Wild Elderberry Wine
Savor a Glass of Wine
The Little Old Wine Maker
When I was a kid, my step-daddy used to take me on many unforgettable jaunts into the countryside. He was a loving father to me and always will be the hero that everyone needs in their life, as they grow into the long, and sometimes painful years of manhood. I can remember some of the greatest days that I had with Pop were the times when we both got into our car, and drove into the countryside. We were in search of fruit trees, or elderberry blooms, or any kind of wild berry or fruits that could be made into jelly, jam, and my father's special, home-made wines. His wines were the hit of many special gatherings,at Christmas or Thanksgiving, when relatives visited our home. We kids were usually busy playing outside, as uncles came from every direction to have a tall glass of my Pop's home made recipes.
My favorite times back then were when we got to go over to his father's house in the country, and take sacks with us there and fill them up to the brims with Scuppernong grapes. There was a sixty or seventy foot row of fencing that held the vines and each year we went over in the late summer and gathered up a few gallons of the tasty fruit. We took this back home and made tasty jams and pies. Pop used about half of the fruit to make up his wine and couldn't wait to get back home and get started. It usually took him about two hours to get his concoction prepared and begin to "Work", as he called it. The process usually took about five to six weeks and when it was ready, Pop poured it up into his favorite bottles found around the house. These were carefully placed into the cabinet in our Kitchen or in a closet for safe keeping. What was the most interesting part of Pop's home made wine making was that he never drank to excess, or allowed anyone else to do so, in our home, that came to visit.
When summer months came, we were either going fishing, or out for a drive into the country to gather up plums, berries, elderberry blooms or even wild strawberries we found in a swamp near by. To me, these were the days of cream and honey. These were the special times that I got to be with my Pop and learn about nature and the wild, which ingrained in my mind a very close and special love. Later as I grew up, I was a wild life painter and put onto my canvas the wild critters that I saw and came to love . I still paint my pictures to this day more than fifty years later and those memories of being out in the wide open spaces and woodlands with my Pop will always be in my fondest memories, locked securely away in my mind.
My Pop's recipe was pretty simple and I have included it in my writing. Works with scuppernongs, grapes,berries, cherries, plums, and elderberry blooms.(The berry is poisonous).
1(.25 ounce) package of dry yeast 4 cups of sugar 1(12 fluid ounce can of frozen fruit concentrate) or berry mash, plums, elderberry blooms 3 and one- half cups of water (or a little more if needed) Boil mash of scuppernongs, or other thickened type ingredients, so that the mash will work.(then cool).
Combine the yeast, sugar, and juice in the water poured into a gallon jar or jug. Place a rubber cork or natural cork with a hole in it into the jug and seal with candle wax or parrafin, (keeps gas from leaking) Put a 24 inch plastic tube into hole on the jar and run it into a small fruit jar about half- filled with water. Place it in a darkened spot, like under the sink in the kitchen or a closet, to work for about 6 weeks. You will hear the blup-blup-blup of the escaping gas into the fruit jar and know that it is working. After the 6 weeks , remove tubing and pour into containers (strain if using a mash) The wine should be ready to drink. The alcohol content of the wine is between 10 to 14% It is not lower, as found in most beer and should be consumed in limited quantities to prevent intoxication.
There were many times my Pop and I saw wild birds like blue Jays and red birds that became intoxicated as they ate in wild cherry of plum trees. The plant's high toxic qualities has as effect on these birds and they exhibit many of the same symptoms as humans in unsteadiness, wobbling on their perches, and wild raucous behavior in the tree.
My Pop's wine recipe is pretty much traditional among home wine makers and it should be done carefully to avoid messy results in the kitchen area. I do remember pop boiling some of his ingredients for his various mash concoctions. He had to pluck the blooms off the elderberry stems which was a long and tedious affair, but well worth the effort later in the very delicious wine, golden in color, that resulted. For years after my father passed away as a result of a car accident that he and my mother were involved in, A large flask, elegant in appearance, set on the den table awaiting all who would partake of my Pop's delicious recipe. Every visit, I looked at his wine, but could not bring myself to drink it. I had too many memories and wanted them to last forever, as I viewed that flask, upon each visit there.