The day I have been waiting for finally came…my local grocery store had bags of beautiful, sweet red cherries on sale! Normally $6.98/lb or so, the bags of beautiful scarlet globes were reduced by half for a limited time. I grabbed two bags, which gave me just around 4-5 pounds of cherries to play with.
Once I got them home, I emptied them into a large strainer and gave them a good rinse, and then brought outdoors to be sorted in the late evening sunshine. Stems were tossed on the ground, the soft and broken cherries were added to one bowl for cordial-making, and the nicest cherries were sorted into another bowl to make a lovely gallon jug of Cherry Wine!
If you are new to brewing, check out my guide to brewing meads and wines in one gallon batches!
Cherry Wine: One Gallon Batch
- 2-3 pounds of cherries, whole in a mesh bag
- 3-4 cups of sugar
- 2-3 slices of fresh ginger root
- small handful of raisins, chopped
- water (well water or non-chlorinated water preferred)
- 2 gallon brewing bucket
At least 24 hours before brew day, pit and chop your cherries. Freeze the cherries and the juice. The ice crystals that form in the fruit pierce them, and they release a lot of juice when they thaw. When you are ready to use the cherries, pull them out and let them thaw. Pour them into a mesh bag, close it, and put it into a sanitized brew bucket.
Set about a half gallon of water to heat on the stove. Add the ginger slices and handful of chopped raisins. Once it boils for a few minutes, set it aside to cool.
Add the sugar to the water, stir until dissolved, and let it sit to cool down a bit while you tend to the cherries. Give the mesh bag of cherries a poke or two with a sanitized wooden spoon to release the bright red juice.
Carefully pour the hot water over the cherries, give it a good stir, and cover it with a cloth. Once the bucket is at body temperature, go ahead and pitch the yeast. Use a clean spoon to stir the yeast into the must and cover it again.
Stir the must every day for two or three days, and then strain it into a sanitized carboy. Because cherries are so thick, I used cheesecloth over the strainer to keep out the bits of fruit. Add a sanitized bung and airlock to the carboy and set it somewhere out of the sun to do its magic. It should bubble happily for a few weeks.
Once the bubbles are done, it’s ready for bottling! If you want it sweeter, you can add a cup of sugar syrup to a clean, sanitized carboy and rack the wine over onto that. Set it aside for another week or so to make sure it is stable before you bottle.
Lazy Brewing & Mistakes
Now, I have a confession. The recipe above is not exactly how my process went. I put the proper methods above for you to use, but as for me? When I was brewing, I got lazy and made a few mistakes and it could have meant the end of this wine! Here’s what I did wrong, and how I fixed it:
Preparing the cherries: So many mistakes were made here. I just put the cherries, whole, into an unsanitized mesh bag, put it in the brewing bucket and beat on them with unsanitized implements of destruction. Mashing was not fun nor effective, and cherry juice splatters far and it stains everything! That’s why the recipe says to pit the cherries, freeze them, and then use them, thawed. That produces way more juice than the mashing, but I was lazy.
Mold on my must: I ended up falling asleep on the couch and forgot to add the yeast to the bucket as soon as it came to room temperature, and by next evening, there was a few spots of white mold on the surface of the bright red liquid. I spooned out those spots and considered the options. I didn’t have any campden tablets or other common modern homebrew tricks on hand.
Rather than dumping the whole thing, I strained the wine into a large pot and brought it to a boil for a few minutes. After it had cooled off, the boiled must was poured into the sanitized carboy and topped off with cool water, and then I pitched the yeast.