Methods for Using Fruits

If tempted to try some of the European use of fruits, the following is somewhat of a guide. Apple brandy is usually 60% apple, 30% pear, and 10% your choice.
  • Run the fruit through a juice extractor or similar, no pips unless you enjoy cyanide,and no pith if possible. Put the skins through the food processor/juice extractor as that's where the enzymes are that the yeast require.
  • Achieve a specific gravity of about 1.050, dilute with water if necessary.
  • Pitch a rehydrated yeast at a temp. of 25/30 C. It is very important to then hold the fermentation at that temperature. It will achieve that pretty much itself ,but just be prepared to help it keep that way. Any dry white wine ,champagne or sherry yeast is good. An excellent French brand is Lallemand (Uvaferm bc or Lalvin ec-1118), but you will also need to use a yeast nutrient (eg Fermaid, or try your local home brew shop).
  • Fermentation will take no more than 8 days (the reason the traditional fermentation takes so long is they use wild yeasts).
  • Don't add sugar if you want this to be "kosher "and a fair dinkum brew. Sugar will raise the ethanol production but at the expense of taste/quality etc.
  • Don't do any additions after fermentation has started - it can stop a brew in it's tracks.
Jack adds ...
    the majority of flavor compounds in whiskey come from the yeast that is used. The aldehydes that the yeast contributes turn into esters on long aging. These halp to provide a better flavor for the whisky. In a fruit brandy (like plums)- this would mar the flavor of the fruit- It may make it more complex if it were aged on oak for a while- but for those attempting to make a clear slivovitz/schnaps type of spirit- the yeast would give flavors that prevent the pure plum flavor from coming through. I guess another rule for fruit brandy/schnaps has got to be: Let the wine clarify fully before distilling- no distilling on the lees !.
A less traditional approach would be..
    2 kg Granny Smith apples or Nashi pears
    1 Campden tablet (for basic sterilisation)
    6 tsp yeast nutrient
    5 kg sugar/glucose

    Peel & grate fruit, add to fermenter with Campden tablets , and 3L water. Cover and leave for 24-36 hours. Dissolve sugar & nutrient in some hot water, then add to fermentor. Top up with cold water to 24L. Add yeast when below 24C. SG should drop from 1.03 to 0.99 over 12-14 days.

    Don't overdo the Campden tablets. They are sodium metabisulphite, and can kill they yeast if not fully dissipated by the time the yeast is added.

    The best fruit to use is windfall fruit (the stuff brown & lying on the ground), as these are higher in sugar. Sometimes when trying to make schnapps, you can reserve a little of the fermented stock, and add this back to the distilled liquor, to enhance the flavour.
For schnapps, Jack explains ...
    Schnapps may be made by fermenting 4.5 pounds of fruit in a gallon of water, in addition to 2 pounds of sugar and a heaping tablespoon of winemaker's acid blend (per gallon). After fermenting, this may be distilled (I filtered out the fruit pulp, but didn't clarify beyond that) in a potstill to produce a nice dram.

    The problem most people get (myself included) when making a fruit wine into a brandy is the fact that not enough fruit is used in the mash. Most wines use 2 to 3 pounds of fruit per gallon- when distilled they taste like unrefined sugar spirit with no fruit flavor- if you up the fruit to 4 to 4.5 pounds per gallon and ferment out to 10 to 15%abv you'll get something worth distilling. So far I've tested this on cherries (sour and black), raspberries, blackberries, peaches, and plums- all have worked wonderfully.

