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Wild chokecherry wine

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Yooper

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This is for a 15 gallon batch! For a smaller batch, just cut the ingredients in half/thirds/etc. I used a big rubbermaid bin for primary (make sure you know where 15 gallons is on the container!) and three 5 gallon carboys for secondary.

45 pounds chokecherries
28 pounds sugar
5 dark grape concentrates- 1 pint bottle (available in winemaking shops)
7 tsp pectic enzyme
5 tsp yeast nutrient
5 tsp acid blend
15 crushed campden tablets
3 packages of champagne yeast (Lalvin's EC-1118 works great!)

OG: 1.100
FG: .990

Destem chokecherries and freeze (this helps break them up easier). Place them while still frozen in large mesh bags, and thaw in primary. As they thaw, smash them up by hand or with a mortar and pestle, but don't crush the pits! You only want to break up the skin on the fruit. Dissolve the sugar in 5 gallons of boiling water and pour over fruit, stirring well. Add water, to top up to 15 gallons. Add the yeast nutrient and acid blend. Dissolve the crushed campden tablets in hot water, and pour over the fruit, stirring well. Cover with a towel. 12 hours later, add the pectic enzyme. Check the OG, and adjust to get it from 1.090-1.100.

12 hours after that, add the yeast. Cover loosely with a towel. Stir the must several times a day, knocking the fruit under the liquid. The fruit will keep trying to float- stir it down, and also stir any "cap" that forms. When fermentation slows (an SG of 1.010-1.020), pull out the bags of fruit, and squeeze well. Let them drain back into the fermenter, and throw out the fruit when draining stops. Pour and strain into carboys. Airlock. Don't top up until fermentation slows down a bit more. When fermentation slows, top up to 15 gallons with water.

Rack whenever lees are 1/4" thick, or in about 4 weeks. Thereafter, rack every 45-60 days or whenever lees are 1/4" thick. Top up with water to minimize headspace. After approximately 6 months, and no more lees fall, rack onto 5 ounces French medium toast oak chips, soaked in a bit of brandy. After approximately 6 weeks, taste for oak flavor. If adequate, rack off of the oak and bulk age.

Bottle and age one year.

This wine is a "big" red, and suitable for a dinner wine. If you want it a bit smaller and fruitier, you can cut the grape concentrate, lower the OG to 1.085, and not oak it. Stabilized and then sweetened, the lower OG version is a light red fruity wine.
 
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This is one of our all-time favorites. I have 10 gallons in secondary right now, and Bob is now dealing with 25 pounds of frozen chokecherries, so I can make another 8 gallons today. He is in charge of the "raw" part- picking and freezing the fruit, smashing the raw fruit, carrying heavy things, etc. while I'm in charge of the "fermentation" part. (Please don't tell him that I'm doing the easy part!)
DSCF2596.jpg

Here's one 5 gallon carboy ready to be racked (on the right is a crabapple wine):
DSCF2584.jpg

This wine is our "every day" wine, but it's good enough for company. Most people couldn't tell you the base fruit- it tastes like a nice red wine.
 

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nice setup! i just picked the first ripe chokecherries of the season near my cabin, but i've only got 7 lbs. i was thinking of adding 3 lbs of sour cherries (Montmorency) and 2 cans of Alexanders' Pinot Noir (http://www.midwestsupplies.com/pinot-noir-alexander-s-sun-country-concentrates.html), which is enough for a 5 gal batch. i figured the cherries wouldn't add much sugar, just more flavor.

does this sound like it could make a good chokecherry wine? i've never made wine, so this would be my first batch! any tips would be great ;)
 

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ha! didn't realize you were the same guy i pm'd about the chokecherry wine til just now :mug:

i saw you post in a different thread, so sent you a message. looks like you're the resident chokecherry specialist!
 

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should i add sugar in addition to the extract?
 
