2013 was a banner year for cukes.
We had such a bumper crop we couldn’t even give them all away. We still have sweet pickles from last year, we made plenty of fridge pickles, batches and batches of summer salad (cukes, zukes, onion, feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes dried & fresh, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil & balsamic vinegar), and went in search of something different to make use of one last harvest.
Given that we pretty much ferment anything that grows here (at least once) we decided cucumber wine was just the ticket. There are lots of recipes for cuke (+assorted fruit) coolers and spritzers. These all involve adding cukes to some other kind of booze and letting the flavors meld. But old-timers in the depression/prohibition era were mad homebrew scientists, and I think the recipe we found is from that era.
Old Fashioned Wine Recipe
One of the most popular old fashioned wine recipes, and one that you will definitely want to add to your collection. It is called cucumber wine. This wine is simple and fresh and great on a hot summer day. You will need 4 pounds cucumbers (preferable home grown), 3 campden tablets, 2 oranges, 2 lemons, 7 cups sugar, pectic enzyme, nutrients, 1 package of wine yeast, and water.
First you want to wash the cucumbers leaving the skin on, and then chop them up and leave them in a primary fermentor. Now you want to wash the oranges and lemons and slice them thinly then add to the cucumbers which you can pick from your own organic garden or buy from the store. Now stir in the sugar and nutrients, pour 16 cups boiling water over mixture, stir, let cool, add pectic enzyme, and leave for about a week until the frothing stops.
Strain the mixture and then siphon into a secondary fermentor and attach an airlock. If you want to get a dry wine out of these types of old fashioned wine recipes you want to place them in a wine rack for three weeks up to three months or a year and then bottle. On the other hand if you are looking for a sweet wine you will want to rack at three weeks and add ½ cup corn syrup dissolved into 1 cup of wine.
We followed most of the directions as is – remembering to add the campden tablets to the must, then waiting 24 hours to pitch the yeast (we used pasteur champagne since we had a couple in the freezer), but forgetting the pectic enzyme. The results are a bit cloudy after the initial racking, but we’ll leave it in the jug for a few weeks and see what happens.
The lemons and oranges combine with the cucumber sweetness to make a flavor somewhat like a very rustic and strange 7up. The color is a lot like Mountain Dew. It fermented vigorously in the bucket for a week, then settled down fast. We tasted it then, and it’s really hot, as in high alcohol burny. It was too raw to get a flavor profile, but not gross or foul. I’ll probably rack it another time or two to see if it clears up and settles down. There doesn’t seem to be much fermentation going on now. Definitely a fun experiment using mostly stuff from our brew pantry, plus a couple bucks worth of citrus fruit. Stay tuned for the next taste test.