Making Carrot Wine

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We’re in the depths of winter and folks might erroneously assume that fresh wine making produce was incontrovertibly thin on the ground. You’re invited to think again.
So, with the wine cellar in likely need of substantive input, where does that leave us with several idle months ahead before the dandelions even begin to display their splendid heads?
How about a canned pineapple wine? Fair enough. Maybe a couple of gallons of skeeter pee takes your fancy. Bottled lemon juice happens to be in the shops at this time of year. Then again, maybe not!
The winter vegetables are a somewhat prosaic candidate for experimentation, yet these uninspired items can nonetheless produce a wholesome wine. For no good reason they appear to somehow consistently languish at the bottom of the lower division and often fall below the radar when compared with homemade country wines derived from fruit. That is a shame because a well balanced and aged parsnip or marrow wine is definitely a tipple to savor if one has the patience to wait for the wine. Perhaps it’s the other way round: Will the wine have patience enough for those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their labors? Who knows?
Here’s a modern take on carrot wine that in the dark days of next year’s bleaker months could find a prospective home in a glass by a warming fire, preferably somewhere near you.
We’re looking to be able to fill eighteen bottles with star bright wine in six to eight months time, so allowing for wastage and the odd tasting the plan is to make 15lts.
You will need:
SugarsSpicesYeast & Other Ingredients

  • 13 Pounds - fresh carrots
  • 3 pints (48 fl oz) - orange juice
  • 1 gallon - apple juice
  • 1.3 pounds - sultanas
  • 1 Pound - malted wheat
  • 3 - lemons
  • 1.25 cups - fruit syrup (rose hip is decidedly good) or grape juice concentrate
  • 2.2 pounds - soft brown or Demerara sugar
  • 1 - navel orange or pink grapefruit
  • 1 - tbs malt extract
  • 1 - liter active yeast starter

  • 6 oz - root ginger;
  • 4.25 cups - strong English breakfast tea (6-8 bags);
  • 2 tbs - of coriander seeds;
  • 1 tbs - each of broken cinnamon sticks, fennel and caraway seeds;
  • 0.2 oz - ground turmeric (haldi);

  • 1-2 g - pectic enzyme;
  • 15 g - bentonite;
  • 1 liter - active yeast starter

Brewing Your Carrot Wine


As basic wines go, the method is quite simple. Carrot wine is made in three stages just like any other. There are however, one or two unfamiliar quirks or exceptions to this idea. As you will see, there’s nothing neither complicated nor difficult to fathom. The required explanations are set out below, and we’ll cover the nitty-gritty of the finer details in the main body of the article. Until then; in a nutshell:
Prepare the must and pinch the yeast.
Ferment and rack off of the gross lees.
Ferment out the young wine. Rack again and age in bulk.

Pre-Fermentation


It’s a recommendation worth following to get the starter culture prepared twelve hours in advance of making the must. Use 1 tbs of sugar, 1 pint of orange juice and the malt extract topped up with boiling water. Cool to blood temperature; then add the yeast (slurry or dehydrated), to make what brewers call a small wort. Cover and set aside till needed. In the meantime, knock up a thin paste with the bentonite and set aside also.

Preparing all of the carrots sounds like a chore: It is. They should be scrubbed clean but don’t require peeling, if that’s any consolation. After being thinly sliced, poach the veggies with the remaining orange juice and just enough hot water to cover. Simmering the carrots until soft might take 30-40 minutes after coming to the boil. They mustn’t be over-cooked. In fact, there’s no need to do this as we have further plans for the al-dente carrots.

While the carrots gently simmer away par the zest from the lemons, grate the ginger, blitz in the magi-mixer or finely chop the sultanas, brew the tea in a liter of boiling apple juice and put all this into the sanitized primary fermentation vessel after adding the malted wheat. Add the syrup or fruit concentrate to the bucket and prepare to strain the carrots. Squeeze out the dregs from the teabags; rinse the bags in boiling water and pour into the fermenter.

