Central Florida’s Agri-Leader
Kathy Giller and her husband, Roger Giller, didnt plan on becoming grape farmers and winemakers. It just kind of happened.
Its a hobby that went wild, smiled Kathy, co-owner of the Grapes of Kath vineyard, just off of SR 66.
The couple decided to put an arbor up in their yard in south Sebring so they could enjoy homegrown grapes. Then people started asking them if they planned to make wine, Roger recalled. A lot of people, he clarified.
They finished building the arbor and their vineyard, and then started into hobbyist winemaking. We put a few rows out there and it just grew, said Kathy.
The Gillers dont sell their wine commercially. Instead, they sell their grapes, fresh or frozen, give winemaking classes and support, and sell winemaking supplies from a small shop in front of their home they call The Pour House. Inside this outbuilding is also where they ferment their own wine. They currently have four big containers of aging wine protected from the sun by T-shirts.
They also give classes to individuals, couples or small groups who want to learn how to make their own wine. And how does one make wine? A printed handout describes the entire procedure from start to finish.
You start by heading out into the six-acre vineyard to pick your grapes, or you can purchase frozen grapes from the Gillers. Theyll run them through the crusher, sell you any supplies you need, tell you what to do next and help you troubleshoot any problems you might have.
The grapes can also be foot stomped. We had a foot stomped bunch of grapes that won a gold medal from the Highlands County Grape Growers Association, said Kathy, who has several bottles of award-winning hobbyist wines on display in the Pour House.
But youll have to wait until at least August to harvest any of the Gillers grapes. This year, their frozen stock ran out for the first time ever, said Kathy.
Thats because the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food Safety conducted a test of the grapes and found no pesticide residue on any of the fruit.
We have 100 percent chemical-free grapes, Kathy stated. The Gillers dont use pesticide, they fertilize with organic fertilizer, and they only use herbicide to keep weeds down.
When aphids appear, they are washed off with soap and water.
The Gillards grow 13 varieties of native Florida muscadine grapes as well as bunch grapes like the Conquistador, Lake Emerald, FAMU 99 and a Greek variety, said Kathy.
The grapes come in all colors for making white, red, or blush wines.
Rogers favorite is a dry red that he sips cold at the end of the day while enjoying the view of his vineyard. Indeed, on a breezy spring day with the vineyard as your view, the property has a distinct Mediterranean feel.
The Dry Noble wine (made from the Noble grape) has a high alcohol content and you can feel the warmth right away as it goes down. The Sweet Noble table wine is light and fruity and very popular.
Kathys shared her favorite: We make a port wine from the muscadine that is absolutely wonderful! That strong, sweet dessert wine gets its flavor from the addition of blackberry brandy.
Indeed, winemakers can get creative with all types of fruits to flavor their wines, including strawberry, grapefruit, loquat, starfruit, and more. One of the benefits of making your own wine is being able to tweak the flavor to suit your palate rather than trying to find something at the store that you like, Kathy said.
Another benefit is that homemade wine doesnt contain added sulfites or other chemicals used in commercial wines.
And she should know. Kathy has been president of the Highlands County Grape Growers Association for more than 10 years. The approximately 32-member organization holds local wine judging contests and shares information about winemaking.
Kathy fields calls, helping to answer the questions of other wine hobbyists. She and Roger have also donated wine to an American Cancer Society dinner and do free tastings at art gatherings and other local events.
And while there are no grapes on the vines or in the freezer at the moment, that doesnt mean they arent still busy. Throughout the winter they prune the vines. Soon, Kathy will begin propagating young plants, expanding the vineyard to meet the needs of what she expects will be another busy season when the grapes are ready to be harvested in August.
Its a lot of work. Theres always something that needs doing, she said. But at the same time, its a labor of love. We enjoy the whole thing, she added.
Purchasing just the perfect gift for a man may be difficult at times, especially if one is going for something unique.
Luckily, the Wisconsin Rapids area has shops that will ignite ideas for whatever his interests are.
For men who enjoy a tasty beer and perhaps would like to attempt in making one, Central Brew Supply, located on Highway 73 North, has the items needed for beginning and experienced beer, wine and soda brewers.
Owned by Scott and Deb Brehm, the couple began the shop out of their own hobby of making homemade wine.
“I would have to travel to Stevens Point (to purchase brewing supplies),” Scott Brehm said. “It was so frustrating to have to use so much gas to purchase one ingredient.”
