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making wine in

Springfield, Illinois

a publication of food not lawns, springfield

making your own home brew
Wine is not hard at all to make. Generally, wine is water, plus taste (fruit, flowers,
herbs, veg, etc.), plus sugar, plus yeast. The yeast eats the sugar, exhales carbon
dioxide, and alcohol is the waste product—lucky you!
As far as equipment, you can probably make do
with what you have, or you can invest in exactly
what you need. A carboy is a 5 or 6.5 gallon glass
fermentation vessel, and costs around $15-20. The
only place I know to get them in Springfield is
Friar Tuck's; I happened to luck into mine when
the homebrew store ceased its existence. Or you
can make small batches of wine in 1-gallon jugs
(or any other size really), and these are fairly easy
to come by through regular purchases—apple
cider jugs, maple sirup, etc. You will also need
some kind of air lock, to let CO2 out of the jar
and to keep fruit flies from getting into the jugs
(bacteria on fruit flies can make wine into
vinegar). An air lock is only $1-2, or you can use
cheesecloth or thin cloth stretched across & held
in place with a rubber band, or use a balloon
poked with holes. A balloon or airlock proper a 5-gallon carboy
works nicely because it is easier to tell when the
primary fermentation is done. Other handy equipment includes a big pan for
boiling water, a siphon hose, a long-handled spoon, a strainer and a large-mouth
There are many ways to make wine, and I will tell you how I make mine. It
works. I don't use any chemicals, and in the couple of years I have been making
wine (usually around 100 gallons of wine per year for our family & friends), I have
never had a batch go bad. If you live in town, you need to boil the chlorine out of
your water or let it sit out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate. I boil the water
with the fruit/flowers, etc.
Roughly, I use one quart of fruit per gallon of water. So for a 5-gallon batch, I
use 5 quarts of fruit and 5 gallons of water. If you use a greater quantity of fruit
per gallon, you will get a richer tasting wine. After boiling the fruit and water, I let
it cool until still warm but not hot. It really doesn't matter how much it cools past a
certain point, just as long as it isn't hot enough to kill the yeast. If it feels the same
as your skin or a little warmer, figure it's about right. If it goes cold, that's perfectly
fine, but your yeast will start off a little slower. In this warm weather, it's irrelevant!
Next you'll strain the fruit water into a carboy or jug—your fermentation vessel. I
use a fine mesh strainer over a funnel, which also has a finer screen on it. The goal
is to get fruit fiber and seeds strained out of your future wine so that you’ll have a
clearer wine in the end. Some amount of fiber seems to get in & coagulates
anyway. It’s not a big deal if some pulp gets into the wine. The pulp of some
fruits, like strawberries and peaches, can be used for other things, like adding to
breads, oatmeal, or for making jam.
Then it's time to add the sugar. You can also use honey to sweeten (or use honey
to make mead). Brown sugar leaves a funny aftertaste, but if it were properly aged,
it might go away. I never age mine long enough, so I just use plain white sugar.
There are some exact recipes to be able to add an exact amount of sugar to make
it a dry (not sweet) wine or a sweet wine, or whatever you prefer. I am not an exact
kind of person, so I always kind of guess. Looking at the conversion charts
intimidated me to the point that I never could figure out exactly what to do. If
exactness doesn’t intimidate you, there are plenty of resources online to help you
out (and more information below). I like sweet wine myself. But using the guess