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ha! didn't realize you were the same guy i pm'd about the chokecherry wine til just now :mug:

i saw you post in a different thread, so sent you a message. looks like you're the resident chokecherry specialist!
should i add sugar in addition to the extract?

Yes, you want to get an OG in the area of 1.090-1.100. The sugar will get you there. You can add less at first, check the SG, and then add more sugar if needed. Some cherries (even chokecherries) are sweeter than others, so the berries will vary from year to year.

PS- I'm not a "guy". The "guy" in the photo is my husband, Bob.
 

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PS- I'm not a "guy". The "guy" in the photo is my husband, Bob.
my sincerest apologies! i guess the dominatrix pic should have tipped me off, huh? but i definitely must say you have the easy part of the job with fermentation. i spent a couple mornings gathering the chokecherries this weekend and was attacked by mosquitoes and biting flies! and i don't anticipate the cherry crushing to be a clean process either ;)

i've only ever made jam/jelly from chokecherries, so i had never really assessed variable sweetness in them. of course, i never eat chokecherries raw, so i don't have a gauge to go by. maybe i'll 'choke' down a few each year to test :drunk:
 
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my sincerest apologies! i guess the dominatrix pic should have tipped me off, huh? but i definitely must say you have the easy part of the job with fermentation. i spent a couple mornings gathering the chokecherries this weekend and was attacked by mosquitoes and biting flies! and i don't anticipate the cherry crushing to be a clean process either ;)

i've only ever made jam/jelly from chokecherries, so i had never really assessed variable sweetness in them. of course, i never eat chokecherries raw, so i don't have a gauge to go by. maybe i'll 'choke' down a few each year to test :drunk:
They don't taste very good, but they sure make good wine and jelly!
 

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so, while i have your ear (or whatever sense), i see you add pectic enzyme just before pitching yeast. i'm about to brew a papazian cherries in the snow recipe this weekend for my sister in law's wedding this fall, and it calls for 10 lbs of sour cherries. i've got some fresh picked door county wisconsin variety on the way as we speak. should i add pectic enzyme to this ale recipe?
 
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so, while i have your ear (or whatever sense), i see you add pectic enzyme just before pitching yeast. i'm about to brew a papazian cherries in the snow recipe this weekend for my sister in law's wedding this fall, and it calls for 10 lbs of sour cherries. i've got some fresh picked door county wisconsin variety on the way as we speak. should i add pectic enzyme to this ale recipe?
It's probably not necessary. I'm no fruit beer expert (hate fruit beers!), though. I add it to wines, not just for clarity but to increase the cell breakdown and to get more juice. I don't know what effect pectic enzyme has on beer, if any. I don't think I've ever heard of adding pectic enzyme to fruit in beer, but that doesn't mean it isn't done. I just never heard of it.
 

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i'm not much on fruit beers myself, but this one i've heard is quite more like a sparkling wine or lambic. in any case, it's a toasting appurtenance for the sister in law's wedding and she seemed excited, if not for anything but the novel name.

i suppose i'll stick with Papazian's recipe and trust he's got it right. thanks, again.
 
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To make sure I'm on the same page with terminology.What we always called choke cherries here ( an hour south of the bridge) grow on bushes a little larger than blueberry bushes in the same places blueberries grow.Pin cherries grow on trees which resemble domesticated cherry trees only taller and straighter. Which berry do you use for this wine?
 

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At least in Nebraska, the chokecherries grow on bushes that cluster up in ditches. I just drive around the stream valley near our cabin on gravel roads and look for the berries on bushes. Below are a couple links to pictures to help you ID the right berries.

