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How to make Wild Fermented Young Country Wine (it’s easy)

March 24, 2014 | Fermenting, Food & Fermentation | 43 comments | Author:

milkwood young country wine1

Young country wine is a simple ferment composed of fruit, sugar, water, air and time.

With the help of the naturally occurring yeasts on the skins of the fruits, these simple ingredients can be transformed into a delicious good-time brew…

milkwood young country wine2

milkwood young country wine3

As with all wild fermentation, you can make this brew a number of ways, and produce a number of results. Get creative and enjoy the many possible flavours.

This recipe is a bit like the wine equivalent of sourdough

You’re not introducing any additional yeasts to do the work – instead you’re working with the wild yeasts in the air, and on the skin of your fruit.

On some fruit, like some plums or muscatel grapes, you can actually see the ‘bloom’ which is the naturally occurring yeasts that the fruit produces to out-compete other microorganisms which might want to grow there.

But other fruits have these natural yeasts on them too, you just can’t see it.

It’s these yeasts, together with those in the air, that you’re working with to create a selective environment with your fruit, sugar and water –  an environment that will ultimately result in delicious, home-made hooch!

Crucially, this recipe is about good quality ingredients – you want your water un-chlorinated and your fruit as organic and as fresh as possible to ensure a happy (and healthy) result.

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Making Young Country Wine

Gather together:

  • One 4 litre jar
  • 1 kilo of whole fruit (blackberries and plums are particularly excellent, but whatever fruit is most available to you)
  • 2 litres of un-chlorinated water
  • 250g of sugar.

First, dissolve the sugar in the water in a separate bowl. Then pour over the whole fruit, which you’ve put in the 4 liter jar. Stir and stir and stir again!

Put on the kitchen bench, leave the jar uncapped, cover with a cloth to keep out bugs, and stir multiple times a day to re-submerge the fruit.

Stirring multiple times a day is central to this ferment.

Every time you stir you are doing multiple things; drowning any moulds that might be thinking about starting to grow on the fruit at the surface, adding air to the brew, and agitating the overall ferment. In a good way.

In a few days (depending on various conditions like the temperature of your kitchen and the natural yeasts on your fruit) the jar will start to bubble!

And a few days later, the bubbling will calm down – at this point, remove the fruit (which will be strangely tasteless) and either drink or proceed to further ferment your young country wine – by periodically releasing the pressure from the lidded jar, or by applying an airlock.

Taste it every week or so until it is to your desired taste and strength. Enjoy.

Note: as with any foodstuff, if something goes awry and your brew smells or tastes badly wrong, don’t eat it – chuck it in the compost, and start again. 

The young country wine in the photos above was made by Sandor Katz at our Hobart Fermentation workshop recently.

Here’s the same wine, two weeks later, happily brewing away at the house of our hobart mates Good Life Permaculture:

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Two-week old blackberry young country wine, ready for straining and either further fermenting or drinking on the back porch. Photo by Hannah Moloney

We’re now running deeply excellent hands-on fermentation workshops starting in Sydney this June, covering krauts, pickles, kefirs, kombuchas and more, with lots of  take-home resources to get you fermenting!

Big thanks to Sandor Katz who taught us this recipe. Check out the wild fermented hooch forum page on Sandor’s website for discussions on young country wine, mead, cider are more.

Home-made country wine. Yet another way to avoid the supermarket! Cheers.
Home-made country wine. Yet another way to avoid the supermarket! Cheers.

Anyone got a particularly beloved fruit or flavour combo for young country wine? We’d love to hear about it.

Good luck, fermenters!

The first 5 photos were taken by the lovely Kate Berry

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  • Rutilly March 24, 2014 at 7:37 am | Reply

    We tried this last year strawberries and it was to die for. All of it got drunk in the first few weeks but our Redcurrant one is still fermenting and when it is a year old we will drink it while hopefully making more of both and some new recipes. Might try blackberries so thank you. xXx

  • crazygreenthumbs March 24, 2014 at 7:40 am | Reply

    Thank you so much for the post! I have made some incredible fermented salsa, but as it aged the wine flavor began to emerge. Wine-salsa was not my favorite! I’ve got blackberries that I am going to try fermenting this summer.

