Plum time again !!!

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Dutch Winemaker
Nov 5, 2006
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Last sunday I got a call from my friend Jan, a fruit-farmer in 'de Betuwe' the fruit growing part of the Netherlands.

He informed me that the plums were ready for harvesting.

So today (tuesday) I rised at 6.30 and at 9 we were at Jan's orchard.
Els and I worked from 9 till 4 o'clock, harvesting and picknicking in the orchard. Even Els's mother who lives in the environment and is 87 years old came to help us for a while !!!!
We had a great time.

At 4 o'clock we had the following result (picture from the back of my van):


17 crates and 14 buckets.
Aproximately 200 kilo !!!!!

As these plums have no economical value for Jan we got them (like the years before) for free !!!
He just wanted a smile in return !!!

Ofcourse he knows I will bring him some bottles when the wine is finished.

So for the upcoming days I am busy.
The harvest has to be processed as plums will spoil fast.
I will have to do this in my 3m x 3m (aprox) kitchen and for the x-th time my living room will turn into my winemaking room.

Els does not complain, she even helps. God I love that woman !!!!

Wow Luc!

Sitting here in the NZ winter .. I am so envious.

Wish I could come and give you a hand with them .. Are you going to steam juice it all?

That is a great load there and or free is just too awesome. Even the wife helping just makes me very jealous!!!!!!!
Isn't it great to have friends like them! :h
How many gallons of wine you going to make?
Can you share your recipe?
I am not going to steam juice them.
Well maybe Els is going to do a bit just for making juice.

Some will be used for pies and deserts.

I will do a few experimental batches. I am going to
try to make 1 batch Rumanian style: Put the plums in a
barrel (bucket, fermenter whatever) and let nature do its thing
all by itself.

I did several batches like these 2 years and 3 years ago, I never use recipes.
As fruit quality varies each year I make all my batches just from scratch.

First I wash the plums in a soda ash solution. That is needed to get rid of the layer of wax on the plums that will prevent the wine from clearing. Next they are soaked for a minute or so in a sulphite solution and then they are rinsed in fresh water.

Next I mash them with a potato masher.
I add pectic enzyme and sulphite and let them soak overnight.

Then I take a sample and measure acidity and SG.
I estimate the volume (about 50%) of the weight, meaning that 1 kilo will gain about half a liter juice.
I calculate the estimated amount of sugar needed and add about half. Next pulp fermenting for a few days.

I will monitor these batches closely as I just had a batch apple juice fermenting in 4 days and I do not want the wine finished before the rest of the sugar is added.

Then I press and let it finish in a secondary.
On one or two batches I will add banana's for a bit more body although this depends on the taste of the juice. I will let the juice decide wether this will be needed. Adding banana juice and sugar syrup will bring acidity down if needed.....

When finished I will oak the wine.
Plums and oak go together very well.

I will get about 60% juice from this meaning that these 200 kilo will get me about 100 to 120 liter wine. In gallon this is 27 to 32 gallon.

I did this 2 years (and 3 years) ago and at that time documented it on my web-log with photo's:

I can only hope that this batch will ferment fast in secondaries as we have an invitation (just like last year) to 'pick an unlimited amount of apples'. We had that same invitation last year and then we picked 100 kilo apples. I made 7 different apple wines from this (apple-elderberry, apple-peach, apple strawberry, apple-blackberry, apple mead (cyser) pure appleand pure apple pulp fermeted. So in a short time I will need my primaries and secondaries again......

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Wow, with all the fruit you get like the apples and those plums Im suprised you dont have at leats a small press Luc!
Wade I do have a press and I do not often use it.
It is just a small one (10 liter) and that is for these
kind of quantities more as a nuisance to use it.......

Allie, I store all this fruit in the crates and buckets in my house.
My living room is my winemaking area:

It is just for a few days.......ehhhh weeks.........
Els does not mind. She says: I drink it so go ahead.

Actually I was wondering where you store it all, once it is bottled? Do you have a cellar under the house for it??

soda ash solution

Hi Luc
This sounds like what I need to use for my natal plums as they have a white gummy and also waxy substance on them (it's like glue - even wears off my nail polish when I am working with them). I have 3 different batches going currently and am surprised that they are clearing as well as they are.

What is the soda ash solution? I have plain baking soda - will that work?

Actually I have a 'crawling-room' beneath my house. I store
most of my wines there.
I did rack all my apple wines (who were still in a carboy) just a few weeks ago and brought them in this sub-basement. I think I have about 300-400 bottle lying there. I lost count.
Another 100 are in my garage which acts as our store-room. There are a few hundred empty bottles in there, my empty carboys, 2 winemaking dedicated freezers, about 30 buckets, my press (if I have not loaned it to a friend).

Ah well....... the rest of the house is filled with paintings from Els....and a few thousand books from mostly me.....


Soda ash maybe called household soda or kitchen soda. It is the kind of soda that is used for cleaning purposes. I clean my bottles with it.

Make sure to use lukewarm to cold water. Hot water might cook the plums and you might loose all color from the skins if you have dark plums.

I just take a large plastic crate, drop a few tablespoons soda in it and fill it up with water. Then I pour the plums in. I let irt soak for a few minutes. Then soak the plums in fresh water, next into a sulphite bath for a few minutes and then again in fresh water.

