach tree my father-in-law had planted in his yard, picked wild blackberries from the periphery of the former watermelon field through the woods behind my house, used gooseberries off the bush that I dug up from my grandparents' farm in Missouri, and got honey for the jalapeno mead from a local beekeeper.

My favorite part about gathering the ingredients was basking in God's creation. have you ever stood in a lilac bush for an hour? It's absolutely beautiful to the senses. I had a deep sense of awe and reverence for the cycle of life and cycle of the seasons while I picked ingredients.

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