  • Chez @ Chez Moi March 24, 2014 at 8:31 am | Reply

    What a stunning colour! I had no idea it was so easy to make fruit wine like this. It’s coming into blackberry season here, so I may just have to try this – what fun :)

  • mstery March 24, 2014 at 9:32 am | Reply

    Reblogged this on cossack design and commented:
    I’m strangely tempted.

  • Judy C March 24, 2014 at 10:42 am | Reply

    This looks like lots of fun! Does anyone know what the alcohol content is, if any?

  • jselliott March 24, 2014 at 10:59 am | Reply

    This looks amazing! Do you know if it will work with alternative sugars? I’m thinking of using coconut sugar, as cane sugar doesn’t like me very much.

    1. Rilig March 25, 2014 at 8:14 am | Reply

      Actually, if you let it ferment long enough, no more cane sugar would be left in the brew, as the yeast had eaten and converted it all, so you’d most likely be fine. Just wait until the bubbles stop completely before drinking.

      1. jselliott April 6, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Reply

        Thanks for the advice :).

  • Yvette March 24, 2014 at 11:04 am | Reply

    NOw I see this, hopefully next summers mulberries are as prolific as the last.

  • Eumaeus March 25, 2014 at 2:46 am | Reply

    It’s nice when things sound easy and people don’t say ‘sterilize’ a million times…

  • planeteautonome March 25, 2014 at 2:58 am | Reply

    Reblogged this on Planète autonome and commented:
    Quelque chose à essayer! L’automne prochain avec les raisins de Denis et Johanne, s’ils en ont autant que les années passées.

  • Ponny March 25, 2014 at 10:55 am | Reply

    Great!! I’ve got an abundance of strawberry guava (that are actually becoming a pest) so I’ve been looking for some alternative uses. Hope it works as it would taste fantastic. The jam made from them is to die for.

  • cityhippyfarmgirl March 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Reply

    I still haven’t made any young country wine but was enjoying a little mead last night (inspired by Mr Katz of course). Blows my mind that something so tasty can come from honey and water.

    1. Kirsten March 25, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Reply

      honey and water and friends…. ;)

  • Jane Morrow March 26, 2014 at 4:10 am | Reply

    I’ve made a delicious drink called apple ale, with apples and ginger. The recipe originated in the original Paupers cookbook by Jocasta Innes.

    1. Kirsten March 26, 2014 at 5:48 am | Reply

      Hey havent read that one – ta! Will look it up…

  • Ida March 26, 2014 at 5:34 am | Reply

    Can you use frozen berries, for instance frozen currants? Will the yeast still be alive on the skin of the fruit?

  • William March 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Reply

    Ida, to be honest I don’t know the answer.

    While the cold most certainly slows the bacterial decomposition and doesn’t kill the bacteria, I don’t know if the same applies to the yeasts.

    Still, there are wild yeast in the air which can “attack” the fruit and initiate fermentation.

  • Janet Elizabeth Dalton March 27, 2014 at 12:25 am | Reply

    My dad used to make his own beer as we do… my step father made wine from mariposa plums and also Apple champagne which was incredible…

  • Susan March 29, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe/method! I’m excited to use it for my next batch of fruit wine.

  • Krys Yard April 3, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Reply

    We once made wine with apricots and totally forgot about it for about 6 years. It was well sealed and when opened it, WOW it tasted like apricot schnapps! Everyone loved it!

  • Sourdough! | Jo's Crazy Crafts April 5, 2014 at 9:07 am | Reply

    […] And well I am at it decided to try my hand at wine making: […]

  • jessi May 1, 2014 at 11:12 am | Reply

    i’ve just done a feijoa, ginger and honey mead! most excellent tasting, and very easy :D

  • Zafra May 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Reply

    I followed this method using blackberry and plum and it came out fantastic, although it never bubbled furiously, at some point I tasted it and it was good, so I took out the fruit and put it in the fridge. Terrific stuff! But my second batch I made with grapes and plum, and I did get the super yeasty bloom and many days of crazy bubbling. I wanted the wine a bit sweeter than the first batch, so when the bubbling started to calm I went ahead and strained out the fruit and the yeasties, but…this time around I’m getting more vinegar than wine. It’s drinkable, but not great. Can anyone tell me what might have gone wrong and how to avoid it for future batches? Did I stop the process too early? Too late? What is the fine line between wine and vinegar? Help!

