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How to Make Pumpkin Wine – A Unique Pumpkin Recipe

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Did you know you can make wine out of just about any fruit or vegetable with a fairly high sugar content – even pumpkin wine? One of my foraging mentors, the late Mike Jacisin, was willing to experiment with cooking and fermenting just about anything. One year he was blessed with an abundance of onions, so he made a batch of onion wine. Alas, said onion wine went down in infamy as the worst brew he ever concocted, and has become a running joke in our extended circle of family and friends.

pumpkin wine with pumpkin and dried corn

This year we've been blessed with such an abundance of sweet onions that I'm seriously considering a small batch of the infamous brew, since I missed out on tasting the original, but thus far my husband has vetoed the idea. πŸ™‚  Since he won't let me ferment onions, I'd like to share how to make pumpkin wine. Like Mike, I'm willing to bulk up my food and beverage storage with a wide variety of foodstuffs, and it's fun to break out a bottle of an unusual brew for friends. I am not a big wine drinker, but I love the rich, yeasty smell in my kitchen as the wine ferments. Wine is pretty forgiving, too. I've made batches that are better or worse, but nothing completely skunky like some of my beer brewing friends have encountered.

Pumpkin Wine Recipe

Adapted from http://scorpius.spaceports.com/~goodwine/pumpkinwine.htm

Ingredients

  • 8 cups pumpkin
  • 1 pound raisins (I used golden)
  • 1 – 4 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 gallon water, boiling
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 3 teaspoon acid blend (Pumpkins are low acid, so you need to add acid to promote proper fermentation. See below.)
  • 1 package wine yeast

Directions – First Ferment

Wash, trim, peel and chop (or grind) the pumpkin. Place in primary fermentor. (I used my three gallon crock.) Add raisins, spices and boiling water. Let sit overnight.

I peeled and shredded my pumpkin and mixed it with the raisins before adding the spices.

handful of shredded pumpkin and raisins for wine
Pumpkin wine ingredients

Add all other ingredients except yeast.

Stir well to dissolve sugar. Specific gravity should be between 1.090 and 1.095. Sprinkle yeast over the mixture and stir. Stir daily for three to five days, until specific gravity is 1.040. (I bought a hydrometer but not a graduated cylinder, so I skipped this step. If you would like to see how to measure specific gravity using a hydrometer, check here.)

The mix will get nice and bubbly, and should have a pleasant, mildly yeasty smell.

pumpkin wine fermenting in crock

At the end of this first ferment, the pumpkin will have turned to mush and the grapes will be plump.

pumpkin wine mash after first ferment

Strain the must and squeeze out as much juice as you can.

pumpkin wine mash with excess liquid squeezed out

Second Ferment

Siphon pumpkin wine into secondary fermentor, make up to volume with water and attach airlock. You can see at this point the wine is very cloudy – not terribly appealing. I used a glass gallon jug with a plug type airlock.

second ferment of pumpkin wine in gallon jug with airlock

Final Aging

For a dry wine, rack in three weeks, and every three months for one year. Bottle.

For a sweet wine, rack at three weeks. Add 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup wine. Stir gently, and place back into secondary fermentor. Repeat process every six weeks until fermentation does not restart with the addition of sugar. Rack every three months until one year old. Bottle.

Meanwhile, the wine is sitting, covered, in a corner of the kitchen, and the particulates have settled very nicely – no more cloudy wine.

gallon of pumpkin wine under cloth

The wine is best if you can refrain from drinking it for one full year from the date it was started, so it looks like this will be ready for next Christmas.

Update:  The original brew was bottled n fall 2011. We tried a bottle in October 2012, and I had to say that it packed a punch, but I would have personally preferred it a little sweeter. I think I'll use the sweet wine option next time I make it.

You can download a pdf of the wine labels I used here. => Printable Pumpkin Wine Labels

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How to Make Pumpkin Wine

pumpkin wine with pumpkin and Indian corn

Sweet or dry, this unique wine is sure to be a conversation starter.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman

Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 cups pumpkin
  • 1 pound raisins (I used golden)
  • 1 – 4 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 1 gallon water, boiling
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 3 teaspoon acid blend*
  • 1 package wine yeast

Instructions

  1. Wash, trim, peel and chop (or grind) the pumpkin. Place in primary fermentor. Add raisins, spices and boiling water. Let sit overnight.
  2. Add all other ingredients except yeast.
  3. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Specific gravity should be between 1.090 and 1.095. Sprinkle yeast over the mixture and stir. Stir daily for three to five days, until specific gravity is 1.040.
  4. The mix will get nice and bubbly, and should have a pleasant, mildly yeasty smell.
  5. At the end of this first ferment, the pumpkin will have turned to mush and the grapes will be plump. Strain the must and squeeze out as much juice as you can.
  6. Siphon into secondary fermentor, make up to volume with water and attach airlock.
  7. For a dry wine, rack in three weeks, and every three months for one year. Bottle.
  8. For a sweet wine, rack at three weeks. Add 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup wine. Stir gently, and place back into secondary fermentor. Repeat process every six weeks until fermentation does not restart with the addition of sugar. Rack every three months until one year old. Bottle.
  9. Let age for at least a year for best flavor.