Ranging from starter kits for beginners to unique items such as carboys, containers to store the brews as they ferment, Central Brew Supply has a wide range in inventory.
“We are local, easy to find and have what is needed for home brewing,” Brehm said. “If we don’t have (an item), we will get it.”
For a man whose idea of relaxation includes time beating old-school video games, 1-Up Games, which is located on 12th Avenue South, is the place to visit.
With an array of used video games ranging from Atari to newer systems, owner Seth Olsen began his business in 2011 after his children gave him the idea.
“My kids thought I had too many videogames and thought I should open a store, so I did,” Olsen said with a laugh.
Since most of Olsen’s stock comes from used gaming equipment, with some that people trade for in-store credit, Olsen thinks his shop is ideal for gift giving by being both cost-effective and unique.
“I have older games that no other place does, which I guess makes it unique,” Olsen said. “(By shopping here) you can get what people want without breaking the bank.”
Olsen also takes orders upon request.
“If a customer was looking for something in particular, I could find it,” he said.
Whether the definition of sports pertains to cheering on a favorite team or hunting the elusive 30-point buck, GL Hobby Sports and Engraving and Timberline Archery, Bait and Tackle are places to shop.
GL Hobby Sports and Engraving, located in the Rapids Mall, has a wide array of sports memorabilia including autographed collectibles that would satisfy any sports fan’s wish list. The locally owned shop also offers a variety of apparel ranging from professional leagues to apparel for Wisconsin Rapids Rafters fans, according to their website.
Several phone calls were not answered for the owners of the business to comment on this article.
Timberline Archery, Bait and Tackle, located on Highway 13 South, is willing to assist a customer when it comes to outdoorsy needs.
“We cater to the customer and help them out to the best of our ability to make sure they purchase what they need,” said Roger Peterson, who has owned the shop since 1999.
Peterson specializes in archery sales and repair as well as bait, being open at 6 a.m. on Monday through Saturday for ice fishers.
“A gift certificate is always a great idea so he can get what he wants, because archery equipment is personable,” Peterson said. “Tip ups and jig poles are a must for ice fishing. A pre-paid gift card for live bait also goes over well.”
South Wood County has a variety of stores to fulfill needs of any gift requested. Next week’s edition in this four-part series will be gift ideas for her.
Editor’s Note: The VOICE staff developed a list of interesting gifts that can be purchased locally for this holiday season. The first installment of these stories are about gifts for a man.
Central Brew Supply
Owners: Scott and Deb Brehm
Address: 3542 Highway 73 North
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
Owner: Seth Olsen
Address: 161 12th Avenue South
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
GL Hobby Sports and Engraving
Address: Rapids Mall – 555 West Grand Avenue
Hours: Monday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Timberline Archery, Bait and Tackle
Owner: Roger Peterson
Address: 8131 Highway 13 South
Hours: Bait shop: Monday through Saturday open at 6 a.m.; Archery shop: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It is a shared passion for wine that has brought them together.
The dozen or so men and women that belong to GreyT Fermenters, which is accepting new members, meet about once each month to chat about red and white wine, share winemaking secrets, problems and success stories and sample their homemade merlot, pinot gris, cabernet Franc and other creations.
They crush grapes together, observe fermentation, create new wine blends, drink, eat and socialize.
“It’s a lot of fun. And you get something out of it in the end. Any project where you get to drink some alcohol at the end of it is fun,” said the club’s newest member Ben Brown of Desboro.
“You also meet new friends. And I enjoy the do-it-yourself aspect of winemaking as well. It’s one more thing that you can create yourself.”
On Saturday morning, members gathered north of Owen Sound at the home of Ted Loughead, who started the amateur winemaking club nine years ago, for arguably the most fun day on the club’s calendar.
Dozens of lugs filled with fresh grapes from California had just arrived the night before and had been stacked inside Loughead’s garage. The grapes had been pre-ordered by each club member, who paid for and selected only the varieties and quantity that they planned to turn into homemade wine.
For several hours, club members worked together to ready the grapes for fermentation.
Grapes for red wine were loaded lug by lug into a stainless steel machine that crushed the fruit and removed and separated the stems. The crushed grapes, with the skins still on, were then poured into pails where they will be left to ferment with the help of yeast and bacteria. Later, the grapes will be pressed.