Sooner or later, when ready, carefully strain the carrot water onto the other ingredients using a large colander. Best bet is to do this in batches. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a smaller bin and keep warm. Use a makeshift lid and towels to insulate the bucket.
Carrots contain little, if any, acid. This imbalance needs to be corrected. Juice the lemons and add to the must. Vigorously stir the must so as to fully aerate and combine everything together. The approximate ballpark figure for the initial specific gravity of the cooled must is 1060-1070º, or a potential alcohol content of 9.5% if fermented to dryness. When cool enough for the yeast, add the starter culture.

Carrot Wine Fermentation


Remember the pectic enzyme (pectinase) in the list of ingredients? This is where we part company with received wisdom because it doesn’t go into the must just yet.
On to a small point of clarification if readers will forgive the digressional pun. Pectinase destroys pectin: Any fruit that is known to contain sufficient levels of pectin so as to throw a stubborn haze in a finished wine needs the enzyme added in the early stages of fermentation. Be that the case, if incorporated, then a future problem has no future so to speak: nipped in the bud, as it were.
Whilst suspended solids are relatively easy to encouraged to drop (cold crashing at temperatures below 6ºC works well), a haze of colloidal pectin or starch in a near finished wine is a different order of difficulty to sort out when it comes to bottling time.
Pectinase is not a clearing agent in any sense of the term as most types of wine finings work in a fundamentally different way. Try adding the enzyme to a cloudy, pectin free wine. After a week or so the brew may have cleared somewhat, but that is simply due to the slowing down of active fermentation and settlement over time. You might incorrectly assume that the enzyme worked to clear the wine, but it had no affect what so ever.
Whether it’s purchase in a dropper bottle or as a dry powder, the enzyme works to degrade and destroy the hard glue-like inter-cellular substances found in fruit and vegetables that give rigidity and stiffness to the whole. The satisfyingly crisp firmness or ‘bite’ of an apple derives from the pectin.
Under the powerful liquefying action of the enzyme the sugary juices, fruit flavors and pleasing color compounds are released in a process called enzymic maceration.
Try the following technique rather than composting the cooked carrots.
Pour a liter or so of apple juice over the carrots and add the enzyme. Gently stir, cover the surface with cling film or similar to reduce oxidation and tidy the bucket away somewhere really warm (25-30ºC). After 24hrs strain the not insubstantial volume of juice off the solids using a grain bag. Squeeze gently to avoid an excess of pulp and from 6kg of carrots 4-5lts of juice can go into the primary fermenter alongside the rest of the now vigorously fermenting brew. Add the bentonite slurry. Stir well in. You should have 12lts or thereabouts of must by this point with a frothing fermentation on the go. Keep the fermentation on the cool side of 20ºC and stir the rising pulp back into the must twice a day for three to four days, at which point the gravity of the young wine requires adjustment.
In the presence of fermentable sugars and adequate nutrition, a thoroughly active yeast doesn’t mess about. Far from it. At an appropriate temperature, the yeast is perfectly happy to toil away while the going is good.
On day four, the must will show marked signs of separating into distinct layers as nutrition becomes depleted and fermentation stalls. The situation will begin to appear decidedly unfavorable for the yeast and it is now that an interventionist wine maker should step in and help the yeast to thrive in the face of deteriorating environmental conditions.
Now is the time to ‘sugar feed’ the young wine. Draw off 2lts of must into a large pan. Gently warm until the liquid can be heard, or as a foam rises. Add 500gm of the sugar and turn off the heat. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved, add the turmeric, cover and allow to cool for thirty minutes. Rouse the whole brew and swirl in the feed. Each of these additions will raise the potential alcohol of 15 liters by 1.5%.

