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Beet Wine - My First Attempt

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 15 October 2016 at 15:06
Beet Wine - My First Attempt


No, i'm not crazy ~ 

On a recent thread, I discussed how my grandfather would make different wines:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/crabapple-wine_topic4679.html

One of them, I found out last night when talking with my dad, was beet wine. This makes sense, since he was German and Swedish; beets are integral to the foodways of both cultures, not to mention Ukraine, where my German ancestors lived for a few generations before emigrating to North Dakota. 

I figured to myself, why not? I am a food historian, I'm very keen to explore and preserve my "Germans from Russia" heritage, and it's a tie to one of the greatest men I've known in my life. I should give this a try....

So, I looked - and lo and behold, I found what looks to be a solid recipe in Massacessi's Winemaker's Recipe Handbook:

Quote Beet Wine

2.5 pounds beets
1 gallon water
2.25 pounds granulated sugar
2 teaspoons acid blend
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1/4 teaspoon grape tannin
1 crushed Campden tablet
1 package wine yeast (I have Montrachet) 

Wash beets, skin the beets and cut into small pieces. Place in nylon straining bag, tie top, and gently boil in 2 quarts of the water until tender. Pour hot liquor over sugar in primary fermentor and mix thoroughly. Put bag with pulp in fermentor, stir in remainder of water (cold) and all other ingredients except yeast. Cover primary. After 24 hours, add yeast. Cover primary. Stir daily, check SG and press pulp lightly to help extraction. When fermenter reaches SG 1.040 (3 to 5 days) strain juice lightly from bag. Syphon wine off sediment into glass jug secondary. Attach airlock. When ferment is complete (SG has dropped to 1.000 - about 3 weeks) syphon off sediment into clean secondary. Re-attach airlock. To aid in clearing syphon again in 2 months and again if necessary before bottling.

This wine may be more to your liking slightly sweetened. At bottling add 1/2 teaspoon of stabilizer, then 1/4 cup dissolved sugar per gallon.

In addition to the above, Jack Keller recommends aging this wine for a year.

I'll try this when I get the chance; I have a gallon of rhubarb wine (watered-down, thanks to my #2 son) to bottle, then 2 gallons of apfelwein and a gallon of chokecherry wine to move along before I can start this, but it is at the top of my list.

More as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 October 2016 at 14:06
In my reading, I came across another recipe for beet wine that I will post here, for a couple of reasons. The first is to preserve it as a quasi-historic recipe; the second is because it is in all likelihood very, very close to the way my grandfather did it. Come to think of it, there is a third reason as well: it was reported as being very, very good; better, in fact, than beet wine made the "proper" way...and I think that I just might try it!

Anyway, here it is, from OHIOSTEVE at www.homebrewtalk.com. I made a few slight modifications for the sake of clarity, but the essentials are as he describes:

Quote Amish Red Beet Wine

I went to an Amish home tonight and the guy's wife makes wine. He offered me a taste of 2 different kinds, peach and red beet. They were both better than anything I make.

I asked how she made the beet cause it was VERY good; she said:

Quote Beet Wine

1 quart of beet juice
2 pounds of sugar (the husband said 3 pounds; he may be right as it was pretty sweet)
Add water to one gallon
Pitch a packet of bread yeast

Let it go until it "quits working," then drink it


Here I follow recipes, use sorbates and sulphites and "proper" yeast, and hers kicked the crap outta mine....


Yep - more and more, I think I will try the wine this way, at least the first time. I may add campden in order to ward off oxidation, but that will probably be it.

We'll see....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 October 2016 at 10:40
I'm not a wine drinker by any means, but I love seeing "oddball" or things that are not your normal run of the mill fare. Especially resurrecting things from the past that may soon be forgotten and/or lost to history. I've never seen, much less heard of beet wine, but stands to reason that it would have been made, since beets are fairly high in sugars to convert to alcohol. Thanks for doing stuff like this Tas, keep it coming. I'm interested to see how it turns out. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 October 2016 at 10:26
Hey, Mike - I will be sure to keep everyone updated. With luck, I might actually get this started this week.

I'm not much of a "real" wine drinker either, but I am enjoying these home-made "country" wines more and more, made from the bounty of the land. True connoisseurs might shudder at them, but they taste great, they look wonderful, they are a tie to the land and - for me - have the added bonus of being a connection to my past and a continuation of a family tradition. I mean really, the more I think about it, what could be more "German-from-Russia" than beet wine?