Grapes for white wine were loaded into a custom press. The juice was extracted and put into pails to ferment, with no skins.
The pails were then loaded by each club member into the back of their cars. They were to be taken home where they will be left in a warm place for the fermentation process.
“I like to think this is more of an art than a science,” Loughead said, as club members worked to crush grapes.
Homemade winemakers are for the most part a frugal bunch, he said, and like the fact that they can make wine for about $3 a bottle.
“These wines we make can compare to wines that go for $12 to $15. If you’re really good, it can compare to wine that costs $25 to $30 a bottle,” he said.
Bernie Range of Big Bay said he is still improving the art of winemaking, even after 35 years of creating his own.
He said he has learned a lot from his fellow club members, many of whom enter wines into competitions where medals and prizes are up for grabs.
“It’s about crafting the perfect wine,” he said.
Range said he has created wine from peaches, pears, raspberries, choke cherries, even plumbs and rhubarb.
The flavour of wine, made from fresh fruit, is more intense, he said, and much better than wine made from kits.
People interested in joining the GreyT Fermenters, which is affiliated with the Amateur Winemakers of Ontario, can call Loughead at 519-372-1746. The annual membership fee is $50. Club members also pay for the amount of grapes they want to turn into wine.
For the second year in a row, co-champions ruled over the other winemakers Tuesday during the Homemade Wine judging event at the Winery at the Holy Cross Abbey in conjunction with the Fremont County Fair.
The first place and grand prize went to Rod Bellew for his cherry wine, and first and grand prize to Berton Lamm for his chancellor grape, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, said Superintendent Dana VanWagner.
“It’s a blend of three different grapes,” Lamm said. “I think it’s neat they have a (co-champion). That way, you have two top wines showing the top honors. It’s neat to have a fruit wine come in that’s a standout, too.”
Lamm’s interest in winemaking began 10 years ago when a friend gave him his extra juice to make his own wine. Since the, Lamm has honed his skills to make the prize winning wines.
“We have good years and bad years,” Lamm said. “The key secret is to play with it and not get in a hurry to bottle it until it’s got good flavors. Then, the other secret is to let it age after you bottle it, especially with the grape wine because (when they are) young, they just don’t have the flavors and smoothness they need to have. By letting them age two, three or four years, then you get the robustness and the flavors.”
In past years, Lamm had won several prizes for his wines in this competition.
Bellew said he also was pleased to be one of the co-grand champions.
“I’m happy,” he said. “It’s a fun time to visit with people and have the food. It’s a good event.”
His interest in winemaking began more than 20 years ago.
“I learned (to make wine) from practice,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who make wine and I associated with them. I learned the ferment methods and eventually you just do it on your own.”
He also won second place with his elderberry wine during a previous competition.
VanWagner said the number of entries was down from 22 entries last year.
“We had 11 wines,” he said. “It’s kind of a disappointment.”
Other winners are as follows:
Berton Lamm, second, choke cherry;
Cathy Rabe, third, cherry;
Lynn Houghton, second, chancellor blackberry blend;
Berton Lamm, third, chancellor zinfandel blend.
MAYVILLE, N.Y. — A Chautauqua County Jail inmate’s attempt at some home brewing has landed him in more hot water with the authorities, county sheriff’s deputies said this morning.
Raheem A. Butts, 21, of Jamestown, N.Y., faces a charge of promoting prison contraband after deputies said he was caught making “jailhouse hooch” in his jail cell.
A full jar of the homemade wine, which Sheriff Joseph Gerace said is made out of food items like bread and juice that are left to ferment, was found during a cell search.
Butts is in jail on a charge of criminal sale of a narcotic drug, deputies said.
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TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. If you heard our interview last week about how fermentation changes milk to yogurt and cabbage to sauerkraut, you may have felt cheated that we didn’t talk about how the process of fermentation creates wine, beer, cheese and salami, which is why we now present part two of that interview.
Sandor Katz is the author of “The Art of Fermentation,” and has taught hundreds of fermentation workshops around the country. His book explains how and why bacteria transform beverages in the fermentation process, and why some of these foods have probiotic qualities that are good for the digestive track. He also offers advice about how to make fermented foods. Katz grew up in New York and now lives in Tennessee, where he ferments many vegetables from his garden.
Let’s talk about wine, which is fermented fruit. Why are grapes such a natural for fermentation?