    Tips for apple schnaps: DON'T use any sulfite- use a large amount of yeast with competative factors (lalvin K1V-1116 is the best choice) Ferment the juice in a cool area (to aid with a mellow flavor and to help slow up any contaminating bacteria) If you do the above, and stick to basic sanitary wine making practices, you'll be just fine.
Jack gives an update ...
    After much frustration and experimentation with fruit (I'm known to every single orchard owner within 60 miles- I'm also well liked- the orchard owners get an average of 20 liters of schnaps from me for each fruit they donate- which they do by the truckload), I've finally nailed down this schnaps thing to a simple recipe. Here is how it's done:
    • Stone/ pit the fruit after washing it and culling anything that is rotting/moldy.
    • Add an equal VOLUME of water, which has dissolved in it: (boiling the water sanitizes the fruit, making sulfite a thing of the past):
      • Enough sugar to bring the final abv to 16%abv
      • Enough acid blend/citric acid to drop the pH down to 3.
      • Pectic enzyme: about a teaspoon per 2 gallons
      • Diammonium phosphate yeast nutrient: a shy teaspoon per gallon.
      • A good strong yeast like Lavlin's K1V-1116 or EC-1118- 2 packets (5gram) per 5 gallons.
    • Ferment at the lowest temperature the yeast can work at in order to preserve the aroma of the fruit. Mash/stir the fruit daily during the ferment, in order to prevent a dried out layer of fruit from forming on the top of the mash- this will cause mold problems.
    • After fermentation is complete, filter out the solids, and let it stand till clear.
    • Run it through a potstill once, collecting the heads as you normally do, and keep collecting spirit until you no longer like the taste/smell (best method- everyone's tastes differ), or stop when your hydrometer shows the spirit out of the still is below 40%abv.
    • For those using an ice-water-wok still, freeze concentrate the wine down by half, and for every gallon of freeze concentrated wine, add a teaspoon of table salt, then run it however you normally do- ice-water-wok type stills are very odd in how they are run- it's up to the individual on how to make the cut. Just remember to separate out the heads.
    I have been trying to figure this method out for a while now- going by weight of fruit (fruit wines use 2 to 3 pounds- a good fruit mash: up to 4 pounds per gallon)- but it's always given very different results- going by volume of fruit is much easier- and makes MUCH better Schnapps.
Rutger writes ..
    You should just pulp the pears, put in a little pectinase or other enzymes to break down the pectine (to prevent methanol) and ferment the whole bit. Fermenting will also decraese the viscoity of the mash. Then press it, after fermenting, that is. Distill twice in a potstill.

    I made a lot of calvados and other pear- and applebrandies, and fermenting the peel and other bits makes sure you get the right taste. A juicer will not do it.

    For Poire Williams you will got to have the right pears, simple consumption pears wil not give the distinct taste. It will not be very bad, but not the right Poire Williams taste.
Another contributor adds ..
    I had a glut of blackberries this year so I collected a large bucket of them and pulped them ( unwashed ) to give me three gallons of unstrained fruit pulp. I innoculated this with some actively fermenting beer wort and added a little wine yeast for good measure. Left it in a bucket to finish fermenting ( about two weeks ) and ran it though a pot still. As the still isn't large and over boiled a couple of times, I ended up putting all the fractions I'd collected into the last bath of wash and distilling very slowly. This gave a final product at 70%ABV. Most of this I diluted with water to 40% ( BTW things are vastly improved if you use a decent mineral water for dilution rather than tap water ), some of it I diluted to 40% using strained blackberry juice.

    An odd thing has happened - the water mixed batch has produced a fair number of plate like crystals
    (a fruit acid or salt ?) which slowly settled of of suspension yet the spirit wasn't cloudy in the slightest. The flavour is good - sweet, oddly coconutty with a hint of rum and fruit. The juice diluted batch is in sore need of a little sugar but I'll add that when it's finished ageing, at the moment it's firey, fruity and quite sharp but not unpleasant - it goes well diluted with a bit of lemonade or soda.

    The second recipe -

    A gallon of rowan berries ( mountain ash ) washed, cleaned and crushed. To this I added three pound of honey dissolved in one gallon of boiling water, the water was added whilst still boiling. Once it was cool I topped up to two gallons total volume added yeast and left it until it stopped fermenting ( like the blackberry one it was too thick to get a reliable SG). Double distilled in a pot still this has given a 70% spirit ( not yet diluted ) which has the light flavour of rowan berries with a good honey kick in the after taste - extremely pleasant and watered down in the glass to 40% it's easy to drink.
Wal writes ..
    Normandy in France is wet and cold for grapes. Great for apples. So they make cider and distill it to make calvados which when aged in oak is not inferior to cognac. Cider is double distilled and aged a minimum of 2-3 years. Traditionally cider is made by fermenting only apple juice & nothing else.

    Cider recipes for distilling into calvados:

    Dry cider using fresh fruit -
    • 4kg sharp apples
    • 2kg bitter-sweet apples
    • 2kg sweet apples
    • Champagne yeast
    • Mince, slice, chop fruit
    • Add yeast and ferment on pulp for several days until pulp has softened.
    • Drain free running liquid into fermenter and press out extra liquid from pulp and add to fermenter. A straining bag is useful.
    • Add water to bring volume to 5l.

    Using fruit juice/fruit juice concentrate -

Jack writes ...
    Hard apple cider is simply the fermented juice of the apple. Apple wine has had the sugar level of the juice fortified with sugar or honey. Apple jack is a freeze-concentrated apple cider/wine- bringing it into the 20 to 30%abv range.

    Distilling apple cider/wine will give apple schnaps- but ageing it on some oak may make a much better apple brandy.

    Distilling the cider/wine and then mixing the brandy/schnapps with fresh (unfermented) apple cider at a mix of about 50/50 gives something the French call "ratafia" (from the latin rata fiat- let the deal be settled)- a traditional drink at the end of a negotiation. In the Cognac region it is made with Cognac and fresh grape juice and is called Pineau des Charentes. The Armagnac region calls their version "Floc de Gascone. The Normandy region (where they make it out of apple brandy and fresh cider) they call it "Pommeau". The mix results in a 17 to 25%abv sweet drink, believed to be the ancestor to the liqueur.

