Arizona Prickly Pear Wine

Without having some sort of wine making mentor, I have had to rely on the use of books and some rough internet recipes to convert a 5 gallon recipe down to my 1 gallon recipe. Prickly Pear wine is so region-specific and unique, you just do not come across this recipe very often. So I wanted to share my tried experiences here.

Prickly Pear Wine Recipe (modified from this fruit wine recipe on Adventures in Homebrewing)

Ingredients (1 Gallon Recipe)

  • prickly pear fruit (3 quarts full or so)
  • wine tannin (or 1 and 1/4 cup raisins)
  • 1 -2 gallons filtered or distilled water
  • 2.5 pounds plain, granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon acid blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast energizer
  • 1 packet wine yeast (I used premier rouge)
  • Campden Tablets

HOW TO MAKE WINE

STEP 1 (Preparing the fruits)

Coming from a cactus, this wine has a prickly beginning. The fruits you will use to go into the wine are naturally covered in spines. I find that when they get me, it also becomes very itchy, and definitely best to be avoided. This first step is really the hardest part, and when you’re the most likely to come in contact with the spines. You will often hear about the burning method, which I really don’t see how anyone has time for. I have found a quick and easy way to prep the fruits for wine making.

Rinse the fruits and and then boil them for just a few minutes to soften them.

Place into a blender and catch the large pieces (and seeds) first. You do not need to blend for very long, just chunk it up. If you blend for too long you will get the flavor of the potent seeds mixed in with your juice flavor. Then strain that first blend through a larger pasta type strainer. That will catch your large seeds and pieces of fruit.

Next strain that juice through a fine mesh cheese cloth or similar to get final seeds/spines out, although the boiling softens and rids of most of the spines, too.

STEP 2

Now at this point you want to be sure you sanitize EVERYTHING you are working with. I use StarSan high foaming sanitizer and have a spray bottle of the diluted mix that I use. I also fill the sink with a diluted mix that I drop all of my tools into. This includes the carboy, funnels, my hands, the counter, etc. Literally anything that will come in contact with this carboy as you are preparing your wine.

You can now pour the strained liquid of prickly pear juice into 1 gallon fermentation carboy (mine filled about ΒΌ of the jug.) 

Next you’ll want to hydrate your yeast. For this batch I am using the Premiere Rouge yeast. I learned to use the entire packet even for a 1 gallon carboy because this ensures that you start a healthy fermentation and do not overwork the yeast in the jug, which can cause off-flavors. I added one packet of wine yeast to 1 cup of warm water, and let it bubble and fizz up about 10 minutes.

Juice in carboy pictured above, before adding ingredients and water.

STEP 3

While the yeast hydrates, mix together all of the wine making ingredients except yeast at this point. You can use the wine tannin listed above, or the 1 and a 1/2 cup of raisins. I made a batch with each, and I’ll let you know which one turns out better when they’re done. Put your sanitized rubber stopper in the top, use your finger to cover the airlock hole, and give the jug a good few shakes to mix everything in. Then you can add your newly hydrated yeast, fill the rest of the carboy with water, and shake some more. You add just enough water so that the liquid makes a full gallon in the jar (not to top, but right about where it starts to narrow). Allow this mixture (the must) to ferment for 5 to 7 days. You should start to see some foaming activity within 24 hours of adding the wine yeast. Typically, 70% of the fermentation activity will occur during this 5 to 7 day period.

STEP 5

After 5 to 7 days rack the wine into second carboy (my gravity reading here is 0.050), carefully, so as to leave the sediment behind and raisins behind. If necessary, add water back to make 1 gallon.

STEP 6

Attach the wine airlock and fill it approximately half-way with (santized – StarSan) water. Allow the juice to ferment for an additional 4-6 week period or until it becomes completely clear. You will ideally verify with your wine hydrometer that the fermentation has completed before continuing on to step 7 (bottling before the fermentation is complete can cause bottles to explode from the pressure!). The wine hydrometer should read between 0.990 and 0.998 on the Specific Gravity scale and your hydrometer will fall very far into your test tube. Be sure to give the wine plenty of time to “clear” (not foggy) before bottling.

STEP 7

Once the wine has cleared and is of an acceptable gravity reading (mine was .99 at bottling), siphon it off of the sediment again into another container (I use a stainless steel pail or a plastic fermentation bucket used for beer making). Stir in one Campden tablet that has been crushed and then bottle – using here mainly because we are working with raw fruits. The prepackaged wine bases really do not need one but there is, of course, a lot of debate here. It depends on how primal you want to be in your wine making.

BOTTLING

When siphoning off the sediment, unlike the first time you siphoned the wine, you want to leave ALL of the sediment behind, even if you lose a little wine from the bottom. This sediment can cause off flavors in the wine. I used an auto siphon racking cane (one of my most favorite investments in home brewing) to do this and leave the sediment behind.

This is the point where I smell and taste my wine. This one smelled very alcoholic at this point but had a nice sweet flavor, and was very brightly colored!

You then siphon the wine out of the second bucket, and carefully into your sanitized bottles of choice. I always just use used-and-washed wine bottles.

For bottling, I fill to right above where the bottle starts to narrow. Next I seal the corks with my favorite Ferrari corker and age the fruit wines at least 6 months, and ideally at least a year.

ADDITIONAL HOME WINE MAKING NOTES

During the wine making process, it is very important to keep fermentation temperatures stable between 70-75 degrees F. Getting the fermentation too cool could result in the fermentation stopping before all the alcohol is made. Getting the fermentation too warm could result in off-flavors in the wine.

The wine will be dry tasting when done fermenting. If you prefer your wines sweeter, simply add sugar, honey, etc. to taste. However, you must first add a wine making stabilizer such as Potassium Sorbate, or there will be a strong chance of re-fermentation occurring in the bottles. I recommend just letting it work its own magic the first few times, before back-sweetening to see what happens in the bottle on its own in the 6 month period.

Still have questions? I watched a lot of videos by City Steading Brews to troubleshoot and begin many of my projects. They clarify in detail more about campden tablets, wine making and trouble shooting.

NOTE: This blog includes affiliate links, which means I may receive a nominal commission when you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. I have not been paid for my opinion and any commentary on the efficiency of a product is solely my own opinion and experience.

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