SANDOR KATZ: Well, grapes have a really great balance of sugars and acids and tannins, so that they are a, you know, particularly good nourishment for yeast. I mean making wine from grapes is incredibly easy. It’s easy to get the juice out of grapes. I mean “I Love Lucy,” I think, you know, sort of showed us all how to make wine. I mean if you stomp on grapes it releases the juices.
And, you know, when I was on a farm in Italy a couple of years ago at the grape harvest, well, we weren’t stomping with our feet but they had this very clever little set of rollers that crushed the grapes a little bit. And so we picked the grapes and crushed them into grape juice with the grapes and stems floating in it, then we went to eat lunch and by the time we came back from eating lunch, the crushed grape juice was bubbling vigorously. The fermentation had begun immediately. So grapes are really easy to ferment. But any fruit can be fermented.
And like where I live in Tennessee, we have this great tradition called Country Wines. And so actually, yesterday I was driving on the road and saw a plum tree dropping plums all over the road. And I stopped my car and I picked a big bag of plums, and then when I got home, we mixed up some sugar water and poured sugar water over the plums – we’ll have plum wine shortly. So you really can make wine out of any kind of a fruit or even you can make flower-flavored wines or vegetable-flavored wines or herb-flavored wines. You know, the idea of, you know, fermenting a sugary liquid into alcohol, you know, can be applied with, you know, all sorts ingredients beyond the most famous ones, like grapes.
GROSS: So what is it that turns the juice into alcohol? Is it the yeast?
KATZ: Yes. Yes. I mean, you know, yeast consumes sugar and transform it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
GROSS: OK. And is there a certain kind of yeast that you use to make wine?
KATZ: Well, you know, all fruits are covered with yeast. Yeast is really everywhere, so certainly…
GROSS: Oh, so you’re not adding yeast. It just has the yeast in it – for the grapes, anyways.
KATZ: Yes. Yes. Yes. Really, I mean all sweet foods have yeast. Yeast are just everywhere and they find their way to all the sweet things. The skins of grapes and plums and blueberries and other really dark-colored fruits, you can actually see a little white film and that white film includes lots of different types of microorganisms, including yeast.
Usually when people talk about yeast in relation to the fermentation of fruit into wine, they’re talking about saccharomyces cerevisiae, that’s the most famous yeast. If you go to buy a packet of yeast, that’s what you’re buying. And so that’s the yeast that, you know, people have been cultivating for thousands of years. But, you know, all sweet fruits have yeast on them. All honey incorporates yeast. Yeast is very easy to, you know, find on any of the, you know, foods that you might be fermenting, and it’s just a matter of, you know, kind of working with it to develop the yeast that’s there. So what I’m doing with these, you know, plums sitting in sugar water is stirring it frequently, and this basically distributes yeast activity and the stirring introduces oxygen which can really stimulate the yeast growth and proliferation.
GROSS: Once you’ve made wine you have to, you know, bottle it and make sure there’s no air in it. That, you know, that the wine is exposed to the air because if it’s exposed to the air for a period of time it’s going to turn to vinegar.
KATZ: Well, yeah. I mean you really have a number of options. I mean one way you can do it is enjoy it fresh. You know, ferment it for two weeks and you already have, you know, more than half of the potential alcohol has been produced and you can just have a party and enjoy your wine without ever bottling it or aging it. That would be a green or young wine, partially developed and, you know, in a lot of the ancient indigenous traditions of making alcohol, people had no means for fermenting it to dryness so people drank, you know, fresher, more lightly fermented beverages.
But, yes, you’re correct. If you want to ferment it for dryness, you know, meaning to the point where all of the sugars are converted into alcohol, then once your bubbling peaks and begins to slow down, then you need to transfer it to a bottle – a different type of vessel where it won’t be exposed to oxygen. So typically, we move it into a vessel that’s called a carboy, which is a narrow-neck vessel that looks like what’s on a water cooler, and then you put this device in it that’s called an airlock that enables carbon dioxide that’s being produced to escape but doesn’t allow air with oxygen from outside the vessel, you know, in to allow for vinegar formation. Then once the bubbling stops, typically people will siphon it into a second vessel, which can restart stuck fermentation and get the last of the sugars to be fermented. And only then after it stops again would you bottle it and cork it for long-term storage. And, you know, as we all know, you know, storing wine can really allow the flavors to mature and become, you know, much more refined and wonderful.
