When life gives you too many overripe pears, it's time to learn how to make pear wine.
The “recipe” I used is the love child of two recipes – one from “How to Make Home Wines and Beers” by Francis Pinnegar and another from “How to Make Wine in Your Own Kitchen” by Mettja C. Roate. I started with the first recipe, because it was all I could find, and then converted to the second recipe, more or less, because I preferred it. (Thanks, Tammy, for bringing over your copy of “How to Make Wine in Your Own Kitchen”. I like it so much I've ordered my own copy and will return yours soon – honest!)
Here's the start of recipe #1, from “How to Make Wines and Beers”.
Pear Wine recipe
Ingredients (for one gallon of wine)
1 pound raisins (I used golden)
1 pint boiling water
6 pounds dessert pears
4 pints cooled, boiled water
1 Campden tablet (sulfur based, kills wild yeast)
1 teaspoon pectic enzyme (reduces pectin for clearer wine)
2 pints syrup, gravity 300 (sugar syrup, feeds the yeast)
1 yeast nutrient tablet (feeds the yeast)
All-purpose wine yeast starter
cooled, boiled water
Here's recipe #2, from “How to Make Wine in Your Own Kitchen“.
Plain Pear Wine
4 quarts of chopped, unpeeled ripe pears (approximately five pounds)
3 cups of white raisins, finely chopped
6 cups of cane sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
4 quarts of water
1 shredded wheat biscuit, or 1 cup Wheat Chex
I boiled one pound of raisins (whole, not chopped) for five minutes in one pint of water and allowed it to cool. While it was cooling, I washed, trimmed and crushed the pears. I trimmed off the stems and blossom ends, but didn't remove the seeds at this point. I really should have book #2 notes that pear seeds are bitter and will give the wine an off flavor. I ended up sorting through the mash later to pick out all the seeds, which was pretty messy. I started with around seven pounds of pears instead of six, because mine were windfall pears and I had to trim a fair amount of damaged fruit. To crush the pears, I started with a potato masher, then I switched to scrubbed hands. It went much faster.
Note: if you do not have a crock, you may ferment your wine in any large, food safe container – just don't use aluminum or anything reactive. Lehman's has the best price online for crocks that I have found to date, but if you have a Martin's Hardware store in your area, do check there, as their prices (at least here) are even better than Lehman's.
I mixed the raisins and pear mush (the pears were really ripe) and dumped the mixture into a one gallon crock. This was covered with a clean flour sack towel secured with a clean elastic hair band.
It's fruit fly season around here, and fruit flies love ferments. Recipe one said to let this sit for 24 hours, mine sat for around 48…I was researching, looking for alternatives to all the various tablets and additives in recipe #1. Tammy and book #2 showed up about 18 hours into the ferment, and I decided to switch recipes, but I had to hunt down a shredded wheat biscuit, which took until the next day. Thankfully, ferments are also forgiving, to some extent. I stirred each day, and the mix had a proper “yeasty” smell.
About 40 hours after initial slurry was mixed, I crumbled the shredded wheat biscuit and added it to the pear and raisin mix. (Wheat Chex can be added whole.) The wheat feeds the yeast, and could probably be omitted if you use commercial yeast and are gluten sensitive. Another option is yeast nutrient, which is commonly added at a rate of 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient per gallon of liquid. (source)
Dissolve brown and white sugar in 2 quarts of water over a low flame. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Add the two remaining quarts of cold water to the pear/raisin/wheat mixture, then add the lukewarm sugar water. Stir the entire mash very well to distribute the sugar. Set in a warm place for three weeks. Stir every day, breaking up fruit against the sides of the crock. At this point, I realized I had around two gallons of liquid, not one. First I was trying to mix the whole mess in two crocks, a one gallon and a two gallon, and then I squeezed it all back into the two gallon. It was really close to the top, so my husband suggested I remove about a pint of liquid, which I did. I covered it and left it to ferment.
After adding the cold water, my one gallon crock looked like this:
That's when I moved it to the two gallon crock, and then ended up doing the shuffle mentioned above.
This is where I got nervous. I started talking with a friend who has more experience home brewing, and he highly recommended adding commercial champagne yeast to reduce the chances of ending up with two gallons of vinegar. The mix smelled a little yeasty, but wasn't very active compared to the dandelion wine I had made a while back. I added a packet of champagne yeast. The fermentation took off – literally! The whole thing tried to explode out of the crock and was only held back by the flour sack towel on top.
I mixed it up and carefully divided it back into two crocks. I'm planning on getting a three gallon crock so I can put it all back together and keep the fermentation rates uniform, but haven't gotten a chance yet.
Contents of two gallon crock before stirring, after adding commercial yeast.
Contents of two gallon crock after stirring. You can see how active this mash is by all the bubbles.
Right now my wine is in the three week first fermentation phase. It's sitting patiently on my kitchen counter, when it's easy for me to remember to stir it every day. Here is is shortly after it was initially mixed, posing with tasty pear cobbler.
To finish the wine, I'll be following the recommendations from “How to Make Wine in Your Own Kitchen”.
At the end of the initial three week fermentation period, strain mixture through a jelly bag or old pillowcase, squeezing very dry. Return liquid to crock. Set in a warm place to ferment for two weeks longer. No stirring is necessary during this second fermentation.
At the end of the second ferment (which makes five weeks in all), strain liquid through several thicknesses of cheesecloth (or revisit the pillowcase). It should be ladled or siphoned into the cheesecloth, as great care must be taken to prevent any of the “cloud” which forms at the bottom from getting into the wine. (You're aiming for a clear product at this point.) This cloudy wine should be put into a two quart jar to continue settling for a day or so; then it can be bottled as well.
The clear wine should be returned to the crock for two days. This settling period may seem unnecessary, but it results in a much clearer wine. After the settling, siphon into clean sterilized bottles and cork lightly (or place a balloon over the opening of the bottle to allow outgassing). Again, take care to keep the siphon off the bottom of the crock. When fermentation has ceased in the bottle, cork tightly and seal with paraffin.
“How to Make Wine in Your Own Kitchen” continues…
Pears are a rather bland fruit and make a bland wine. (Not sure about this – what I've got fermenting right now tastes pretty good.) If you desire more character in your wine, add 1/4 pound of candied ginger, finely chopped, at the same time as the raisins. If you desire heat along with the spicy taste, also add ten or twelve black peppercorns.
There was an attempt to market pear wine commercially in this country at one time. However, due to its blandness, winemakers found it had to be fortified up to 20% with pear brandy. Homemade wine can be fortified, too, for better results. I find that using a good grade of grape brandy gives a wonderful flavor. I add this just before the two-day settling period, using about 2 cups of brandy to a gallon.
In France and Germany there is a pear champagne which is made in much the same manner; however, it is bottled and corked tightly, while in the fermenting stage, giving it effervescence when opened.
If you've enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my foray into dandelion wine, which turned out pretty darn good. 🙂 The kitchen smells a bit like hooch at the moment, but really good hooch. We're planning on making elderberry wine soon, too, but I need to adapt a recipe to use only juice, so that will be a learning experience, too.
Update: 8/25/12 – The wine is still aging, but looks good. Age typically improves flavor, so I am planning to sample later this fall. Started up two different batches of elderberry wine today.
9/7/13 – Wine is good, with a very light pear flavor – dry, not too sweet. I think the elderberry is still my favorite, but this is a good use for excess pears that are a bit beat up.
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