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In the Beginning: The Making of Agbalumo Wine

by on March 10, 2017
 

In 2015, I decided that one of my tasks on this earth was to create wine, homemade wine with Nigerian ingredients. 

To this end, I went to the Philly Homebrew Outlet while in the US and got myself all the tools one might need for the job. Online, I ordered wine books and began reading  but courage failed me many times. For one, it seemed complicated; for two – there aren’t (m)any recipes with Nigerian ingredients so I’ve had to read and read and decide which recipe I need to adjust to get a product.

It will be months before I find out if this experiment is successful but it appears to be working…and you’ll see why I say so in a bit. Regardless, I will learn from it any which way. 

The enemies of good wine are many – everything from natural yeasts to pectin in the fruit, fruit flies, bacteria et al. All these can ruin your wine, make you vinegar instead or produce a poor quality wine. The key? Cleanliness and other deliberate steps to create a clear, flavourful wine. Here are my notes:

#1 – Find a good recipe

Maybe because we also call agbalumo ‘cherry’, I went with a recipe for red cherries.

#2 – Everything Must Be Clean

This is such an important step. Sterilise, wash, be clean. 

#3 – Select Ripe, Healthy Fruit

Good quality fruit are key to a great wine. I processed them by cutting in half and scooping out with a spoon and then crushing. I used both flesh and seed because I want my wine to have the full agbalumo flavour.

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The seeds get combined with hot water – which effectively kills any bacteria. Pectic enzyme is also added to the fruit mix once cool because pectin – the compound which allows jelling in jams can create hazy wines and we know agbalumo is pectin-rich.

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This mix is left to ferment for a couple of days and you’ll smell it. And see it. It’ll bubble and such…stay calm – you’re on the right track.

Sugar gets added at this stage…and then the yeast – next steps.

#4 – Choose Your Yeast

Bread yeast does not work here kind sir, or madam – wine yeasts do. I decided to go with a Champagne yeast because I’ve combined agbalumo with champagne and liked the result so I thought, why not?

The yeast goes in the 2-day old mixture and stays working for another 24 hours. After this, the excitement really begins.

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#5 – Let It Ferment

Since my fermenting jar made it safely to Nigeria with me, I put it to good use. You need a receptacle that can handle the build up of pressure as the wine ferments and bubbles. Thin glass containers could explode under the pressure of a ferment.

Once the mixture had ‘yeasted up’, I put it in the jar and ‘stopped’ it with my airlock. The airlock releases the gases that build up as the yeast does its work. Without an airlock, the pressure could cause the receptacle to explode…and no one, not after 3 – 4 days of processing fruit and tending the mixture wants that to happen.

#6 – In the Jar – Watch It Clear

I put my wine on top of my fridge in my kitchen, close to the window which I hope keeps it cool. So, for weeks, I didn’t notice any changes – the mixture looked just as it was when I first but it in …

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And then a few days a go (after 2 – 3 weeks) – bam, a change, a clearing of the haze – it seems like my wine might actually succeed so yes, this is where we are now. I’m going to ‘rack’ it – a process where I drain out the clear column to continue ‘clearing’, and discard the sediment at the bottom.

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Coming next: Racking. I’ll share this with you as I progress.

Power and might to the New Nigerian Kitchen. Peace & Love.

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