GROSS: OK. If you’re just joining us, my guest is Sandor Katz. He’s the author of the new book “The Art of Fermentation.” Let’s take a short break here, then we’ll talk some more.
This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: If you’re just joining us, my guest is Sandor Katz. He’s the author of the new book “The Art of Fermentation.” Fermentation is his thing. It’s what he writes about. It’s what he spends a lot of his time doing is making fermented foods and teaching people how to do it.
We’ve talked a little bit about making wine. Now beer is made out of grain, not fruit. So what’s the difference in how you would ferment grain to make an alcoholic beverage?
KATZ: Grain-based alcoholic beverages, they’re much more technically demanding than fruit-based or honey-based alcoholic beverages, because fruit and honey will really spontaneously ferment into alcohol, whereas grains, which are complex carbohydrates, long chains of carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates, need to be predigested. They need to have those complex carbohydrates broken down into simple carbohydrates.
In the Western tradition of beer making, we do this through malting, which is germination or sprouting and that sets in motion enzymatic changes that breaks down the starches into sugars. In the Asian tradition molds are used, which accomplish the same kind of enzymatic breakdown. And really, the most ancient method of doing this is chewing, using our human saliva and the enzymes that are in our saliva to break down starches into sugars, and then you brew the beer from the grains that have already been malted or otherwise enzymatically broken down into starches.
Beer is wonderful and, you know, there’s a thriving movement of home brewers all around the United States of people making beers themselves. Just last night, I had some Nepalese-style millet beer. That’s a warm beer. You know, beers are made out of every kind of grain in every part of the world and, you know, in my limited explorations, they are all delicious.
GROSS: So you said that sometimes with beer you can chew the grain?
GROSS: Like chew the barley to like mash it up? Like has anybody really made beer that way, where there is a lot of people like chewing the grain and spitting it out? Like that doesn’t sound really appetizing.
KATZ: Well, I mean this is a traditional method in the Andes Mountains of South America for making a corn beer called chicha. There are also examples of, you know, beers that have been made in other parts of the world using this process. It’s generally regarded as the most ancient form of enzymatic transformation of starches and grains and tubers into sugars that are fermentable into alcohol. So I don’t think that there are a lot of people doing it these days. I’ve done a number of, you know, experiments, you know, in my own practice and, you know, gotten people to sit around and, you know, chew corn or in my most recent experiment, chew potatoes with me, you know, to produce an alcoholic beverage out of them. And it’s fun and some people get really, really freaked out at the suggestion of it.
GROSS: I could see why.
KATZ: Well, then you cook – I mean…
GROSS: But it’s…
KATZ: …then you brew it after that.
GROSS: Oh, oh, oh, you cook it after that?
KATZ: Yeah. Then you brew it after that. You cook it for a really long time so, you know, I mean I understand how, you know, conceptually that it’s difficult for people but, you know, really, you know, anything that would be alive in the saliva that chewed it gets, you know, gets destroyed during the cooking. So I don’t think it’s, you know, any kind of, you know, danger.
GROSS: I feel better already. OK. Very good.
KATZ: And chicha is really delicious.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. OK.
GROSS: Let’s talk about cheese, which is also a fermented food. What’s the difference between making cheese and making yogurt?
KATZ: Well, with yogurt you’re typically not removing any liquid. You’re just, you know, it’s kind of this magical process where you’re transforming the liquid into a solid. With cheeses, typically you’re removing some of the liquid. You know, most often this is done with a group of enzymes that we call rennet, and the rennet curdles the milk. The milk solids and fats all come together and then there is a byproduct, which is this thin, yellow, liquid that’s still really quite nutritious called the whey. But part of what preserves cheese is the removal of liquid from the milk so it becomes more solid. I mean we could really think of, you know, a chunk of cheddar or Parmesan cheese as, you know, a form of preserved milk. I mean think how stable that is, you know, the cheese compared to the milk. And one reason for this is the removal of liquid. Another reason for this is the acidification. So just as with sauerkraut, the acidification makes it impossible for bacteria that we would regard as pathogenic or threatening to us to develop, because they can’t tolerate an acidic environment.
GROSS: So how does fermentation apply to meat?