On that note, I was out at my parents' place a couple of nights ago, and talked with my dad about how Grandpa would make this beet wine. I wanted to compare it to the two methods that I have posted above, and while it is similar, there are a couple of differences.

Grandpa's "method" (although he probably never would have referred to it that way) consisted of re-purposing a large glass battery case, which would have looked something like this:





He would wash the beets, then pare them (like a potato), then cut them up into small chunks. He would then toss them into the battery case and add the sugar and water. As to the amounts of beets and sugar, Dad didn't know for sure, but he was certain that Grandpa made wine 5 gallons at a time, so the recipe in my opening post would be a good place to start (2.5 pounds of beets and a like amount - maybe a little less - of sugar per gallon). Grandpa would then pitch the yeast (bread yeast) and let the magic begin. When it was done working, he'd bottle it, and that was that.

Doing it this way, the beets apparently released their juice with no trouble. Dad says that Grandpa absolutely did not boil the beets to extract the juice.

I have a mechanical juicer, but I think that I might just pare the beets, pulse them a bit in my food processor, and then toss them in a mesh bag and into the fermenting bucket. If it was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me. As noted above, I will use campden and employ other methods to ward off oxidation, but other than that, it's looking as though the old-school way might be the best path, especially for such an old-school wine.

Hopefully, a 1-gallon batch of this will be started sometime this week. More as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 October 2016 at 09:17
To add to the "chronicle," here are three Beet Wine recipes from noted wine recipe guru, Jack Keller:

Quote BEET WINE (1) [Heavy Bodied]

4 lb. young beets
2-1/2 lb. granulated sugar
4-6 cloves
1/2 oz. shredded ginger
1 lemon
1 gallon water
wine yeast and nutrient

Use only young, well washed beetroot, slicing thinly and bringing to boil in 6 pints water with lemon zest, cloves and ginger. Simmer until beetroot is tender, but not mushy. Strain liquid over sugar in primary fermentation vessel, stirring well to dissolve sugar. When lukewarm (70 degrees F.), add lemon juice, yeast and nutrient. Cover well and set in warm place for two days. Pour into dark secondary fermentation vessel (dark glass, or colorless glass wrapped in brown paper), top with remaining water, fit airlock, and move to a cooler place (60-65 degrees F.). Siphon liquor off sediments after two months and again when clear. Bottle in dark glass to preserve color, store in dark place, and sample after one year. Improves with age. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry's 130 New Winemaking Recipes]

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/recipe2.asp


Quote BEET WINE (2) [Medium Bodied]

3 lb. beets
3 lb. granulated sugar
6 cloves
1/2 oz. shredded ginger
1 lemon
1 gallon water
wine yeast and nutrient

Wash beetroot well and dice, unpeeled, into 1/4 inch cubes. Bring to boil in half the water with zest of lemon and simmer until beet is tender but not mushy. Strain onto sugar, lemon juice, cloves, and ginger, add rest of water in primary fermentation vessel, and stir well to dissolve sugar. When cooled to 70 degrees F., add yeast and nutrient, cover well, and set in warm place for three days, stirring daily. Strain through coarse muslin into dark secondary fermentation vessel and fit airlock. Rack when clear and bottle in dark glass. Store in dark place and taste after one year. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry's First Steps in Winemaking]

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/recipe2.asp


Quote BEETROOT WINE

What Americans call beets have traditionally been called beetroots by the British. This is to distinguish them from beet tops or greens, which are served after boiling or steaming.

I recently developed..one which yields a more full-bodied wine. The earthy flavor [that many refer] to often attends young beet wines, but disappears with aging. Since beet wines should be aged at least a year before sampling and preferably two, no earthy taste should be noted if the recipe is followed precisely. The dark secondary and bottles are specified to prevent any exposure to light from bleaching out the beautiful color of this wine.