    Most grocery stores have unfiltered, no chemicals added, pasteurized cider (typically in a milk jug in the produce section), that can be fermented by pouring it into a sanitized container and adding yeast (a slow, cool ferment with Lavlin's K1V-1116 wine yeast makes excellent cider- adding a an ounce or two of French oak shavings (per 5 gallons) to the ferment also helps with the complexity- the cold ferment is needed to preserve the aroma.). You don't need to boil cider- if you do it can set a pectin haze- ever since the E-coli outbreaks pasteurization has become law (within the U.S.A.).

Scrounge adds ..
    Another tip - if you rough chop the fruit and freeze it and then allow it to thaw, it gives up its juice with much less effort, the technique works with most fruit and doesn't affect the flavour

Regarding slivovitz, Wal writes ..
    Traditionally in the Balkans and Eastern Europe plum brandy (similar to apple cider) is made from the pure fruit only, with no sugar or water added. Relying on wild yeasts, it ferments naturally for 5 weeks. Alcohol content would be about 5%a.b.v. It is double distilled to 70%a.b.v. For this method you need lots of plums. I drank kosher Passover sliwowica (70%a.b.v.) in Poland and it tasted great. Had an amber tinge. Drank plum brandy from yellow Mirabelle plums in France and this tasted a bit mellower than from black prunes. This was a white distillate of 50%a.b.v. In the Balkans they steep whole plums or dried plums in the final distillate to increase the plum flavor and to give a bit of color.

Homemade press for grape/fruit(cider) musts. See: http://members.iinet.net.au/~kookie/frame.html and http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/Vineyard/1762/pressplans.html Using citrus. Wal explains ..
    Citrus fruits are low in sugar content but high in acid, so they are not an ideal fruit for wine or distilling except for the home winemaker, who has to make appropriate adjustments (see fruit wine sites). There is more money possibly in citrus juices and jams. Fruits like apples, plums and bananas which have a high sugar content are used extensively.

    On the other hand citrus peel is used extensively for flavoring alcohol - by double distilling the macerated/infused peel in 45% alcohol to get a clear citrus flavored spirit (e.g. Cointreau), or by just infusing peel in alcohol (usually 30%) to make a liqueur (e.g. Limoncello). Sugar is added except where citrus peel is part of the botanicals for a dry gin.

    There is a lemon brew (alcoholic lemonade) recipe which uses the juice and rind of 3kg lemons, 2kg sugar, 0.75kg lactose (to sweeten as it does not ferment), beer yeast.

    I have made citrus mashes using the peel and juice to make my equivalent to Cointreau, as I have citus trees in the garden. For a 25l mash I used 5kg of sugar with either the peel and juice of 30 lemons or 15 oranges - do not use the white pith though as it is very bitter. I diluted down to 50%abv and added sugar to taste (to remove the natural bitterness). I was pleased with the result. I have just planted a Seville orange and a Citron - the peel of both are used for flavoring, although the fruit is too acidic to eat.
Prickly Pears ...Wal writes ...
    For those who have an abundance of prickly pear cacti. From a Californian site - http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/Vineyard/1762/wine34.html

    Prickly Pear Wine (or Mash for the distiller)
    • A 5 gallon (20 L) bucket of Prickly Pears makes about 2 USgallons (8 L) of juice
    • 2 lb sugar (900 g)/1 USgallon (4 L)
    • yeast 1 tsp/gallon
    • nutrient 2 tsp/gallon
Rob writes about Macedonian spirits being made in Melbourne ...
    Their system is gloriously simple. Buy boxes of grapes (anywhere along Mahoneys Rd and many other Melbourne sites), bung them in a 220litre barrel (Mernda market, flemington market and many other sites), squish a bit, stir daily. (some advise to take out stalks, I do, but many don't. Tastes a bit better without.) When finished take off wine as you choose. The wine is usually great, but you need some liquid in the still so the grapes swim. You can add water. The stills are traditionally 2x old coppers, the washing clothes ones. You join them with dough. It is all so simple, and the results are mostly delicious. I started out with a reflux still from NZ, but now I have my pot still... 60 litre capacity, the gas ring is the perfect temp, so no fuss with thermometers. Just light and let it run. The cut off with heads is based on taste for me. Others mix it all back in, or throw a bit away. You can add aniseed, or mastica, rub honey around the top copper. It's all good. I have tasted so many great spirits. If you start with good flavour, then use a pot still to keep the good flavour, you can't go wrong.


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