As you may have noticed from a few previous articles on this website, your humble author is obsessed with figs. Perhaps this is because despite living in climate supposedly not suited for them, I have managed to keep a fig tree alive and flourishing for some time now, and thus am always pleasantly surprised by the harvest. Whatever the reason, I decided this year to combine two of my hobbies: wine making and figs. Read on for how to ferment and preserve your very own fig wine.
For starters, we should probably cover what you’ll need to make your wine. First on the list is a glass carboy with an airlock (would go ahead and get a second carboy too–while not strictly necessary it is convenient, as you’ll see later), or a fermentation bucket, if that’s an easier find for you. No, that does not mean a regular bucket, as you’ll come to find, that airlock is key to the whole process, and if you’re using a bucket, it must have one. Next, you’ll need a thin mesh bag or a cheesecloth, a large stock pot, and a cooking spoon. After fermenting, you’ll need mason jars, and a siphon hose. If you want to get really fancy, get yourself a hydrometer and the accompanying test tube to measure alcohol content, though that is not strictly necessary.
All volumes I use are should be taken in terms of their ratio, so you can make as much or as little as you like. I used 16 cups of water to four pounds of chopped figs, four pounds of granulated sugar, one packet of yeast (standard Fleischmann’s Fresh Active Yeast works fine), a tablespoon of yeast nutrient, two tablespoons of acid blend, a half-tablespoon of pectic enzyme and a quarter tablespoon of tannin. There are a variety of sterilizing methods you can add as well, such as campden tablets and sulfites, but I didn’t bother with these, as they are usually unnecessary if you ensure a sterile environment.
One of these days, Ill get around to doing a project on distilling. That will be a much longer series of articles, partly because what were covering herein will only be part one. Wine, rest assured, is a very simple process, fully suited for a beginner.
Step one, is to pour your water into the stock pot and heat it on a stove. Get it to a nice simmer. After the simmer is achieved, add the sugar and allow it to dissolve. Why sugar, you ask? This helps in the fermentation process, and will break down easily into alcohol. Next, fill the mesh bag with the figs, put it in the water and mash as much juice out as you can with a spoon. While you could just throw the figs in, that will lead to a lengthier siphoning process. Leave the mesh bag in once you’re done however.–will get more juice that way.
After this, wait until the mixture has cooled (but is not cold! no refrigeration!), and add the yeast. While hot enough water can kill yeast cultures, you also don’t want it to be cold, as it will not activate as well. Nice warm water, around the 75-degree mark, is about what you’re shooting for. Simultaneously mix in the tannin, the pectic enzyme and the acid blend, and stir it all around with the spoon until it is well mixed. Finally, either transfer it to your airlocked carboy or fermentation bucket, or put an airlock on your stock pot if you have one specifically for brewing and … wait! If you’re the curious sort, like me, you’ll be interested in the bubbling you soon hear. That’s the fermentation process working its magic!
After about a week, take out the mesh bag and its contents to remove any chance of off flavors. Anything you need from the figs themselves will be well soaked in by now. Take the fruit out and wash the bag, you’ll need it again. Wait about a month, then use your siphon hose to move liquid into a large container that can fit it all. Some people like to use a second glass carboy for this, others just use a bucket. Try not to disturb any sediment with your siphon hose, as the goal is to move the liquid out of the pot without retaining any solids. Then, put an airlock on this new container (or, if you only have one airlock container, simply wash the old one out, pour it back in and reseal).
After another month, repeat the process above, re-siphoning everything, then resealing. Finally, after yet another month, siphon the liquid out again, now fully sediment free, into your waiting mason jars. If you want to use your hydrometer, now is the time. I would also recommend sealing he jars for better storage, either by boiling them the old fashioned way, or by using a jar sealer.
That, folks, is all there is to it! So this fall, sit back with a nice glass of fig wine you made yourself, and enjoy the chilly weather soon to come our way.
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”