Human ingenuity is a beautiful thing and, when combined with grapes, turns out a pretty good wine. A simple and inexpensive wine can be made by anyone that has a plastic milk jug, grape juice, yeast and a balloon.
To begin this process one will need to gather and clean a one-gallon milk jug. Make sure it is clean as possible before moving on to the next step. Milk residue and wine do not mix. The remaining items you will need for your wine making includes a balloon, straight pin, funnel and a measuring cup.
After you have gathered the household items, it is time to get the ingredients together that will be turned into wine. You will need three cans of 100 percent frozen grape juice for a total of 144 fluid ounces. You will also need sugar and yeast. There is much debate on what type of yeast to use for this type of wine. You can use baker’s yeast that you find in the grocery store but it will give your wine a strong taste. If you like a milder tasting wine, then use wine yeast.
Once you have all the ingredients available to you, it is time to begin the process of wine making. The first step required is the thawing of the grape concentrate. After the three cans of grape concentrate have thawed, pour into the milk jug. To save on the mess, pour the concentrate not directly through the opening of the milk jug but instead use a funnel. After all three cans of concentrate have been poured into the milk jug, fill each can twice with tap water and add to the contents of the jug. The amount of water added will total six cans at this point.
Once all the liquid has been added to the milk jug, place the cap on the jug and shake. This is an important step in the process of wine making and is called aerating the must. The must in winemaking terms means the juice. So the shaking of the milk jug thoroughly mixes the juice, which makes a better tasting wine but also adds air to the mixture.
After the fluid in the milk jug has been completely mixed, remove the cap and place the funnel on top of the opening. Pour ½ cup of sugar through the funnel, replace cap and shake forcefully. Do not let the sugar settle to the bottom. This could have negative consequences for the taste of the wine.
The next step in the process is preparing the yeast so that it can be added to the grape juice mixture. This can be done in two ways. The first way is to follow the directions on the package of yeast. It will tell you how to hydrate one packet of yeast, which is all you need for one milk jug. Another approach is to just place warm water in a cup and pour the yeast into it.
Do not stir the yeast yet. You must wait for it to hydrate before it is stirred. After a few minutes, add a few spoonfuls of sugar and stir. This sugar will begin to feed the yeast and cause it to foam. Wait until the foam has risen at least one inch and then pour into the milk jug.
Place the cap on the jug and shake vigorously again. Continue to shake until the yeast and juice have properly mixed. Once this is done, get your balloon and poke 3 to 10 holes in it with the straight pin. These holes will allow the gases produced during fermentation to escape. After this is completed, remove the cap from the milk jug and pull the balloon around the opening. To reduce the chance of the balloon popping off, secure it to the milk jug with a rubber band, twine or heavy-duty tape. Once the balloon is secure, push it down into the milk jug.
After the balloon has been secured inside the milk jug, place it in a warm place and let it sit undisturbed. In about 12 hours, you should see some bubbles and hear some hissing. These are signs that your wine is going through the fermentation process.
In 24 hours, your balloon should begin to inflate. If this is not happening, you will need to add more yeast.
Your milk jug wine will need to set for one to two weeks. During this process, the wine will go through its primary fermentation stage and the balloon will deflate. Once this occurs, remove the balloon and recap with the lid. Place the milk jug in a cool place such as a refrigerator.
At this point, you can enjoy your milk jug wine but if you want a better tasting wine let it sit in the refrigerator for up to two months before drinking.
If you want a more refined wine, pour the wine out of the milk jug and leave the sediment behind. This sediment or dregs is made up of dead yeast cells that give the wine an odd flavor. An easy way of removing the wine and leaving the sediment behind is through a siphoning process. This is done by placing one end of a hose in the milk jug and sucking on the other end until the wine starts moving up the hose. Once this begins, place the other end of the hose in another gallon container. Continue the siphoning process until the wine is removed while leaving the sediment behind.
The general principles of winemaking can be found through this recipe for milk jug wine. So give it a try and have fun creating your own “house wine.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.