I guess I have a reputation as someone who doesn’t let good produce go to waste, so recently I found myself hauling a big box of oranges out of my car. Turns out it was nearly 14 pounds of them, so I quickly got to work trying to figure out what to do with that kind of bounty.
Look, I won’t lie. When I see good fruit in need of something to do, my first thought is booze. But oranges are really acidic compared to most other fruit. I mean, who’s heard of orange wine before?
Google, as it does, let me know that orange wine has been attempted by others. Facebook, as it does, let me know that orange wine does not always come out well, so this could go a whole lot of ways.
How to Make Orange Wine
I’m the first to admit that my winemaking skills are primitive at best, and that any vintage I have a hand in benefits tremendously from extra-long aging. That said, here’s the recipe and procedure I used on July 19, 2016, to kick this puppy off.
- An electric juicer (pretty sure this is the juicer I have (aff). Inexpensive and indestructible – my kind of juicer.)
- A brewing kettle or extra large stock pot. I use Northern Brewer’s Tall Boy Brew Kettle (aff). This is certainly a spendy item, but also a beautiful and functional item that I think will provide me with great service for the rest of my life. I’ve had it a couple of years, and consider it money well spent.
- A 5-gallon or larger carboy or fermentation bucket. I put this batch into one of my old Better Bottle (aff) carboys, but only because my Big Mouth Bubbler (aff) is full of mead for the time being.
- Bung/stopper that fits your carboy, and airlock.
- Large funnel or, even better, an inexpensive auto-siphon (aff).
- Juice of oranges. My 13 pounds of oranges came out to about three quarts, although since this is a highly experimental recipe, I can’t say whether this amount is good, bad, or indifferent.
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cloves
- 2 oz chopped ginger root
- 1/4 oz sweet orange peel (aff). I had it on hand, and figured, hey! Why not! It’s orange wine!
- 1/4 oz black tea
- Yeast nutrient (aff)
- 8# sugar
- Water to five gallons. At least two gallons of water to start.
- Wine yeast. I honestly didn’t write down what I used and I’m drawing a complete blank on it. If I had to guess, Lalvin EC-1118, but it could have been D-47 as well.
- Peel and juice oranges, hopefully with an electric juicer. It’ll hurt after a while. The only way out is through.
- While you’re peeling and juicing:
Add two gallons of water to the kettle and turn it on to high heat. Throw in the cinnamon, cloves, sweet orange peel, ginger, tea, and 4 pounds (half) of the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Pour in the orange juice when juicing is complete.
- Now add in the rest of the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Top off with additional water to total five gallons (or six, if your carboy is large enough. Watch your gravity and add more sugar if needed, if you decide to go bigger).
- Bring to a boil to sanitize, then use a water bath to cool. I’ve borrowed this approach from beer making, but plenty of people use Campden tablets to kill off bugs when they make wine and skip the boil. They probably make better wine than I do, too, so there you go.
- The cooled, unfermented, pre-wine liquid is now called “must”, to which you “must” add your yeast. That’s a pun.
- Let this sit, covered securely but not airlocked, for three to five days. I just left it in the Tall Boy kettle and put a pillowcase over the lid to prevent invasion by flies. I’d give it a good smell every day and listen to the snap-crackle-pop inside through the stainless steel.
- After several days of aerobic fermentation, use a funnel or siphon to transfer the young wine into your carboy, and put it under airlock. It will remain at this stage until primary fermentation completes, possibly in several months, at which point it should be racked to a new carboy, and then again approximately monthly until it clears.
My gravity came in at 1.080, and when I transferred it to the carboy, it had fallen to 1.020. It’s continuing to bubble three weeks in, so it seems like it’s off to a good start. Will this be a pleasant, drinkable wine? Not a clue. I’ll let you know.