Aim to Peas

We’ve done it again.

Holding the glass up to the light, the rosy-amber liquid swirled and shimmered. Taking a big sniff, the bouquet was bold and earthy, with a hint of citrus. Clinking our glasses together in a toast, we took a swig.

Brad and I stared at one another in disbelief. Once again, we had taken shelled peapods, destined for the pig trough on our friends’ farm, and made nectar of the gods.

One of the toughest things about this year’s asinine budget has been giving up most of the culinary luxuries we enjoy. Like good Parmesan. Full-bodied super Tuscans. PBR.

So we pulled out the wine recipe from our first attempt a couple years ago and tried to bring back a little luxury to the wee homestead. This time with pink-eye peas to make a more interesting color and, possibly, to get some of the health benefits of the anthocyanins responsible for those purple hulls.

Our first two batches yielded 20 bottles, and we’ve got enough pods bagged up in the freezer for four more batches. Altogether, we should end up with 60 bottles of wine for 30 dollars worth of sugar, oranges, and lemons.

In the interest of full disclosure, that’s on top of a one-time, hundred-dollar purchase of equipment. Still, that averages $2.17 per, and starting with next year’s vintage, each bottle’s cost will drop to 50 cents.

Making wine is a bit time consuming, but we enjoy the science behind fermentation — measuring specific gravity or watching yeast devour the sugar. Preparing the wort for each batch takes about three hours, and we kill an hour or two every time we move the liquid from one glass carboy to the other (to remove sediment) or to fill 20 bottles of the finished product.

As we plan for retirement, one of our biggest concerns is how to maintain a high quality of life while keeping overhead low. That winemaking time feels well spent, knowing we now have the skills to treat ourselves and friends to an occasional glass of sunlight.

Most importantly, this little experiment gave Brad an excuse to pull out the old drawing software. May I present to you this year’s label:

Peapod homemade wine from The Dew Abides

In case you’re interested in giving it a shot, here’s our recipe:

  • Boil 23 cups of water, enough to cover the peapods.
  • Peel 2 oranges and 2 lemons.
  • Add peels and pods to boiling water. Add a bit of water to cover, if necessary.
  • Keep at low boil for 30 minutes.
  • Sterilize all equipment.
  • Strain liquid and cool.
  • Add liquor to bucket and stir.
  • Add juice from lemons and oranges. Stir.
  • Check initial gravity.
  • Add 3 lbs. of sugar, first mixed in a bowl with ¼ tsp. tannin and 1 tsp. yeast nutrient.
  • Activate 5g yeast in 1/8 cup of water.
  • Add yeast and stir.
  • Cover the bucket with a lid.
  • When the yeast has stopped bubbling, about six days later, check specific gravity. Normally you would want a starting specific gravity between 1.070 and 1.100.
  • Sterilize equipment and siphon into carboys. (NOTE: We make two batches at a time, which yields 4.5 gallons.)
  • Top with sterilized, cold water, if necessary.
  • Set airlock in place.
  • Discard sediment.
  • Repeat those last four steps every few weeks until fermentation is complete, and specific gravity falls between .992 and .996. We typically rack twice before bottling.
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