Back in the day on the homestead, my father spent little money on his winemaking and he learned how to make all of his wine from ingredients he obtained from his garden, yard and even the woodlands. Making country wine is a lesson we learned from the pioneers and we shouldn’t forget about this legacy.
I grew up on a 30-acre farm and I’ve quickly learned that the homesteader’s life has many joys even though it is anything but simple. My parents had no money, but they had the will to make it work and they’ve always managed to make their plans a reality. They were hard-working, determined people and with help from us kids, they managed to create a homesteader’s heaven.
I remember my mother telling me about their beginnings, about how they had to learn everything on their own and lean on their friends to give them a helping hand and teach them about homesteading since they couldn’t afford to hire out.
I used to love spending time with my father and I was eager to help him make wine since it was our way of bonding. He grew and made wine from his own grapes, but he also learned how to make country wines. Just because commercial wine is made from grapes that doesn’t mean grapes are you only option to make wine. Most of the city folks, don’t know that wine can be made from any fruit, vegetable or edible plant. All you need is fermentable sugar and yeast. Even though much of the fermentable sugar comes from the mashed fruits or vegetables, sugar or a honey-water mix needs to be added to make a great country wine. Yeast can be purchased in many forms, so you shouldn’t have problems getting it. Some of the ingredients my dad used include corn, potatoes, elderberries and even dandelions.
Since corn wine was one of the best wines he ever made, I will share his recipe with you. His country wine was one of the finest and highly effective wines and his neighbors came often to taste it and praise his work.
How to make corn wine
The process of making country wine is pretty basic and doesn’t vary much based on the ingredients you select. You need to have the right equipment and the patience to try it.
Equipment and ingredients needed to make a one gallon batch of corn wine
- An opened mouthed vessel of 2 or more gallons in volume. Don’t use a metal one as fermentation can cause toxins to leach into your must. Go for glass, ceramic or food grade plastic vessels.
- A narrow-necked vessel. Get a 2 gallon glass jug to be sure.
- A stick for stirring or a cooking spoon. You can even make your own stir stick from untreated wood if you have some available.
- A strainer, a funnel and a siphoning tube. You will be using these for transferring the liquid between vessels.
- An airlock. You can buy one or you can watch YT videos and try to make it yourself. The airlock will prevent outside air from entering the wine during the long-term fermentation stage. If air gets in, your wine will turn into vinegar.
- Bottles and corks. Although you can drink straight from the jug, you can bottle the county wine and store it in your pantry.
Ingredients for making country wine:
- 2 pounds of granulated sugar
- 14 cobs of fresh picked sweet corn
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 tea bag (black tea for tannin)
- 6-8 raisins
- 1 package(5 grams) sweet wine yeast
- 1 gallon of water
Step by step guide to make country wine
- Pick fresh corn and prepare it. Cook the cobs in a pot with enough water cover them. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove your cobs and reserve the cooking water. This is your wine must
- Pour the must into the open mouthed vessel you prepared. Dissolve the sugar in must and make sure you stir constantly. Add 3-4 cobs to the must and cover the vessel with two layers of cheesecloth. Let it sit for 24 hours
- Use a glass jar and add the wine yeast to a ½ cup of room-temperature water mixed with the orange juice. Cover the jar loosely with a lid and let it sit overnight
- The next day remove the cobs from the open mouthed vessel and strain the must through a funnel into a jug. Add the yeast starter, the tea bag and the raisins. Fill to 2 inches below the neck to allow room for fermentation and insert the airlock of your choice. Top it off with sugar or honey water after fermentation subsides in a couple of days.
- Rack the sediment that will gather on the bottom two or three times to clarify, starting at one month. Repeat every two to three months. If you want to make a sweeter wine, dissolve a ½ cup of sugar in a cup of water and add at each racking. When you add the sweetener and there is no more a visible reaction, the fermentation is complete.
- Let the waiting begin! You will need to wait for six months to a year before you bottle and cork the wine. You need to pay attention and watch closely for active bubbling or you can test for a reaction using a teaspoon of sugar. If you are not convinced that the fermentation is complete, just wait some more time. Otherwise your country wine bottles will explode.
- Enjoy the wine with your family and friends!
Making country wine is a good method to make homestead booze at minimal cost. You will use natural and locally produced ingredients to make tasty wine. It is one of the lost ways of our forefathers and for me it brings back many fond memories of family events where my Dad shared his homemade wine. As soon as you get the hang of it, you can start experiment with other types of country wine and I recommend blackberry and strawberry. Both, making and drinking country wine are a pleasure and I advise you to try it and keep this old skill alive.
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