When the signs of a slow-down show themselves once again, repeat the procedure with the last of the sugar to leave a potential alcohol content of 14% or more.
If a sweeter finished wine is desirable then further sugar feeding will inevitably topple the yeast, depending on the environmental factors and the yeast strain being used, to leave a stable medium sweet wine of high alcohol content which conveniently suits the next stage of the recipe.
Stir in the final 2lts of apple juice. At this point lower the temperature to encourage sedimentation. When the wine is seen to deposit a heavy sediment and the SG. drops below 1010º it’s time to strain and press the solids into a secondary fermentation vessel or better still, an intermediate bucket for a twenty four hour rest period. After resting, rack off into three separate 5lt demijohns. From here-on in, proceedings should continue under an air lock.

Flavoring Your Carrot Wine


Adding unfamiliar spice to food and especially drinks is always going to be a challenge. It’s so easy to underestimate the potency of fresh aromatics and the ability of alcohol to extract the essential oils, so the plan is to err on the side of caution by hedging our bets. Each of three #demijohns will receive a separate treatment.
We’re going to add a piquant flavor and aroma to the wine so as to pleasantly compliment the carrot and ginger in a similar way that bouquet garni is used to infuse a stock pot. As the spicing is to be tied up in a square of muslin we’ll call our little bundles ‘sachet garni’.
Zest the orange after washing to remove wax and chemical residues. With a dry pan on a low heat, gently warm through the seeds and shards of cinnamon and transfer to a mortar. Use the pestle to crack and crush the spice mixture but do not grind to a powder.
Make up two parcels. Place half the citrus zest in each. To one parcel add 1.5tbs of spice mix: to the second add 2.5-3tbs of mixture. Fold both sachets up small enough to fit through the neck of a demijohn and secure with a sterile rubber band.
#1. Remains un-spiced and is there for blending purposes if the spicing of either of the other two goes too far.
#2. Receives the low dose.
#3. Gets the higher dosage. Force the air out of each sachet garni and push it down into the wine with the handle of a wooden spoon.
This is where taste perception assumes a lead role. After forty eight hours both of the spiced wines can be sampled and a judgement made. The steeping should end when the wine tastes right in terms of personal preference. Please remember, wine changes character during storage and that mildly sharp or bitter flavours mellow over time.
If #3 hits the nose, and the taste is pleasingly spicy then remove the sachet and top up the demijohn with apple juice or a similar white wine. If your taste buds are unimpressed, leave to steep for a further twenty four hours and repeat. When all is well and good with #3, the focus moves down to #2 which is in effect a day behind the higher dosage rated wine.
Hopefully, by day five the two spiced batches can be recombined by racking into a 10lt carboy. Each wine maker should decide for themselves whether to blend #1 with the other two or to leave the un-spiced naked carrot wine as it is.
Maturation of any wine can be a protracted affair. With generous aging comes a smoothness and mellow refinement which young vegetable wines sadly lack. Folks should reckon on eight to twelve months of bulk storage as a starting point. If the recipe was finished medium sweet to sweet then one can double those figures.
Rack as necessary and rest the wine in darkness at a constant temperature around 12ºC. Keep an eye on the air lock/locks. Ensure they don’t dry out. Having said all that, once the wine is absolutely stable and perfectly clear there is no real reason why your carrot wine cannot be safely bottled. Bottle as you would any other wine and lay them down to sleep.

Cheers and good luck.


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The only thing I make more of than beer is kombucha. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s delicious, it’s good for you, and best of all, I can drink it at work!... Patience. Don’t worry, we’re nearly there. Over the course of the 2-4 weeks, you will see a film develop over the top of the tea. That film with continue to get thicker and thicker until it forms a large, rubbery puck that floats on top.
 
Door Nail
Brien, consider the sweet carrot liquor as a medium or vehicle for the flavour of the other ingredients and the alcohol in the finished wine. There is no residual carrot flavour, if nasty carrot be the basis of your apprehension. Cheers, Doornail.
 
Great article here. I made a carrot/chamomile mead last year that needs to be bottled. It turned out fantastic as well. People really need to get outside the current trends. Our ancestors have made delicious fermented items out of all sorts of "weird" things for hundreds of years.
 
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