I can firmly state that most dirt, insectisides, bugs, yeast and fungi will have left the premisses by then......


Yesterday I mashed a primary of 30 liters full with plums. I added a lot of pectic enzymes, a bit of sulphite and that is it.

Else made a lovely desert from some of the plums.
Tomorrow I will be getting a different plum-desert and so on for the next week......

Today I made simple syrup. And I did the measurements of the must I made yesterday.
SG 1055 and acidity 10 gram per liter.

I decided to make the wine at 13% alcohol. The plum's flavor is soo strong that the wine can handle that.

So I strained the 30 liter through nylon stockings and gained 20 liter must !!!!!
That is about 66% gain, just like I expected.

10 liter is fermenting in 2 seperate small 5 liter carboys to which each I added 1 liter yeast starter. These 10 liter are going to be my starter for next batches.

10 liter is in a 30 liter secondary (also with 1 liter starter added) and this carboy is going to be filled during the rest of the process.........

I did all this after I came home from my daytime job of course.......

Tomorrow I am going to mash up a few kilo's for making a 'natural fermented' wine. Meaning that I will mash the plums and let nature do it's job.
A lot of other plums will be mashed to become 'regular wine'.

Still about 160 kilo's to go......

I'll keep you posted if I find the time.

No time do check my mail..........

nail polish

What's a little nail polish residue among friends, anyway? A buzz is a buzz is a buzz - hey, wait a minute - there's a insect on my screen!

I am sitting here at half past 12 sipping a well earned rose-petal wine I made 2 years ago. It had to age and is now very good.....

I tell you our daily drill.
While I am at work from 9 to 6 each day Els sorts out the really ripe plums that need to be processed that day.
And Els searches the net for recipes. Each day we have had plum desert. Now plum-pork is coming up........

When I get home we eat and then I get to work.....

My 10 liter I made yeaterday is fermenting very well and my 2 times 5 liter plum starter is really foaming away.......

Today I did things differently.
I mashed and rinsed the plums like described before. First in soda next in water next in a sulphite solution and then in water again.
Then I mashed them with a potato masher.
While mashing I sprayed them with pectic enzyme.
Any idea how hard work that is (the mashing)???

When they were mashed I put them in nylon stockings and put them in a 30 liter primary. I added a bit sulphite and covered it with a lid.
It is not going to ferment so the lid is closed tight.

Putting them in nylon stockings right away is a bit more work but tomorrow I have far less work in pressing the plums.

If you wonder how I get the plums in the nylon-stocking. Well I had a great idea and invented a 50 cent nylonstocking filler. It works great.
I am not spoiling the fun on how it works. When this project with the plums is over I will publish it on my web-log sooner or later. Be patient.

Next I saw some fruit flies happily buzzing around.
That is something I have to do something about. So I have made a fruit-fly trap. You can find it on my web-log in this months entry.
Easy to make (I have used it frequently in the past) and effective.

Now Wade gave me an idea.
As the plums are in a nylon stocking 'cold-soaking' I can easily press them. But like I stated I do not like the hassle of my wood-press. I realised I made some bucket-presses sometime ago. I am going to use these. They are easy to use and clean.

The bucket press is something else I need to put up on my web-log. Be patience again.

Last point is this.
I re-read my entry about plums from 2007 and I saw that at that time the SG of the plums was 1040. Like I stated yesterday they are at this moment at 1055.
So a lot more sugar in them this year. I'll do some measurements again tomorrow.
Acidity is at the same level .10. So by using my simple syrup I will dillute the must a bit and that will bring the acidity down to a more acceptable level.
At each 10 liter must I need to add 1.6 liter simple syrup. That brings the acidity down about 10%. I Think I might add some water, as .9 is still quit high.

The point I am trying to make is that this is a classic example why recipes will mostly not work.
Suppose I added the same amount sugar I did 2 years ago.
My wine would have much more alcohol as planned as SG in the juice is up from 1.040 to 1.055. I would end up with a high alcohol wine or the yeast would poop-out and I would end up with a lot of residual sugar.
That is why measuring is so important.

I hope I find time to post more updates, that is if you are interested.
I use these postings as a kind of easy-web-log.

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I just hose off my press and then spary it down with sulfite solution and right before use I spray it down again with sulfite again. I think Ive seen the bucket with lots of holes drilled and a pce. of wood that fits right in. Something worth putting a pic up for others when you get the chance but like you Ive been very busy lately with wine. Picking raspberries like mad for about 3 hours after work and when not picking those then its crabapples, gotta give each fruit a chance to recooperate and myself, thank God its raining today as it forces me to go home an rest!

On saturday I pressed all I had crushed and in the nylon stockings. I had about 20 liter.
The bucket press works great although there is always a lot to clean up.

Sunday I started my 'natural' wine.
I took 2 buckets full of ripe plums, did not wash them or anything else. I just mashed them with my potato masher.
I added a lid with an airlock to each bucket. I do not think that more air is needed to get fermentation starting as I have introduced enough air during the mashing of the plums.

Today there is not yet a sign of fermentation in my natural wine.

I washed and mashed up another 2 buckets for normal wine.


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