Beetroot Wine

5 lbs fresh beetroot
2 lemons
2 lbs finely granulated white sugar
1 lb light brown sugar
6-1/2 pts water
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Montrachet Wine yeast

Scrub the beetroots well and slice thinly without peeling. Place slices in large pot and add zest of lemons and 1-1/2 qt water (this water is from the 6 1/2 pints, leaving 3 1/2 pints to be added later). Bring to boil covered, reduce heat and cook at low boil an additional 20 minutes. Remove from heat and remove beets (remove the peelings before eating) with a slotted spoon. To the pot, add the white sugar, juice from the lemons and yeast nutrient and stir until sugar is completely dissolved, then add remaining water. Allow to cool to 90 degrees, transfer to a secondary, add activated yeast in a starter solution and attach an airlock. Ferment three weeks and rack. Add brown sugar and stir gently but well to dissolve, then top up. Refit airlock and ferment to dryness (30-45 days). Rack, add a finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, top up, refit airlock and bulk age in a dark place for six months. Rack into dark bottles and store in dark place additional 12 to 18 months before tasting.

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/reques29.asp
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2016 at 10:40
I started this on Saturday, pretty much as I described above.

After washing, paring and chopping, I had exactly 3 pounds of beets. I added 3 pounds of sugar, a crushed campden tablet and 1 gallon of spring water. I pitched the yeast (Montrachet) yesterday, and all seems to be going well.

I also managed to get a few nice photos - will post them when I can, with more details.

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2016 at 09:14
Alrighty - for all of the Doubting Thomases out there, this one's for you!

This is a pretty easy story to tell, so far:



3.4 pounds of beets, sugar and spring water; not pictured are a package of Montrachet wine yeast and a campden tablet (to protect the wine from infection and to ward off oxidation). You can read more about campden tablets and their purpose in winemaking here:

http://www.midwestsupplies.com/purpose-of-campden-tablets

Note: The recipes posted above contain several additives that probably "balance" and "improve" the wine to something a little more in line with modern practices. Pectic enzyme is presumably not necessary; however the biggest benefit that I can see would probably be some acid blend. I do not know for sure if this is the case, but I suspect that it might be. On the other hand, some reports stated that beet wine made the "right" way - that is, with the additives - has been lackluster and even inferior. I will most likely experiment with some of those additives at some point, but for this first attempt, I chose to stick with just the campden tablet, and called it good.

Moving forward, I cut off the tops and roots of the beets, then pared them with a carrot peeler:



Some recipes said that paring the beets is unnecessary, but my grandfather did this, so I did, too. The peelings, roots and tops of the beets were buried in the garden, to keep the land happy.

This actually left me with exactly 3 pounds of beets:



I was estimating that I would have anywhere from 2.5 to 3 pounds total, so this was just fine.

My grandfather would then chop up the beets into small pieces with a knife; however, I am either too lazy or too busy to do that, so I cut them into medium-sized pieces, then pulsed them through my food processor:



This seemed to work quite well.

Some recipes call for cooking the beets at this point, in order to extract the juice. This seems unnecessary to me, and could, in my opinion, result in some sort of off-flavor. Would it? Won't it? I don't know. But the thing is, my grandfather did not cook the beets; my father insisted on that - so I didn't cook them, either.

Meanwhile, I heated my gallon of spring water on the stovetop to the point where it would easily dissolve 3 pounds of sugar. This amount of sugar was arrived at after reading the recipes posted above, and should be a good amount.

By this point, I was starting to wonder if I was the recipient of some family joke, but I kept with it anyway, and am glad that I did.

The next step was to put the beets into a fine mesh bag, then pour the warm sugar water on top of the bag in the fermenting bucket, along with a crushed campden tablet. The water turned beet-red (no pun intended) immediately:



Truly a beautiful colour!

I loosely covered the bucket with a clean tea towel, then set it in a dark, temperature-stable place for 24 hours. After that, I stirred the mixture and pitched the wine yeast.

Since then, I have been stirring the must periodically, and using the large spoon to squish down the bag in order to continue to extract juice from the beets. Fermentation seems to be starting up quite nicely, and I suspect that it will be in full swing by the time I get home from work today.

I have managed to sneak a couple of very small samples clinging to the spoon after stirring the must; early impressions are that I am onto something really good here, and I am thinking that I will end up with some very interesting wine. It's too early to really describe it, but it is definitely good, and for the most part unexpected.

That is all for now - more as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2016 at 10:37
looking good Ron! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 October 2016 at 08:42
Thanks, Mike!

Well, this project is cruising right along; we're definitely making wine, and that's a good start. The beet aroma and flavor are coming through nicely, without being over-bearing or obnoxious. The colour is simply beautiful - I can't say enough about that!

