I woke up this morning to beautiful blue skies and thoughts of soaking up the spring sun working in the garden and cutting the lawn. There’s nothing like the feel of the sun warming the skin after a long winter, however mild it might have been, in the early spring. But a quick peek at the local weather forecast and all hopes for sun-pinked cheeks by days-end were dashed. With an expected high of only 59 degrees (brrrrr…) I immediately changed my mind about working outdoors. That’s much too cold for my bones!
What to do, what to do? My first thought was to continue working on the spring cleaning I had begun. Nah! Boring! I had the itch to do something much more fun: start a batch of mint wine! After zipping over to Jack Keller’s website for the recipe it was out to the garden to collect the lovely emerald stalks. With a fresh pot of Seattle’s Best and DIY network on the tube, I set to work removing the leaves from the stems. With four cups of loosely packed mint leaves it was time to move on to the next step.
I measured out 2 pounds of sugar and 7 1/4 pints of water. I put the mint leaves in a small saucepan and boiled the water in a large pot. Once the water was boiling I added about 2 cups to the mint leaves and brought the mixture to a simmer, covered, and let sit for an hour. Meantime, I added the sugar to the big pot of boiling water and stirred it until the sugar was dissolved, removed from the heat, and allowed to cool while the mint leaves steeped.
Tinkering away in the kitchen, I finished up a batch of Greek yogurt (a post for another day) and busied myself with some other cleaning projects. At the end of the hour it was time to strain out the mint leaves from the liquid and add the mint liquid to the sugar water, squeezing out all the mint leaves to extract every bit of the luscious smelling juice.
The next step before adding the yeast was to add the tanning, acid blend, and yeast nutrient (available at any local brew supply and online). Then it was time to wait for the mixture to cool to room temperature. I decided at this point to try hydrating my champagne yeast. I must admit that I am very new to the hobby of wine making and I’ve not made anything other than kit wine for at least two years. I thought I remembered that it was good to rehydrate the yeast before adding to the must so decided to give it a try. I mixed the yeast into a cup of lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water and let it sit for a bit. I was so happy to see foaming action because my yeast had been around for 2 years since the last time I knocked around with some scratch wines. I added a bit of the cooled must to the foaming yeast and let it go for a little while longer (sorry no photos of the yeast snacking on the must).
Once the temperature of the must was down to around 95 degrees I added the yeast mixture to the must. I think I was a bit hasty with this step as room temperature is nowhere near 95 degrees, at least not in springtime in Ohio! I figured (hopefully not incorrectly) that if the yeast could be started in up to 105 degree water then the 95 degree must surely wouldn’t kill it. I suppose time will tell.
Now we wait. In about 7 days I will rack the fermenting liquid into the secondary fermenter. Then, more waiting, more racking, more waiting, etcetera etcetera, until it’s time to bottle and then…. we wait some more! Yup, patience is the name of the game when making wine, something I am not known for. But according to Jack the wine won’t be drinkable for a year.
So here it is hanging out with my 5 gallon batch of chardonnay that is almost ready for bottling. Oh, by the way, if you’re new to this like I am don’t go getting any ideas about allowing that much air to hang out in your jug with your new wine. It’s bad! Shame on me! But, alas I don’t have a smaller jug and, well it is what it is (don’t you hate it when people say that?). I won’t let it hang out there for long. Maybe another week and then into the bottles it goes.
P.S. Thanks for hanging out with me through my very first blog post as Sassy Susan! Cheers!
UPDATE April 30, 2012: I realized after I made this batch that I made a huge rookie mistake. I completely forgot to take the beginning specific gravity. It’s now three days later and the gravity is 1.102. It’s impossible at this point to know where I started before adding the yeast so determining the actual potential alcohol is out of the question. However, I believe it should finish at at least 13% alcohol based on the chart available at Jack Keller’s site and will be a sweet, dessert type wine. I am still learning so if you’re an experienced brewer I’d love to hear your comments and do please correct me if I am wrong about any of this. I don’t want lead anyone astray.
I did take a tiny taste of the juice when I checked the gravity and it is delicious! I think I may start another batch as soon as I get some other things rolling. I have a feeling this wine is going to be a huge hit.
- 1 qt loosely packed mint leaves
- 2 lbs finely granulated sugar
- 7-1/4 pts water
- 3 tsp citric acid
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/4 tsp tannin
- Champagne wine yeast
Wash mint leaves well and place in small pot with lid. Bring water to a boil and pour 1/4 of it over mint leaves. Bring mint water to a simmer, remove from heat and seep one hour, covered. Stir the sugar in remaining water until thoroughly dissolved and allow to cool. Strain liquid from mint into primary and add then sugar-water, tannin, acid blend, and yeast nutrient. Cover primary and allow to continue cooling until room temperature. Add yeast. Ferment 7 days, rack into secondary, top up and fit airlock. Rack again after 30 days and again 3 months after that. Stabilize, wait 10 days, sweeten to taste, allow to settle overnight, and rack into bottles. This wine MUST age at least a year before drinking, preferably in a dark place. Serve chilled.
May 7 Batch Update: I racked this from the primary into the secondary and the gravity was @ 1.060. I think the fermentation is a little slow so I have asked on the wine forum if it would be wise to add a little yeast energizer.
May 8 Batch Update: Per a recommendation by a more experienced brewer, I added 1/2 t. of yeast energizer to this batch. Fermentation seems to have slowed considerably, which isn’t unusual for herb wines so the yeast energizer should help get things going again. To add the energizer I took a small sample of the wine, mixed in the energizer and added the sample back in with the batch. Hopefully I’ll see some more vigorous fermenting soon.
May 17 Batch Update: I’ve been so busy with the garden I’ve not had a chance to check the gravity until today. Looks like fermentation is stuck even after adding the energizer. Based on information I found on stuck fermentation I decided to try to get it going again by adding some Premier Cuvee yeast. I inoculated it in a bit of warm water and some of the mint wine. Hopefully I will be better able to check it again in a day or so and it will be rolling again.