At Gingerhill Farm, in the early hours of March 6th, the jaboticaba canopy was vibrating with activity. Worker bees were busy visiting each flower in a dance of pollination. In three days, they were finished. Dried flowers and pollen powdered the ground beneath the tree. The idea was born: we would brew our own wine, and teach you how to brew your own too. 

On Friday, April 20th, plump purple fruit the size of gumballs covered the trunk and branches of the tree. In about 45 days the tree went from flowering to bearing fruit. We harvest the fruit by hand, using a ladder to reach into the canopy of the tree.

Jaboticaba, a tree that originated in Brazil, produces a fruit that resembles a grape. Jaboticaba fruit grows on the bark of the tree, a mesmerizing arrangement. A bountiful harvest of jaboticaba has provided us with over one hundred pounds of an excellent fruit that is high in antioxidants.

From Grow Your Own to Brew Your Own

Growing your own food is a vital practice for sustainable living. By extension, learning methods of preserving the food you grow is essential for ethically managing the abundance that the land provides. Some food is left on the tree for the wild creatures, birds and insects. Some falls to the earth to feed the microorganisms in the soil. And some fruit goes to feed the animal residents of the farm. Some fruit is eaten fresh from the tree by guests and visitors. And some is preserved today to feed us tomorrow.

This year’s jaboticaba harvest will provide the farm with about 100 handfuls of fresh picked fruit from the tree, 1 gallon of fruit vinegar, 24 liters of jaboticaba flavored water kefir, 2 gallons of wine, and 6 gallons of fruit to make into jam. All from one tree!

How to Brew Your Own Sparkling Wine

There are many methods of brewing wine. I would like to try collecting wild yeast for our next brew. For this recipe I will include steps detailing exactly how we are brewing this batch of jaboticaba wine. Each brewer is encouraged to experiment to create their own recipe and method.

For example, you may choose to brew in a 5 gallon glass carboy if you have at least 5 gallons of fruit juice. Alternatively, you may choose to include grape or apple juice instead of jaboticaba juice. You may want to try using more or less sugar to affect the amount of alcohol by volume.

  • 1 gallon glass jugs (2)
  • Bubble airlocks & stoppers (2)
  • Small glass or ceramic bowls for proofing yeast (2)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Thermometer
  • Funnel
  • Large stockpot
  • Centrifugal Juicer
  • Large food-grade fermentation vessel
  • Ladle
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • 2 gallons jaboticaba juice
  • 1-5 gram packet brewer’s champagne yeast
  • 5 cups and 1 Tablespoon of organic cane sugar
Process: Preparing the Juice
  1. Sanitize all equipment that will come in contact with the wine.
  2. Juice the jaboticaba fruit to obtain 2 gallons of juice, or “must.” It is important to remove the skin and seeds. Jaboticaba fruit skin is high in tannins. While some tannin is desirable for producing wine, too much will result in a very bitter wine.
    • We let the jaboticaba sit for 24 hours in a large food-grade fermentation vessel. Natural yeast present on the skin of the fruit began to ferment the jaboticaba. The pulp and fruit skins from the juice rose to the top. The pulp was skimmed off and reserved to make fruit vinegar. I will detail How to Make Fruit Vinegar in next week’s blog.
  3. Pour 1 gallon/16 cups jaboticaba juice into a large stockpot. Gently heat the juice to about 90 degrees and add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugars. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (68-85°F).
  4. Divide the sweetened jaboticaba juice evenly between the two 1 gallon jugs by adding ½ gallon or 8 cups juice to each jug.
Process: Preparing the Yeast
  1. Proof the yeast.
    • Warm about 1 cup of water in a small saucepan to 90 degrees °F. Dissolve 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar in the water.
    • Measure the brewer’s yeast:
      • Place one small glass bowl on the kitchen scale and zero the scale.
      • Add 1-1.5 grams brewer’s yeast. Remove this bowl from the scale.
      • Place a second small glass bowl on the kitchen scale and zero the scale.
      • Add 1-1.5 grams brewer’s yeast. Remove this bowl from the scale.
    • Check that the water in the saucepan is between 85 and 90 degrees °F. Add about ¼ cup warm sugar water to each bowl of yeast and stir. Allow to proof for about 15 minutes, or until yeast is active and bubbly. This is how you know the yeast is awake, alive, and ready to add to the fruit juice.
  2. Divide the remaining 16 cups jaboticaba fruit juice evenly among the two 1 gallon jugs so that each jug is about 90% full but not overfilled.
  3. Add 1-1.5 grams of proofed yeast to each jug.
  4. Cover the jugs with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously. Burp the jar every few seconds to release the buildup of carbon dioxide.
Process: Storage and Fermentation
  1. Once the juice, sugars and yeast are happily incorporated, place the stoppers and airlocks atop the jars.
  2. Label and date each jar and store in your fermentation cellar: a cool location that is protected from direct sunlight, with clean airflow, positive energy, and temperatures ranging from 70-85°F.
  3. Check on the wine. After 24 hours you should see bubbling, which indicates active yeast.
  4. Allow to ferment for 4-6 weeks.
  5. Once fermentation is complete, bottle the wine. You may continue to age the wine or enjoy it young.
    • Young wine will be more tannic.
    • Aged wine helps to dissipate the tannins and creates a more structured and polished wine.

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