Ambient temperatures have been a bit on the low side, in the mid 60s; I'm not too concerned about this, but it is something that should be noted. I try to keep temperatures around 69-71, but my "temperature control system" consists of a closet lined with clothes and a space heater, so it's not going to be an exact science. No worries, though, as I am pretty sure most farmhouses that made this stuff didn't have a laboratory nearby.

We're past the halfway point for primary fermentation; this weekend, I'll most likely transfer the must over to secondary, unless I see a reason not to.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 October 2016 at 12:09
ADD moment - 

I live in Chinook, Montana. Sugarbeets as an industry and - surprisingly - as a culture have been a "thing" here for a very long time. We had a thriving sugarbeet production here up until the late 1970s or so; we still have a "Sugarbeet Festival" every year, and our high school mascot is...the SugarBeeters.

Sugarbeet wine is on my list of things to try, but that will most likely have to wait until next year. These beets are just regular beets, grown wonderfully at a local Hutterite colony.

Anyway - fermentation seemed a bit stalled with this, so when I got home from work last night, I added 1/2 dose of yeast nutrient. When I stirred the must this morning, I noticed a little more evidence of fermentation than in the past couple of days, so I think things are going well.

I'll probably transfer this to secondary tomorrow; then, the wait begins....
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I transferred my beet wine to my secondary fermenter last night, 31 October. The wine looked wonderful and smelled nice and "beety," in a good way. As far as I can tell, everything is going just fine.

I'll try to forget about it for a couple of weeks while it finishes fermenting and clears a bit. After that, we'll take a look and see what we have.
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17 January 2017 -

Between being busy and procrastinating, I was not able to rack this wine over until 17 January. I added 1 crushed campden tablet and topped the gallon off with some extra wine that I had from racking over into secondary. There was a surprisingly-low amount of lees, but fermentation had definitely taken place, and I am definitely ending up with wine, here.

There was enough left over for a small sample, so of course I tried it. This wine is very interesting and surprisingly good. The colour is simply beautiful, a jewel-like hue somewhere between magenta and burgundy, similar to yet slightly lighter than the “bucket” photo above. It is hard to describe, so I will get a photo next time. There is a definite flavour of beets, but not in a bad way - it is very slightly earthy and finishes with a nice “beet-ness.” Its over-all character has a slight alcohol harshness, as it is still a young wine, but if it does any maturing at all, I think I am going to have something really special here.

I’ll rack it one more time in a month or two, then bottle it a month or two later. By mid-summer or autumn, we’ll see what we end up with.

That is all for now - more as it happens, etc. &c....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 September 2017 at 16:03
Well, a late update on this -

Since my last posting, I racked this off the lees once or twice, then put it away to bulk-age. For a month or so, I told myself to forget about it, and after a while, I did! Somewhere in that time, I re-filled the air-lock a couple of times, but that's about it.

Last night, I took a look at this wine. I noticed that the colour wasn't quite the same, but that was to be expected, as the particulates that made up the colour would eventually drop out, I figured. I noticed a lot of those particulates floating around, so I put the fermenter into the refrigerator, hoping that they will fall over the course of the next couple of weeks. If this does not work, then I will attempt to use some fining agent to achieve the same goal.

The wine smelled great; mildy of beets, but with some other quality that I liked -
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I bottled this wine on Monday evening, 2 October 2017.

I was able to get 4 full bottles and just a few tablespoons shy of a fifth bottle; that one will be a "sampler" over the next couple-three weeks, I guess.

The particulates in the wine had settled and it was very clear, very beautiful, and had a nice, hue between ruby red and burgundy. The first four bottles - held up to the light - were so clear that I could read fine print on a newspaper through them. The fifth picked up a tiny bit of lees that settled out afterwards.

I took a small taste, and was impressed. You definitely get the flavor of the beets, with only a hint of earthiness - just enough to make it interesting, and not obnoxious in any way at all; at least, to me. Having said that, I could see where some folks would want to add a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and a few allspice berries - I think it would be an interesting (and very good) variation.

The only thing I would change the next time I make this would be to add some acid blend, just to liven it up a bit and bring it onto focus. I am not sure exactly how much I would add, but when the time comes I can consult the various recipes posted earlier in this thread and go with a reasonable amount.

All-in-all, I am fairly confident that I can report success! I hope that my efforts reflected well on my grandfather - and on my heritage - and I will make this wine again, with all certainty.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 October 2017 at 16:16

Ron, 

Fascinating !!

I love beetroot and wines   !!!

Let us know how this turns out ..   


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