Mind you, it's a delicate balance. The right amount with Sunday tea beforehand and the cycle down, matches and wobble back through the quiet lanes of St Ives go like a dream and I return triumphant, making it one of the best possible evening's entertainment. A little too much and the wobble starts in the middle of the matches, I don't stand a chance and it's anyone's guess where I'll end up on the cycle ride home.
So here's the recipe. No chemicals are used, just all natural ingredients other than Milton baby liquid to sterilise equipment. A great Autumn wine to make... if you fancy making a Spring wine you might like to try my dandelion wine easy recipe, or for Summer try my plum wine easy recipe.
I started making this wine for two reasons... firstly its a shame so many apples go to waste in Autumn, and secondly because I was fed up trying to find wine in the shops that didn't have the 'contains sulphites' message hidden away on the back label. Sulphites can cause allergies and a headache.
Every autumn there's an excess of free apples from friends or gathered in the wild. With a bit of organisation, very little effort and a small investment you can make yourself enough sweet white wine to last the whole year. Not sure where to get enough apples? If you don't have any friends desperate to give you their excess have a look around the countryside. Often there are trees along roadsides or footpaths where you can gather the apples for free.
The instructions below are to make five gallons of wine, which will give you just under thirty bottles. It's simpler to make large batches of wine since it's easier to bottle without disturbing the sediment.
The cost of equipment is pretty low... about £35 if you acquire the wine bottles by saving from bought white wine. Thereafter your only cost is for sugar, raisins, lemons and some wine yeast... so having made the initial investment in equipment, typically you're enjoying rather nice, strong wine with no sulphite content for well under 50p a bottle! Why wouldn't you want to do it?
Something for stirring the contents
Long clear plastic tubing (available from DIY stores)
30 wine bottles (ideally clear glass)
Enough healthy apples to fill the 5 gallon barrel... its best if you can get a mix of cooking and eating apples
8kg of sugar (adjust this depending on how sweet you like your wine)
1kg chopped golden raisins
The juice of 9 lemons
Small cup of black tea
1. Sterilise the fermentation barrel and lid using the Milton liquid.
2. Wash the apples and quarter, place in fermentation barrel until almost full, discarding any bruised bits.
3. Fill with boiling water. It doesn't take all that much since the barrel is so full of apples.
4. Put the lid on and leave for a few days, stirring twice daily.
5. After a few days the apple juice will have seeped out into the water. Strain out the apples and you're left with the apple liquor.
6. Add the sugar, raisins, lemon juice and tea.
7. Top up with part cold, part hot water (so the temperature of the water is lukewarm) to make up to five gallons and stir to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.
8. Add the wine yeast, stir, cover with lid and store somewhere warm.
9. After a few hours you'll notice something starting to happen... there'll be a froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
10. It will take a couple of weeks or so for the fermentation to finish. Once completed transfer the liquid to the demijohn using the plastic tubing and funnel. Make sure all the equipment has been sterilised with Milton liquid.
11. Avoiding disturbing any sediment, place the fermentation barrel at a higher level than the demijohn (e.g. put the barrel on a table and the demijohn on the floor), put one end of the plastic tubing in the barrel, and having placed the funnel in the neck of the demijohn give the other end of the tubing a strong suck to pull some of the wine in the tube up and over the edge of the barrel. Quickly remove your mouth and put the tube end into the funnel. The wine should start to drain.
11. Avoid transferring any sediment if you can. Once all the clear liquid is in the demijohn top up with water to bring to five gallons. Seal with the rubber bung and airlock, having put a small amount of diluted Milton liquid in the airlock.
12. You can now store the wine for months somewhere cool and frost free. At first the fermentation may start up again and you'll see bubbles going through the airlock. Gradually the wine will clear.
13. Once fully clear repeat the draining process, this time from the demijohn to sterilised wine bottles. Put a stopper in each bottle and store.
14. The wine will be ready to drink but will improve even more with age. Typically I bottle and start drinking the wine from May onwards. If the wine is too strong dilute with water.