method, I end up with a variety of wines, which works out well for everybody’s
Generally, you will want to use 3-6 cups of sugar per gallon of intended wine. If
you are using something super sweet like fresh raspberries, you might want to use
something on the lower end of the scale (since I like it sweet, I would still use 4-5
cups of sugar/gallon). If you are making rhubarb wine, you might want to use 6
cups per gallon. I always aim for somewhat sweet wine, and get a variety of
sweetness in the end. It works out well, because anything that is dry can be easily
mixed with anything too sweet, and it's perfect. Remember, a lot of the sugar will
be converted into alcohol. Still when you're pouring a 10-pound bag of sugar or
two into your carboy, you'll be shaking your head at your sugar consumption.
For the specifics of how much sugar to use, I will let Dolly Freed, author of the
fabulous book Possum Living, explain:
“Many fruits have considerable amounts of sugar in them and can be used
without other sugar being added. Others have less and should have more added.
When making fruit wines you do well to make at least half the must of sugar water.
If you make it entirely of fruit, you will have a hard time getting the sugar content
right. Apples and pears, being somewhat bland, might be two exceptions to the rule.
Following is a list showing approximate sugar content of various fruits. The
percentages shown are of the usable (edible) portions. Keep in mind that the fruit
must be dead ripe to have maximum sugar content and that other factors also
figure in. You can taste, say, an apple, and judge if it's more or less sweet than the
average apple.
Apple 15% Orange 11%
Apricot 13% Peach 11%
Banana 23% Pear 15%
Blackberry 11% Persimmon 33%
Cherry (sweet) 17% Plum 11%
Grape 15%-35% Raspberry 13%
(taste them) Strawberry 8%
Sugar beet 17%
If you want to go the whole possum, you can grow sugar beets and make your
must from them. Once when the price of sugar shot up we did so, but since it takes
about 20 square feet of land to grow the equivalent of 5 pounds of refined sugar,
we probably still came out behind because of the lost garden space. It's a lot of
trouble, too.
Whatever the source of the sugar may be, it's all subject to the same basic
principles. The amount of alcohol in the fermented product is directly proportional
to the amount of sugar used, up to the limit of the yeast's ability (10% alcohol for
baker's yeast, 14% for wine yeast). One pound of sugar in a gallon solution will
ferment to a 6.3% alcohol solution, 2 pounds to the gallon will go to 12.6%, and so
forth. (I refer here to a U.S. gallon of 128 fluid ounces. There are several books out
on winemaking that use the British gallon as the unit of measure. Also, many
handed-down-from-Grandmom recipes use a British gallon. A British gallon is one
pint larger than ours.)
If you add more sugar than your yeast can handle, it will still go to its limit but
you will have unfermented sugar left in solution. The limit of Fleischmann's dry
baker's yeast will be reached when you use 27 ounces of sugar in a gallon solution.
This is a fortunate coincidence because distributing 5 pounds of sugar among three
one-gallon jugs gives you just those proportions. The limit of wine yeast is reached
with 35.5 ounces in the gallon.
You can buy a hydrometer to measure sugar content, but we find we get good
results by weighing and estimating. If you buy one, have the sales clerk explain how
it's used. If you don't have a scale to weigh out the sugar, you can get close enough
by measuring. A level cup of granulated white sugar will be very close to 8 ounces.
Look up the fruit on the sugar list (above) and note its average percentage. If
your fruit seems more or less sweet than average, adjust the figure a point or two.
Now you can figure how much sugar to add. The equation is:

S = .02 x A x T - (.01 x W x P)

S = the sugar to be added, in ounces
A = the alcohol percentage your yeast can work
T = the total amount of must you want, in ounces
W = the weight of the fruit, in ounces
P = the percentage of sugar in the fruit (from chart)

Example- Suppose you have 7-1/2 pounds (120 ounces) of pitted plums and
decide to make 2 gallons (256 ounces) of wine. The chart lists plums at 11% sugar,
S = .02 x 14 x 256 - (.01 x 120 x 11) or S = 71.68 - 13.20 or S = 58.48
So you add 58 ounces of sugar to the plums. (Three pounds, ten ounces.) Add
water to make up your 2 gallons. Don't add all the water at once, though, or the
containers will overflow when the yeast gets working. Fill them 3/4 up, and in a day
or two, when initial foaming has subsided, you can fill them up completely. When
the must has been fermenting about a week, you can strain out the pulp and again
top up with water.
If you prefer, you can add more sugar than the yeast can handle, which will give
you a sweet wine. However, if you wait to add the extra sugar till after fermentation
is done you have a better chance of getting it just right. If you accidentally add too
much sugar, you can dilute the wine with water, add more yeast, and ferment out
the excess. Or you can distill it. But don't freeze-concentrate it or it will get sweeter
Dolly Freed’s book is not in print anymore, but the text is available online. She
does a very thorough job of explaining how to make wine and hard liquor, and
even includes plans for a still and recipes.
Next, yeast. You can use baker's yeast (for breads), but the alcohol percentage
will not be as high. They sell special brewer's yeast at Friar Tuck's also. Our wine
appears to be around 16-18% alcohol. Not that it matters about that! I only drink a
small glass or two anyway, and I don't drink wine to get drunk. Some people prefer
to use wild yeasts. I have not experimented with this, but I plan to. If you want to
experiment with using wild yeasts, do not boil your fruit, as the wild yeasts take up
residence on the skins of fruits (notably in grapes).
After you stir your strained fruit water, sugar, and yeast, put in/on your airlock,
and wait. It's okay for wine to be in a lighted room, but keep your wine out of
direct sunlight. It may finish fermenting in as soon as a few days or a week in warm
weather, or it can take all winter long if your house is not very warm. Generally,
though, it takes a few weeks to a month of fermenting during the summer.
You'll know when the primary fermentation is finished when it stops releasing so
much CO2. If you have a fermentation airlock proper, it will stop clicking away,
and will actually suck back in. If you are using a balloon, it will stop being full of air
and will wilt down. If you are using cheesecloth, you will just have to guess. When
it is perking away, you can easily see CO2 bubbling up through the surface. When it
stops, the initial fermentation is done.
You can leave the wine in the fermentation device to age if you desire, but my
fermenting vessels are in high demand in the summertime, so we bottle it up as fast
as we can. We were fortunate to have a friend who dumpstered a ton of liquor
bottles with screw-on caps from taverns. They make great second fermentation and
serving bottles. You can pour from your jug, or use a siphon hose. You will only
want to put the cap loosely on at this point. If you put it on tight, your bottle may
Some wine tastes good immediately after the first fermentation—like strawberry
and apple cider wine. Some wines take a long time to taste good. Generally, the
longer you age your wine, the better it tastes. Flower wines usually take a long time
to age. A month of aging greatly increases the tastiness of any wine, and if you
have the patience to wait a year or two, it will be even more fabulous. If we have
wine in abundance, it ages. If not, it does not!
You can make wine from fruit, juice, flowers, herbs, vegetables, weeds, just about
anything. I enjoy experimenting. I have had wine on the brain lately (could be that
we have none to drink...). I made two 5-gallon carboys of strawberry, and one of
rhubarb and strawberry, I made a gallon of mint wine, a gallon of lemon balm
wine, and one a mixture of the two. I am eager to get to the farmers market
tomorrow & get some more strawberries! Our raspberry patch is looking like a
bumper crop this spring, and nothing tastes better than raspberry wine in Decem-
ber. If you close your eyes, a drink will feel like summer (but without the mosqui-
We have made wine from: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes,
watermelons, pumpkins, juices (100% juice! blueberry, black cherry, cherry, grape,
kiwi-strawberry), lemon balm, apple cider, honey (mead), peach, dandelions, violets,
redbud flowers, dates, and probably more that we have forgotten about.
New things that I am interested this year in experimenting with include: garlic,
coffee, roses, bananas, pea pods, burdock, elderberries, pears, plums, and mulber-
ries. There are some crazy recipes online for everything and anything you could
think of.
Making your own wine can be a healthy experience, from gathering necessary
ingredients, hanging out with your wine watching yeast multiply, sipping on great-
tasting wine that is inexpensive to make, and sharing “the necessities of life”, as
Dolly Freed calls it, with your friends. If you have issues with alcoholism, you may
want to think long and hard about starting such a hobby. Having free and delicious
wine constantly around is too tempting for many to avoid becoming an alcoholic.
It’s certainly a good thing to think about.
A glass of wine a day, or with meals, is good medicine. It’s a great way to use the
abundance of fresh in-season fruit, fermenting it so that it only gets better with age.
Creating abundance, sharing wine with friends reinforces community bonds. And
it’s great to watch yeast come alive & thrive.

