Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures in Grape-Squishing

Hey, remember last time, when I mentioned that we'd been grape-squishing? Well, now I'm going to tell you guys all about it.

It all started a few Fridays ago, when my in-laws went to a pick-your-own-vineyard and came home with 165 lbs. of grapes. Yes, 1-6-5. That's... a lot of grapes. So what were we to do with all of those grapes? Make wine, of course.
My in-laws have been making wine longer than I've been a part of the family (which, admittedly isn't that long, but still, it's traditional at this point). Every fall they acquire grapes, squish the juice out, and let it ferment into something alcoholic and delicious.

For the last several years, this squishing has taken place in their basement. The set-up was... precarious at best. There was a car-jack involved, and a cross-beam named Roderick that butted up against the ceiling... and yeah, it wasn't good.
So last year, my husband and I built them a wine-press. A real wine-press. Based off of the design of a commercial wine-press that a friend of theirs had purchased for lots of $$.

okay... so we're still using a car-jack.
The basic design is simple. There's a wooden frame that supports a car-jack, that holds the actual press. Inside the big green bucket is another (Home Depot) bucket with lots of holes drilled into it. Grapes go in the inside bucket, pressure is applied and juice comes out the bottom. The big green bucket has a spigot installed in the side so that the juice can be moved to yet another bucket. You can't make wine without a lot of buckets, apparently.

Okay, so once you've got your press all set up, you add grapes. 165 lbs. of them if you've got!

All the classiest vintners use kitchen pots.

Then, like I said, it's time to squeeze. We made a set of inter-locking pegs that would fit between the car-jack and the grapes so that we could continue to add pressure even as the grapes got squished down. Once your pegs are in place, you squeeze.

Here you can see our peg system in action.

I wanted to cut dovetails on the pegs but... meh, you can't always get what you want. What comes next? Well, uh, more squeezing. And then? Even more squeezing. If you've got a lot of grapes (and we do), you're going to have to do a lot of squeezing. We did about 2 batches of white grapes, and another 2-3 batches of red grapes. If you've got a spigot installed into the side of your big green bucket (which I highly recommend), your grape-juice can pour right out into its permanent home. In our case, some fancy food-grade buckets which will house the grape-juice while it ferments.

Happy little grape-juice
All there is left to do is ferment your grape-juice and make it into delicious delicious wine. But that, boys and girls, is another show.

What do you do with the left-over grape mash? It composts really really well, so go ahead and dump it into your compost heap... if that is, you don't mind a massive fruit-fly infestation. If you're not a fan of fruit flies, then you're probably going to want to throw the mash out. Sorry.
And speaking of flying pests, if you're squishing grapes outside over the summer (or even in the early fall), be prepared to entertain some of these guys:

Yes, that's a yellow-jacket, and yes, there were a lot of them.

I think that about wraps things up for today. We had a lot of fun grape-squishing, and in about a year (give or take a few months) we'll have some wine! Hey, I never said this was a quick process. Alright, stay tuned next time for our October installment of Librarian's Corner. What am I going to be reading/reviewing this month? Who knows! I sure don't! So come back on the 21st and find out!

Happy Squishing!

1 comment:

  1. I believe you can also feed it to your livestock. What do you mean, you don't own a goat? (But seriously, ginuea pigs/hamsters/other rodent-pets will probably eat it.)