    1. Kirsten May 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Reply

      Some would say the difference between wine and vinegar is a matter of taste! But if yours has gone vinegary, then yes, you left it too long – the yeasts ate up all the sugars and after that, it went acidic. One of the factors of wild fermentation is that it is a little un predictable in terms of timeframe -

  • Zafra May 25, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Reply

    Thanks Kirsten! But the strange thing is, it’s sweeter (considerably) than my first batch was, and it was still bubbling pretty wildly when I stepped in, just less than it had been before. Hmm. Maybe it is just a matter of taste. Will it continue to ferment a bit in the fridge? It would be interesting to see if the flavor mellows somewhat…

  • summer fruit country wine – July 14, 2014 at 3:32 am | Reply

    […] gems of sweetness. One of my favorite authors and fermentation experts, Sandor Katz, says this can work, so I’m […]

  • Josh July 17, 2014 at 2:55 am | Reply

    Hi, does anyone have an idea of the alcohol content of the wine?

    1. Kirsten July 17, 2014 at 8:40 am | Reply

      ‘it depends’- on sugar content and on when you drink it – one friend who has a meter thingy clocked his orange country wine at 11%…

  • simpleunhookedliving August 25, 2014 at 2:20 am | Reply

    I’m looking forward to trying this method. It’s time for blackberries and plums in the Inland Northwest. (We were trying this with yeast and storing it in an old freezer that was being used for an outdoor storage cabinet. A bear came and tore the door off the freezer and stole the gallon of hooch :-))

    1. Kirsten August 25, 2014 at 8:37 am | Reply

      Wow. Happy bear!

  • dee October 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Reply

    Can anyone tell me if the plums need to be sliced and pitted or if the whole fruit goes into the mix? Thanks!

    1. Kirsten October 2, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Reply

      we’ve done it which whole fruit

  • James December 7, 2014 at 2:21 am | Reply

    Any idea how this would work with tropical fruits? I live in India currently and I’d like to try this with mango or banana but I don’t see that working without peeling them.

    1. Kirsten December 7, 2014 at 10:55 am | Reply

      Hmm well it’s partly the wild yeasts on the fruit skin that’s used here so… i’d ask a good fermentation group like this one about that!

  • Fermentation Fest - Good Life Permaculture December 7, 2014 at 9:10 am | Reply

    […] Country wine (aka summer wine), seasonal fruit, water, sugar and a bit of time on the kitchen bench. Works best when you choose ‘fleshy’ fruits like plums, raspberries, cherries and blackberries. We used cherries (from a local farm) and raspberries and one currant (we ate the rest) from our garden. Our friends at Milkwood did a great blog about ‘how to’ make your own here. […]

  • James December 29, 2014 at 1:04 am | Reply

    Can these be aged?

    1. Kirsten December 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Reply

      yes they can

  • Erin February 1, 2015 at 7:41 pm | Reply

    Hello! Thanks for this recipe. It looks nice and easy, can’t wait to give it a go! Can I use a crockpot to ferment in, or does it need to be a glass container? Thanks. :)

  • Fermenting Newbie February 12, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Reply

    Hi, I have attempted this wine after a large wild blackberry forage. It has been doing quite well but yesterday I was bedridden with a fever and so it was not stirred! It has been really hot and so when I went to taste it today, it had a slight vinegar taste. Not wanting to waste it I decided to strain out the berries. Now it is strained it does not taste as vinegary but is still fizzing, did I strain too soon?! This is the first ferment I have ever done. How do I know if I have made wine as opposed to fermented juice?! Thanks x

  • Marisa March 10, 2015 at 10:58 am | Reply

    Can you do this with tropical fruits like paw paw? Or mango? Or do you need fruits with their skins on?

  • Nina March 10, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Reply

    Dear Kirsten another great article on fermentation from you guys. I do struggle to get suitable large jars for this and kombutcha? Can you suggest online sources? All the Best Nina

    1. Kirsten Bradley March 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Reply

      Nina I know a lot of the online kitchen stores have the big ones that folks use for cordial sometimes?


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