Notes

Pumpkins are low acid, so you need to add extra acid to help promote proper fermentation.

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What are an acid blend, acidity, wine yeast and yeast nutrients?

If you're new to winemaking (like I am), these items may not be familiar to you. The Winemaking home page explains acid blend, acidity, wine yeast and yeast nutrients :

Acid Blend:
A blend of acids important to wines, usually tartaric, malic and citric acids. While there are many different formulations of acid blend, the recipes on this site calling for acid blend assume a blend of 50% tartaric, 30% malic and 20% citric. If your acid blend uses a different ratio, you may want to use slightly more or less depending on your blend.

Acidity:
The amount of acid in the must, liquor, or finished wine. Insufficient acidity in the must will result in a poor fermentation and a slightly medicinal and flat taste. Too much acid will give the wine an unpleasant sourness or tartness. Some acid is necessary for fermentation, and up to one-fourth of the initial acid content will be consumed by the yeast during fermentation. Low-acid musts are usually corrected by adding tartaric acid (the principal acid in grapes), malic acid, citric acid, or acid blend. An acid testing kit is indispensable in measuring initial acidity. There are two measures of acidity used in winemaking; see pH and Titratable acidity.

Wine Yeast:
Yeast cultured especially for winemaking, with such desirable attributes a as high alcohol tolerance, firmer sediment formation, and less flavor fluctuation. Wine yeasts are usually obtained from a winemaking/ brewing specialty shop or by mail order.

Yeast Nutrient:
Food for the yeast, containing nitrogenous matter, yeast-tolerant acid, vitamins, and certain minerals. While sugar is the main food of the yeast, nutrients are the “growth hormones,” so to speak.

Related Recipes on Common Sense Home

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Have you ever tried winemaking? What's your favorite brew? What other ways do you use up excess pumpkin or squash?

For our more adventurous home brewers, you may enjoy “Wild Yeast Brewing – Books About Wild Beer, Mead and More“.

pumpkin wine with pumpkin and Indian corn

Originally posted in 2011, last updated in 2018.

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56 Comments

  1. Thank you for this recipe, I've been making wine for many years with all kinds of fruit and herbs, never heard of this though. And with a lot of pumkins still left……I will give this a try.
    Enjoy your holidays, greetings from the Netherlands.

  2. Our neighbors make all sorts of wine, apple, strawberry margarita, kiwi and lime. Some of the more unusual flavors are not always good alone but when used with mixers make a nice punchy drink. I'll be curious to see how this turns out.

  3. Hanneke and Allison – it looks good and smells good, so I am optimistic.

    Kathy – I third hard apple cider this year and it was very good. Sounds like you have interesting neighbors. πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for this post! I've made several batches of dandelion and concord grape wine but have been waiting for a good pumpkin year to try this. Hopefully next year πŸ™‚

    ~J~

  5. This looks really amazing! Wish I was your neighbor, so I could pop in and try some =) I would like to say I will make this, but the whole chemistry thing intimidates me!! I do make yogurt, but that is as far as my science experiments go. Pumpkin wine? Who knew! Great post!

  6. How did it turn out? I could be wrong of course, but I understand pumpkin to not have any diastatic power to convert it’s own starch into fermentable sugars yet your recipe didn’t mention anything about adding enzymes to be able do this. I’m guessing this is more of an infusion of pumpkin flavor and that the pumpkin isn’t actually being fermented. Does this sounds about right?

    1. It doesn’t have a really strong pumpkin flavor, per se, because the type of pumpkin I used was not strongly flavored. I think a nice rich squash with darker flesh would have a more pronounced flavor. This ended up quite dry.

      As for the fermenting or not fermenting, it sure seemed to be fermenting, as there were bubbles throughout the mash and the pumpkin appeared to be somewhat broken down. Don’t all raw fruits and vegetables have some amount of natural enzymes, and wouldn’t some possibly be introduced from the raisins?

  7. Hi, I plan to try this recipe but this will be my very 1st experience making wine. So I have 2 very newbie questions… To be clear (and not mess up my batch) what does “make up to volume with water” mean? Just fill the rest of the gallon jug with water? Also, what does “rack” mean? I would assume place a closed bottle on a wine rack but apparently not if it has to be done every so often in this recipe. Maybe lightly rock the bottle to ‘stir’ up contents??? Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. “Make up volume with water” does mean add water to fill the bottle. If you’re really short, you’d be better off drinking the young wine than diluting it too much, but if you’re just a bit short, make it work.

