I live in the El Dorado of sharehouses in Melbourne's north, with eight bountiful fruit trees. After maxing out on apricot jam over New Years, I looked for alternative large-scale recipes for the impending plum drop, and discovered summer fruits make excellent country wine.
This cloudy, naturally fermented and carbonated homebrew can be made with any fruit — stone fruit and berries work very well, as do flowers like elderflowers or rose petals and even vegetables like parsnip or rhubarb; whatever's in abundance.
This method is probably the easiest way to make wine at home and you can do it without any specialist equipment.
This country wine ferments thanks to natural yeast in the air and on the skin of the fruit, rather than packet stuff. When these microorganisms eat carbohydrates (sugar or starch) they produce ethanol and bubbles.
Young, plum wine is floral, juicy and low in alcohol, not dissimilar to kombucha in flavour. Leave it for a couple of weeks and it starts to taste like a semi-sweet beer. Leave it even longer and the acidity and complexity will develop and it can hit up to 14 per cent alcohol by volume.
How to make country wine
First ferment: For one to two weeks, while someone's at home
All you need is 500 g whole ripe plums to 1 L water to 125 g sugar — but go ahead and double, triple or quadruple this ratio.
Pop the plums in a big jar that has a wide mouth (look in $2 shops or Asian supermarkets) or a new bucket and, in a separate bowl, mix to dissolve the sugar into the water. Pour into the jar and give it a violent stir. Cover with a tea towel and secure with a rubber band.
It's essential to stir every few hours during the day to prevent mould and add air, which promotes fermentation.
It will smell boozy after a day or two. After a couple more, it will turn cloudy and the carbonation will kick off. Jump for joy when you see a scummy layer of foam on top — that's the mother, similar to a kombucha scoby or a sourdough starter. If white mould appears, just scrape it off and keep stirring. When the bubble activity starts to plateau and your fruit is turning to mush, it's time for phase two.
Second ferment: For about one month (optional)
Strain through a cheesecloth or tea towel to fill a 1 L bottle. Leave a couple of centimetres at the top. Try to avoid pouring the liquid back and forth too much as you'll lose some of the fizz.
You can now drink it over ice, or keep it on your bench for a second ferment. It's up to you how long you want to leave it, but do not refrigerate!
Important: The wine is alive, so it's still producing gas. Without an airlock system, you'll need to 'burp' your wine daily, otherwise your glass bottle will explode.
Plastic soft-drink bottles work well here because you can see when the pressure needs to be released.
Taste your wine every week or so until you're ready to drink it.
Add these twist-shaped crackers to your cheeseboard or just snack away!
Native Australian flavours mix here with a creamy white wine sauce for citrusy, tender clams.