KATZ: Well, I mean meat is certainly the most perishable of all the foods that people eat – meat and fish. And so, you know, it has really been, you know, imperative for people to, you know, figure out ways of preserving meat. And people use a range of techniques to preserve meat without refrigeration, including drying, salting and smoking. And, you know, sometimes it’s been a little bit elusive, you know, which cured and preserved meat products are products of fermentation. But in most of them there’s at least some incidental fermentation that enhances the flavor of the meat, but I think that the clearest example of a fermented meat process would be salami. So basically salami is ground meat that is mixed with salt and curing salts and spices and a little bit of sugar. And what the little bit of sugar does is it supports a lactic-acid fermentation. The nutrient for lactic-acid bacteria that meat lacks is carbohydrate. So by adding some carbohydrate, you promote lactic-acid development, and so the lactic acid becomes part of what enables that salami to just hang on a string in a delicatessen for months and months.
GROSS: So how did you become, as you describe it, a fermentation fetishist?
KATZ: Well, the development of my interest in fermentation has a few stages. When I was in my 20s I did quite a bit of dietary experimentation, and for a while I was following a macrobiotic diet, and that was when I first became aware that there was some association with eating these, you know, live fermented foods and digestion. And I started noticing that whenever I would eat sauerkraut or pickles that the flavor of the lactic acid, even the smell of it would make my salivary glands start secreting. And so I just started really feeling how these foods got my digestive juices flowing. But it wasn’t until I moved from New York City to a community in rural Tennessee and got involved in keeping a garden that I ever actually tried fermenting anything myself. And what motivated me was, you know, the practical desire to make use of the bounty of the garden, you know. It came as a little bit of a surprise to me that all the cabbages are ready at the same time and all of the radishes are ready at the same time. So this is really a practical dilemma that, you know, gardeners and people who grow food have always faced.
And, you know, this is really – has been the incentive for people to, you know, develop fermentation methods. I mean, really, agriculture makes no sense without fermentation and, you know, that’s what got me to look in “The Joy of Cooking” and learn how to make sauerkraut for the first time.
GROSS: You’re very public about this so I feel comfortable asking. But I know you’ve had HIV for many years and, you know, you’re on one of the drug regimens which has really helped you a lot. Does your – does having HIV connect at all with the kind of emphasis on fermented foods that you’ve had?
KATZ: Well, living with HIV has just forced think a lot about, you know, what I can do in my life to, you know, help keep myself healthy. You know, think of it as, you know, rituals of self-care and, you know, these have to go beyond, you know, popping pills. It’s, you know, thinking about good nutrition. It’s thinking about, you know, things that reduce stress and, you know, just, you know, observing how fermented foods improve my digestion.
And, you know, learning about how, you know, probiotic bacteria really stimulate immune function, you know, and, you know, generally feeling good day to day has really, you know, confirmed the idea that these foods are part of a strategy for keeping healthy. I mean, I am very suspicious of, you know, miracle cures, panaceas, you know, promises of specific benefit from specific foods.
But, you know, as a group, you know, these foods really can help people digest their food better, get more nutrients out of their food and have, you know, better overall immune functioning. And these are great benefits, you know, regardless of whether they cure any particular disease.
GROSS: So what did you have for breakfast today?
KATZ: I had eggs and toast.
GROSS: OK. Very plain.
KATZ: Well, OK. But I mean, I would just point out that, you know – and I had coffee. I mean, most people eat fermented foods every day. I mean, not all fermented foods…
GROSS: Wait, wait. What’s fermented in that list there?
KATZ: All bread is fermented and coffee is fermented.
GROSS: Oh, see, I don’t think of them as fermented foods. I’m not thinking correctly.
KATZ: Well, you know, it’s like, you know, you need to, you know, in typical contemporary breadmaking, you know, you add your yeast and the yeast activity is what rises the bread, the carbon dioxide that’s produced by the fermentation. In traditional breadmaking, you use natural leavens, which are mixed communities of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that are really found on all grains.
And so it’s a slightly slower process, but actually improves the bread’s nutritional profile, introduces more complex flavors and makes the bread storable for a much longer period of time. But either way, the bread is definitely fermented because the microbial activity is, you know, sort of key to the bread not being a dense brick.
GROSS: And now you’re going to tell me coffee is fermented?
KATZ: Yeah. Coffee is. Coffee, as well as chocolate, are fermented on the harvesting end so we really never see it. But, you know, with coffee, it’s just the freshly picked beans are moistened and, you know, held together, you know, in some sort of a box or vessel and they are fermented for a few days before they are dried and roasted.
