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wildhair

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I grew up in a small town in IL south of Chicago. When I was 10, maybe younger - I tried to make my first batch of wine. I bought a jug of apple cider, swiped a packet of yeast from the baking cabinet, poured it into the jug, twisted the top on good and tight and set it in the field behind my house where my parents wouldn't find it. I checked on it a couple days later, and as soon as I twisted the cap - a fountain of fermented apple juice erupted from the bottle. It must have shot 8 feet into the air - like a geyser it was. By the time it stopped, the jug was empty. But it sure smelled good!

Being a stubborn red-headed kid of Scottish ancestry, that was a minor set-back - I'd try again after finding some wild grapes growing along the creek bank behind our house. I mashed them up, added some sugar (those grapes are small & extremely tart) and this time, I was smart enough leave them in a bucket. They fermented on their own and in a few days - I had wine! As I tied to smuggle some to school for my friends - I was betrayed by a leaking bottle. My mom smelled it, took it and I was grounded. But she didn't toss the wine and let me take a sample to the gentleman that ran the liquor store in town. He tasted it and said "needs more sugar". He was being nice.

My mom also told my elderly neighbor about my latest bit of mischief and she was quit amused. Her late husband had made wine for years, it turned out. I very small when her husband died, but she gave me his old Wine Log and notes. I remember reading it and trying to decide which wine to make - then the little notebook was promptly confiscated by my parents with the promise I'd get back "when you are old enough". Apparently, 10 years old was too young to begin a wine-making hobby.

Fast forward 50 years - this spring & summer I moved my parents to WI to be closer to me in their declining years. As we went thru desks and drawers and a lifetime of collected memorabilia, we came across the old wine notebook from a lifetime ago, stashed in a dresser drawer. It was in the original envelope - addressed to "WINE MAKER" and my neighbor had also written "Have Fun!" beneath it.

Reading thru it brought back some great old memories - of the old neighbors who have long since passed & the neighborhood where I grew up. The first recipe is dated Sept. 24, 1935 - 2 years after Prohibition ended. Something tells me my neighbor had been making his wine along thru the Depression. The pages are fragile, yellowed and the edges are worn. Some of it is hard to read, some of the words are smeared. The USA was still in the middle of the Depression - no mention of any additives, clearing agents, acid testing, k-meta or aging in the recipes. Just ferment, strain, bottle & consume. Some of it was used for medicinal purposes & one states "good for teething babies" at the end.

I scanned the little book into my computer, just for my own posterity and to preserve it. Now I can read it without handling the frail pages. And I thought some of you might get a grin out of reading how country wines were made by regular folks, struggling to make it thru the Depression. So it's posted in .pdf format below. Who knows, I may actually try a few of the recipes - with a few modern upgrades, of course.
 

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mainshipfred

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I grew up in a small town in IL south of Chicago. When I was 10, maybe younger - I tried to make my first batch of wine. I bought a jug of apple cider, swiped a packet of yeast from the baking cabinet, poured it into the jug, twisted the top on good and tight and set it in the field behind my house where my parents wouldn't find it. I checked on it a couple days later, and as soon as I twisted the cap - a fountain of fermented apple juice erupted from the bottle. It must have shot 8 feet into the air - like a geyser it was. By the time it stopped, the jug was empty. But it sure smelled good!

Being a stubborn red-headed kid of Scottish ancestry, that was a minor set-back - I'd try again after finding some wild grapes growing along the creek bank behind our house. I mashed them up, added some sugar (those grapes are small & extremely tart) and this time, I was smart enough leave them in a bucket. They fermented on their own and in a few days - I had wine! As I tied to smuggle some to school for my friends - I was betrayed by a leaking bottle. My mom smelled it, took it and I was grounded. But she didn't toss the wine and let me take a sample to the gentleman that ran the liquor store in town. He tasted it and said "needs more sugar". He was being nice.

My mom also told my elderly neighbor about my latest bit of mischief and she was quit amused. Her late husband had made wine for years, it turned out. I very small when her husband died, but she gave me his old Wine Log and notes. I remember reading it and trying to decide which wine to make - then the little notebook was promptly confiscated by my parents with the promise I'd get back "when you are old enough". Apparently, 10 years old was too young to begin a wine-making hobby.

Fast forward 50 years - this spring & summer I moved my parents to WI to be closer to me in their declining years. As we went thru desks and drawers and a lifetime of collected memorabilia, we came across the old wine notebook from a lifetime ago, stashed in a dresser drawer. It was in the original envelope - addressed to "WINE MAKER" and my neighbor had also written "Have Fun!" beneath it.

Reading thru it brought back some great old memories - of the old neighbors who have long since passed & the neighborhood where I grew up. The first recipe is dated Sept. 24, 1935 - 2 years after Prohibition ended. Something tells me my neighbor had been making his wine along thru the Depression. The pages are fragile, yellowed and the edges are worn. Some of it is hard to read, some of the words are smeared. The USA was still in the middle of the Depression - no mention of any additives, clearing agents, acid testing, k-meta or aging in the recipes. Just ferment, strain, bottle & consume. Some of it was used for medicinal purposes & one states "good for teething babies" at the end.

I scanned the little book into my computer, just for my own posterity and to preserve it. Now I can read it without handling the frail pages. And I thought some of you might get a grin out of reading how country wines were made by regular folks, struggling to make it thru the Depression. So it's posted in .pdf format below. Who knows, I may actually try a few of the recipes - with a few modern upgrades, of course.
Nice story, will try to read it later.
 

mainshipfred

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I just breifed it and I don't see they used any yeast (I don't think) but they did reference egg whites and shells for what I assume was a clearing agent. It also seems like they used a good bit of water and made only small batches plus it loooks like they bottled and consumed it pretty quickly. Fun reading.
 

wildhair

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I saw a mention of "cake of yeast" in at least 1 of the "recipes". I thought the boiling of the egg whites and shells was to help it clear, too. Never heard of it being done in the initial steps, tho.

The lack of aging struck me, too - some of these were bottled in just a couple weeks. No racking mentioned, just strain it and drink it! I suppose compared to bathtub gin - might have been fairly good?
 

BernardSmith

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Yes, Many thanks for sharing both your story and the wine log. There is something wonderful about old recipes like those where wine making was much more part of everyday life as opposed to a hobby or interest.
 

Boatboy24

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Thank you for sharing that! I don't know what I enjoyed more: your story, perusing the old wine log, or viewing the cursive it was written in.
 
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