Friday, October 14, 2011

Ground Cherry Wine

We love ground cherries, also called "Cape Gooseberry". It's not a relative of the real gooseberry, but is sometimes called that. We call them "ground cherries" and they are delicious!

The key to their superb flavour is to eat them only when they are fully ripe. They fall off the bush when they are still a bit green, sometimes they fall off when they are really green. They need to sit out at room temperature for days to dry the husk and ripen. They are ripe when they are a bit orange and not just yellow. The skin also takes on a slightly translucent quality.

We often have large baskets full of them ripening on the counter. This year, due to all the rain we have had, I spread them out on screens dry and to help prevent mildew. Many grew mildew in the husk anyway, but were still good to eat. They just had to be washed and wiped off first. The mildew only grows on the husk, leaving the fruit whole and unharmed, although a few fruits had gotten moldy enough to throw out.
In spite of this, I managed to accumulate enough ripe ground cherries in the freezer to make about 6 gallons of wine. We grew a LOT of ground cherries! I planted a few rows of ground cherries in the garden but we also had about that same amount reseed themselves along the edge of the garden where they grew last year. I knew I was going to need a lot for wine, so I left them there. (I spent quite a bit of time this year, weeding them out of the strawberries. They really reseed!)

I froze them in buckets and when I had reached about 5 gallons of frozen berries, I made wine. I started with about 25-30 pounds of berries, previously frozen and soft.

I covered them with water in my two large pots and used the hand blender to roughly cut them up. Then I followed my usual wine making routine.

I have begun using an acid test kit, since I am making wines with a lot of different things. I knew the ground cherries would be a bit low on the acid, so I added three white tea bags for the tannin and tested the must when it was ready to make, after boiling, etc. It tested at about a 3.5 - 4 so I added 3 teaspoons of acid blend, bringing it up to about a 6.5 - 7.

Here's the ground cherry wine recipe:

25-30 pounds of ripe ground cherries
23 cups sugar
3 white tea bags
3 teaspoons acid blend
3 teaspoons pectic enzyme
Water to make 6 gallons of wine

I have this 5 gallon carbuoy full and a one gallon jug, as well.

It's a beautiful colour!
I now have six large carbuoys of wine, making. They are: ground cherry, wild grape, strawberry, raspberry, rose petal and rhubarb. I have enough hibiscus petals in the freezer to make another one. I just need another carbuoy. I might wait on that until I bottle the rhubarb, which should be soon.

I also have a few one gallon jugs making, as well. They are: 2 wild grape, 1 ground cherry, maple, apple and chocolate mint. If the chocolate mint is as good as I think it will be, I might consider making 5 gallons of it next year. At the rate that stuff spreads, I'm sure I'll have enough leaves for it by then!

I do love making wine, especially from materials I have grown or foraged myself!


MikeH said...

We grew them last year and found that they require a good amount of space. One thing to be aware of: any greenish berries should be discarded, since they contain solanine.

Lots of info here -

Providence Acres Farm said...

Good point about the green ones. I knew that but it should be pointed out to people. They also don't taste that good until they are ripe and at their sweetest.

They are indeed space intensive! That and the fact that they have to be hand picked, is probably why they are so expensive in the stores, when they are available.

But they are delicious in a salad, as filling for turnovers or made into jam!

Providence Acres Farm said...

AND they grow from seed to berry in one season, so if you are just starting your berry, wine and pie garden, these are great things to grow. Chichiquelites, (garden huckleberry, solanum nigrum) as well, go from seed to berry in one season. I didn't have enough of those for wine this year.

icebear said...

What do they taste like? the sunny yellow color in the carboy is lovely!

Providence Acres Farm said...

They taste like a cross between a pineapple and a tomato. Sounds odd, I know, but it sure is good!

Carolyn Myre said...

I too grow a lot of things on the farm and most of it inevitably makes its way into my wine making!

I'm considering the ground cherries for wine. How many plants would you think gives enough for 6 gals of wine? And how did it turn out for you anyways? Sounds great!

Providence Acres Farm said...

It turned out great but needs time to age, just like all other wines, to be at it's best.

I had about 12 plants but didn't need that much!

Carolyn Myre said...

Thank you for your feedback. I'm going to try this out next spring for sure!