here you can see the ripe berry. it's pretty small, slightly larger than a pea, but probably a little less than a blueberry (at least in Nebraska). also, there is a distinctive single main stem that carries alot of berries which are hung by smaller stems. to harvest, you can usually just pinch your fingers near the top and pull down, causing all the berries to pop off the main stem.
http://listsoplenty.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Choke-Cherry.jpg

here's a bush near a gravel road. this one is pretty large from what i've seen, and if you're lucky, you'll get a cluster of several of these bushes together. they can also be pretty small and spindly.
http://www.foothillslandscaping.ca/Reference/Graphics/Chokecherry2a.jpg

this is a good look at the main stem structure--this is a good identifier.
http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/fruit/images/chokecherries.jpg

finally, this shows the blossoms and a few berry shots. the berries will go from green to green-reddish pink, to red, and then to a dark purple. i would pick in the red to dark purple range.
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1022/1338315839_1d5db99702.jpg&imgrefurl=http://montucky.wordpress.com/2007/09/06/chokecherry/&usg=__68mQX_kVwfZsc9GtwU_kSv6a3vw=&h=500&w=443&sz=188&hl=en&start=39&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=gUfm_U81gq2rIM:&tbnh=130&tbnw=115&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dchokecherry%26start%3D20%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:eek:fficial%26ndsp%3D20%26tbs%3Disch:1
 

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To make sure I'm on the same page with terminology.What we always called choke cherries here ( an hour south of the bridge) grow on bushes a little larger than blueberry bushes in the same places blueberries grow.Pin cherries grow on trees which resemble domesticated cherry trees only taller and straighter. Which berry do you use for this wine?
Neither one of those! The chokecherries are more like the pin cherries. Chokecherries grow on large shrubs/trees in clusters. Much larger than a blueberry bush. Black cherries are closely related, but a bigger tree.

http://www.oplin.org/tree/fact pages/chockecherry_common/chokecherry_common.html
 

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Powers - I, too live in Nebraska and just this past weekend found a hoard of ripe chokecherries - the family and I picked nearly 25 pounds in about 45 minutes. We beat the birds to them! They are in the freezer now, can't wait to get them started this weekend.
 

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good haul! i was searching much further north, in the niobrara river basin, so thought it was odd to find so many ripe this early. wet year, i guess. i hope your batch turns out tasty!
 

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Thanks for linking the pics of the chokecherries! There are a bunch of those around here, I'm gonna have to try them out :)
 

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Hi I was wondering how the chokecherry wine will turn out without the grape concentrate? That is the only thing that is unavailible to me.
 
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Hi I was wondering how the chokecherry wine will turn out without the grape concentrate? That is the only thing that is unavailible to me.
It'll be ok! I made some without the concentrate. You can add a few more chokecherries (maybe 1/4 pound a gallon) and sugar to still reach the same OG. The resultant product will be a bit "thinner", that's all.

You could use some golden raisins, chopped up, instead if you want. That would be similar.
 

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Thanks yooperbrew! I had a couple more questions, How long will the Cherries stay good for after picking? I dont think I have the freezer space to load them in there. Also do I have to use corks when I bottle, I saw you used 12oz bottles and was wondering if I could use the beer caps that I already have? One last thing, could you recommend a good place for me to get the wine additives online? Thanks again!
 

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This is another recipe that suggests multiple rackings. Doesn't each rack add O2 to the mix? Isn't that a bad thing once the alcohol is produced? What is the real deal with O2 and wine?
 

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Another question. Do you find choke cherries to be similar to wild black cherries for wine making? A friend and I have picked a few pounds of them and are looking for a good recipe to make a gallon or two.
 

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I am collecting enough berries today for a 6 gallon batch, only thing is I don't have a large mesh bag. I only got 2 smaller mesh bags that I use for grains and they wont hold enough fruit. Is it ok to extract the juice first in another container? I think the pulp from the fruit will still fit in the bags I got and I could throw them in the primary fermenter along with the juice. Is this a good idea or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!
 
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This is another recipe that suggests multiple rackings. Doesn't each rack add O2 to the mix? Isn't that a bad thing once the alcohol is produced? What is the real deal with O2 and wine?
Well, you definitely don't want to aerate. I use campden tablets (one crushed per gallon) at every other racking to help avoid oxygenation. Multiple rackings are important to get the wine off of the lees.