      Stirring wine = bad.

      “Racking” is the process where the wine is drawn off the sediment via siphon hose. You want to leave the sediment behind so the wine is as clear as possible. No stirring or shaking! πŸ™‚ Just google or search on youtube for “how to rack wine” for a demonstration. The sediment isn’t “bad” per se, but too much may give an off flavor to the wine over time (it’s dead yeast) and it doesn’t look very pretty in a bottle. I noticed I have some pear wine I really should have racked once more before bottling. There’s a line of sediment up the side of the bottle.

      1. Oh also, does this recipe require the small cooking pumpkins or any size will do? And should they be baked to remove the skin?

    1. You would have to read the label on the can to see if Sulfides are present that prevent baterior from forming in the can and or wild yeast from fermenting in the can…Good luck with this wine…It is worth it!!!

  8. I followed the directions, added my yeast, yeast nutrient and acid. 4 days later the mixture is still 1.09 and doesn’t smell any different, just sugary. Ideas? Is this batch need to be scrapped?
    Thanks, Jeremy

    1. Is there any chance your yeast was bad, or is the area where you’re fermenting cold? Yeast likes a little warmth, and does expire or become inactive if stored improperly. If you have or can option more yeast, you could try jump starting the batch with more yeast and a warmer location, as long as it’s not “off” smelling.

  9. Hello!
    Still fairly new to brewing so got a simple question. I see that you are using a 1 gallon carboy for this recipe. I am looking to try a 5 gallon batch, so I was just curious if that means I would just be required to use 5 times the ingredients or if there are specifics when trying to make larger batches.
    Thanks so much.
    Matt

  10. I make pumpkin wine, but I add grape concentrate, and Maharajah Chia spice and oolong tea that has not been brewed. It’s so good you wouldn’t believe. I found that pumpkin takes a long time to c learn if the pH is off, so check that pH prior to adding the yeast. I use lemons juiced to adjust the acid. Also, the yeast is burgundy yeast. I find that after you do the 2nd rack, to put the entire brew bottle into a refrigerator helps smooth, clear, and debate a properly pH wine.

  11. Hi Laurie, have you considered backsweetening this wine for the extra sweetness you suggest? And if not, why?

    1. Considered? Yes. Done? No. Why? 1. Because I’m a lazy wine maker. 2. Because I have friends who like dry wines, so I send it their direction if I have more than we care to drink.

  12. I just started a pumpkin spice recipe but used a must bag, and it floats!! I tried to sink it when I put the yeast on last night but someone must have bumped it because this morning when I checked the bag had floated back to the top! Will this mess up my wine? The bag moving looks like it may have stirred up the yeast. Any help or advice would be so appreciated!

  13. A couple of comments

    1. When you add more sugar you create more alchohol. The yeast keeps feeding on it. That is why you say it packs a punch. Yeast eating sugar give off 50% alchohol and 50% carbon dioxide this causes the bubbling effect)
    2. After 3 months in second fermentation most sugar will be gone.
    3. To end fermination add potassium sorbate it is stabilizer (about 1/2tsp per gallon then add potassium metabisulphite (add 1/4tsp per 6 gallons). This will kill any yeast left.
    4. Add a clarified. This will drop all remaining patricals.
    5. Make simple syrups (I use 6 cups sugar to 2 cups of water) heat to combine sugar to thicken. Add to your wine. Mix to your desired sweetness.
    Bottle and let age if you can wait) the wine should be drinkable in three months. Good luck

  14. Added note:
    If you do not kill the yeast before bottling you run the risk of blowing corks out or even blowing the bottom off the bottle. I learned from experience it is a mess. A mistake you only make once

      1. Yes I do have one, I use it for my home grown concord grapes!
        So many grapes made 3 five gallon batches, one with two pounds of cherries. Also making one gallon Apple cider wine and just started five gallons of my pumpkin wine.
        so I have to wait one year to bottle the pumpkin?

        1. If you’re pretty sure it’s dead, you can bottle sooner. This one tends to have a lot of particulates, so if you want a clearer wine, keeping it in the carboy longer and racking every so often significantly improves the clarify. If you don’t mind a the risk of a little haze, it’s not an issue. Mine definitely tasted better at the two year mark than at one year, after aging in the bottles for a year.

  15. Hello, I am planning on making this wine I just had one question. When making it sweeter is that a 1/2 cup of sugar to a cup of wine, that’s what it sounds like, or is it a 1/2 cup of sugar to a gallon? And how would you add it with out the gallon overflowing?

    1. 1/2 cup sugar to a gallon of wine. If you rack the wine before adding the sugar, odds are you’ll open up enough space by removing the lees from the bottom to add sugar without it overflowing.

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