mead (honey wine)
1 1/2 gallons pure local honey (buckwheat gives a hearty flavor; clover gives a
delicate flavor)
Nonchlorinated water to make 5-6.5 gallons of wine
One package wine yeast
Directions: Pour honey into your carboy. If your water is still warm but not hot,
that works the best in convincing the honey to go live in your carboy. Do not boil
honey! Add yeast. Ferment! Often mead is drinkable as soon as it is done with the
first ferment, but if you don’t like the taste, age it.

lemon balm wine

1 quart loosely packed lemon balm leaves and stems
1 gallon water
3-5 cups white sugar
One package wine yeast
Directions: Boil lemon balm leaves and stems in one gallon of water. Let cool &
strain into a one gallon jug. Add sugar, depending on whether you like a dry or
sweet wine, and yeast. Ferment! This is another wine that is great right after first
strawberry wine
5 quarts strawberries, with green tops cut off
5 gallons of water
20-30 cups white sugar (10-15 pounds)
1 package wine yeast
Wash and trim 5 quarts of strawberries. Boil in 5 gallons of water. Working in
partial batches works well. Let juice cool to body temperature, and strain into your
carboy. Add 4-6 cups of sugar per gallon of juice, and one package of wine yeast.
Another quart of strawberries added to your strained pulp makes great jam!

peach wine
box of peach seconds* (roughly 4-5 quarts)
5 gallons of water
20-30 cups white sugar (10-15 pounds)
1 package wine yeast
Wash, de-pit, and chop peaches into large chunks. Boil in 5 gallons of water, using
small partial batches if needed. Skim off any foam (it’s most likely peach fuzz!) that
develops. Let juice cool to body temperature, and strain into carboy. Add 4-6 cups
of sugar per gallon of juice, and one package of wine yeast. Ferment!
Cook your skimmings down with cinnamon and nutmeg to make tasty peach butter!
*A box of peach seconds costs less than $10 at the farmers market. Use seconds
that are fully ripened. If there are unripened peaches, wait until they are ripe &
then add to your primary fermentation. Unripened peaches are high in pectin &
can add an “off ” flavor to the finished product.

flower wines
1 quart loosely packed flower petals (dandelion, lilac, rose, redbud, peony,
anything fragrant or plentiful)
1 gallon water
4-6 cups white sugar
1 package wine yeast
Remove any green parts from your flowers. Fermented chlorophyll does not taste
good! Boil flower petals with water & let cool to body temperature. Add sugar and
yeast. Flower wines notoriously take a loooong time to age, perhaps a year or more.
But they are worth the time. You can also replace part of the water with grape juice
(no need to boil it). Use pure juice, with no corn syrup or preservatives in it.

Recipes for wines are plentiful in books or online. It has been said you can make
wine from anything, and after seeing a recipe for Army Ant Wine the other day, I
guess it is true! Some wines can be used for medicine, such as blackberry wine for
chronic diarrhea and elderberry wine for colds and flus. That’s a whole other area
for researching and experimenting!
food not lawns
springfield, illinois
turning yards into gardens and
neighborhoods into communities
Recycling the waste stream is the key to long term urban sustainabil-
ity. Beyond food, shelter, clothing, building materials, plants, seeds, tools,
& of course many acres of fertile soil sit idle in every town in America.
Food Not Lawns is a grassroots gardening project geared toward
using waste resources to grow organic gardens & encouraging others to
share their space, surplus, & ideas toward the betterment of the whole
In a world where so many lack access to basic needs such as food &
shelter, & where a lawn of a thousand square feet could grow more than
a hundred edible & beneficial plant species, becoming a lush perennial
“food forest” within three years, mowed grass seems an arrogant &
negligent indulgence.
Our addiction to impeccable lawns and soldier-rows of vegetables
and flowers is counter to the tendency of nature and guarantees constant
work. But we need not wield trowel and herbicide with resentment in an
eternal war against the exuberant appetite of “weeds” for fresh-bared soil.
Instead we can create conditions that encourage the plants we want, and
let nature do the work.
Food Not Lawns by H. C. Flores
Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison & Reny Mia Slay
Permaculture: a designer’s manual by Bill Mollison

food not lawns

Springfield, Illinois