Another question. Do you find choke cherries to be similar to wild black cherries for wine making? A friend and I have picked a few pounds of them and are looking for a good recipe to make a gallon or two.
Yes, chokecherries and black cherries are actually closely related. I use black cherries in this recipe along with the chokecherries often. I've never done 100% black cherries, but I'm sure it'll work fine. They might be a bit more tannic (can't remember) but it'll work anyway.

I am collecting enough berries today for a 6 gallon batch, only thing is I don't have a large mesh bag. I only got 2 smaller mesh bags that I use for grains and they wont hold enough fruit. Is it ok to extract the juice first in another container? I think the pulp from the fruit will still fit in the bags I got and I could throw them in the primary fermenter along with the juice. Is this a good idea or do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!
The reason I use the bags is because you ferment on the fruit for a while. I have a friend that has a steam extraction juicer and he juiced his chokecherries. It worked, but the wine was a little less full flavored, probably from not fermenting with the skins on.

Have you ever juiced chokecherries? They have a huge pit for the size of the fruit, so you may have some problems getting juice without breaking the seed. If you can do it, then it should work out ok.
 

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The reason I use the bags is because you ferment on the fruit for a while. I have a friend that has a steam extraction juicer and he juiced his chokecherries. It worked, but the wine was a little less full flavored, probably from not fermenting with the skins on.

Have you ever juiced chokecherries? They have a huge pit for the size of the fruit, so you may have some problems getting juice without breaking the seed. If you can do it, then it should work out ok.
I recently made about a gallon of chokecherry juice and I had to simmer the cherries for a bit while mashing up the cherries with a potato masher. It kinda worked but I had to hand sqeeze the rest through my grain bags and that worked out pretty good, no crushed seeds, just really messy. So I am planning to put the pulp and skins in the grain bag after I extract the juice so the skins can ferment in the primary also. One other thing, how clean does the proccess have to be? Should I use sanitizer on every single thing like when making beer? I noticed in the beggining I am supposed to cover the primary with a towel, just didn't seem to sanitary?
 
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I don't like cooking fruit for wine, so I've never done anything like you've done so I'm no help there!

Yes, you must sanitize everything that touches the wine. Everything. Always. The towel won't touch the wine, just cover the bucket to keep fruitflies out, so it's ok if it's simply clean. You can use a sanitized cover it it makes you feel more comfortable.
 

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Thanks Yooper, I might just smash them in room temp water if cooking the cherries for the wine is not good (why is that?). Mabey I'll just remove the pits and try to stuff my mesh bags with the pulp. Also is it ok to use a conical fermenter for this wine?
 
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Thanks Yooper, I might just smash them in room temp water if cooking the cherries for the wine is not good (why is that?). Mabey I'll just remove the pits and try to stuff my mesh bags with the pulp. Also is it ok to use a conical fermenter for this wine?
I've never had a conical, but I can't imagine that it would make a difference.

I don't like cooking the fruit for wine for a couple of reasons- one is the taste is like "cooked fruit", like in a pie. Also, cooking the fruit sets the pectin (think jelly) and makes it a bear to clear.
 

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Everything is turning out pretty good, I found a large grain bag that I had stashed so that went smooth. Turns out I had enough cherries for 8 gallons, tomarrow I need to add the yeast. Do I add 2 packs or measure out exactly for 8 gallons? I'm using the ec-1118 yeast. Thanks!
 

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Hey Yooper, This is my first batch of wine I've ever attempted - so please bear with me :)

I didn't see where you added the grape concentrate in the instructions, I'm assuming it is before the primary. I'm making a 5 gallon batch, and I'm not sure what I was thinking but the grape concentrate never got added - i was in a hurry, when I should have been reading ahead in your instructions. So all I have as of right now in the primary right now is 15lb of chokecherries and the called for additives. It's been in the primary overnight and I just checked the OG and we're right at 1.090. So I have a couple of questions for you in hopes of making my first batch a success!

1. I have a feeling that the grape concentrate will make this wine. Can I still add it at this point? The bad news is, I do not have a supply store close by, and don't have any on hand. Can I use grocery store concentrate without having the end wine tasting like grape juice?

2. How important is the Champagne Yeast in terms of an ingredient and timing of adding it. Again, I should have read ahead and made sure I had this ingredient on hand - but I got too excited to get this wine going...

Sorry for the long post - and anything glaringly obvious for you experienced folks. Thanks for your help!
 
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Hey Yooper, This is my first batch of wine I've ever attempted - so please bear with me :)

I didn't see where you added the grape concentrate in the instructions, I'm assuming it is before the primary. I'm making a 5 gallon batch, and I'm not sure what I was thinking but the grape concentrate never got added - i was in a hurry, when I should have been reading ahead in your instructions. So all I have as of right now in the primary right now is 15lb of chokecherries and the called for additives. It's been in the primary overnight and I just checked the OG and we're right at 1.090. So I have a couple of questions for you in hopes of making my first batch a success!

1. I have a feeling that the grape concentrate will make this wine. Can I still add it at this point? The bad news is, I do not have a supply store close by, and don't have any on hand. Can I use grocery store concentrate without having the end wine tasting like grape juice?

2. How important is the Champagne Yeast in terms of an ingredient and timing of adding it. Again, I should have read ahead and made sure I had this ingredient on hand - but I got too excited to get this wine going...

Sorry for the long post - and anything glaringly obvious for you experienced folks. Thanks for your help!
1. You can add it now if you want- but it will increase your OG. You don't want regular grape juice- that grape concentrate is actually a wine grape concentrate. At this point, since your OG is 1.090, I'd leave it out. I've made it without, and it's still good but a bit less full bodied. You can always add it to secondary later, if you decide it needs a little more fullness and flavor.

2. You can use any good quality wine yeast. I like champagne yeast, but premier cuvee is good too.
 

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Thanks for the recipe, I started a 3 gallon batch of this tonight as I only had 9 lbs of choke cherries left after making jelly. We'll see how it turns out!

Actually, I had 8 pounds 10 ounces of choke cherries...I added 6 ounces of saskatoons to make up the difference. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. This is my first wine from fruit...seems like a lot of fruit for only 3 gallons.
 

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Especially after you wash and destem all those little berries :drunk:
That's true! Although I picked them while camping in early September so it wasn't too bad sitting around the fire and cleaning them.
 

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So I have a question for you Yooper. I transferred my chokecherry wine to my 3 gallon carboy today (sg 1.020), and it's way short, but maybe it's supposed to be like this?

Basically I cut the recipe by 5 to make 3 gallons. So I used 9lb fruit and I made a line on my primary (the red one in the photo) using my 3 gallon carboy. I topped it up, fruit and all, to this line when I started.

Today I removed the fruit and squeezed it until I couldn't squeeze no more, and this is all I got.

The starting gravity was 1.106 so that's pretty close to what you suggest. And the wine does look very dark compared to the kits I make.

Is it normal to have to add this much water?

 
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You don't want any headspace! I usually make fruit wines in a primary bucket, and then transfer to a carboy for secondary to top up. I have several three gallon carboys, and I use them often. I don't know why you have so little in your carboy, but the fruit does take up a bit of room.

In your case, you will want to get the wine out of there ASAP and get it into 2 one-gallon jugs (a #6 stopper will fit), or top it up with a bit of water and some fruity red wine. If you made a three gallon batch, you could probably use some water but not all water- that looks like it's barely 2/3 full! Oxidation will ruin the wine. You want almost NO headspace, and you can use whatever bottles/stoppers you need to get there. Here's a photo of some of my wines on a racking day, so you can see the amount of headspace, and the assortment of containers:
 
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