GROSS: All right. Well, Sandor Katz, thank you for telling me a lot that I didn’t know about fermented food. Much appreciated. Thank you so much.
KATZ: Well, thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be on your show.
GROSS: Sandor Katz is the author of “The Art of Fermentation.” You can read an excerpt on our website, freshair.npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.
September is one of my favorite months. It marks the beginning of crisp fall weather, pumpkin ales on store shelves and two weekends dedicated to homemade wine making.
My husband’s family has been making their own wine for almost 20 years now. They’re known as “garagistas”, and for the past several years I’ve been a lucky recipient of the wine and a proud member of the winemaking crew.
My father-in-law, Ralph, first experienced homemade winemaking with his grandfather, who used a hand-cranked wooden crusher to make his Zinfandel wine. Sadly, after he passed away, the family tradition was lost. It wasn’t until Ralph’s 72-year-old grandmother remarried another home vintner that he would experience the uniting qualities of homemade wine.
Years later as a reporter, Ralph wrote a feature story about young Philadelphians practicing a new method in making homemade wine using pasteurized grape juice. The experience inspired Ralph to start making his own wine using the same method, but he ultimately longed to go the traditional route. He sought out two South Philly winemakers known as the “Blues Brothers”, and joined their clubhouse to learn more. Year after year, Ralph helped out with the brother’s Cabernet production, absorbing as much information as he could along the way.
Soon it was time for Ralph to convert his own garage into a winery, and began expanding each year with new equipment. Many vintages later, and with the help of the entire family, he’s won several awards for his homemade Zinfandel and even wrote a book, aptly titled “Garagista“, that chronicles his experiences and the winemaking process.
The two weekends involve a lot of work and we usually start early. With a team of four to five we begin by unloading and stacking the crates of California grapes. Next up, the crushing of the grapes into a foamy mash. The stems are discarded and the mash goes into several large containers where they are left to ferment for a week.
The following weekend involves pressing the grapes in a hydropress and then pouring the juice into oak barrels while making sure to filter out any remaining pulp and grape skins. This continues for several hours until all the mash has been pressed into a vibrant magenta-colored juice. After cleaning the entire garage, exhausted and with sore backs, we are met with a delicious meal prepared by my mother-in-law Rosemarie–usually a highly anticipated chicken parmigiana.
At the end of the all the hard work, we are left wondering about what the juice will bring us the following year–each batch brings a new surprise–but for the time being, we are more than content enjoying last year’s vintage.
My neighbor has kindly offered all the grapes from her vine to make homemade wine. I have 19ltr jugs I can use to ferment it in but do I cook the grapes or just crush them before putting them in ? And what is the ratio of sugar to grape juice ? Also how do I use Campden tablets ?
Among the many types of wine available, red wine is among the best. There are many types of red wine available, although most are made using the same methods. This very exhilarating type of wine is made from black grapes, drawing their color from the skins of the grapes.
During the beginning stages of making red wine, the grapes that have been picked are put into a crusher. Here, the crusher will gently break the skins of the grapes. Depending on what type of wine is being made and the tannin that’s required, the stalks will either be used or discarded at this point. Next, the grapes are put into a fermentation vat with the skins. This can be a long process, taking several weeks to complete. If a higher temperature is used, more tannin and color will be extracted from the grapes.
When making soft wines, the whole grapes are fermented using sealed vats. The carbon dioxide that becomes trapped in the sealed vats ferment the grapes under pressure, which is normally a quick process, taking only a few days. Keep in mind, the color and tannin content of the wine is based on how long the fermenting process takes. If the fermenting process takes a long time, the wine will generally hold more flavor and color.
The remaining bulk of the grapes will go through a press, being crushed to create a tannic wine. Sometimes, this tannic wine is added with a free run wine in order to add a bit more structure to the wine blend. Both the press and vat wine are then mixed and transferred to either tanks or barrels for a second fermentation. The second fermentation will take the longest, although it brings out the quality and taste from the wine.
All types of fine red wine will spend a minimum of a year in the barrels. Some types of red wine will spend a lot more time in the barrels, possibly several years. Redwine is also fine tuned with egg whites, which will suspend the yeast and other solids found in the wine downwards, before the wine is racked, filtered, and eventually bottled. Once the wine has been bottled, it is then shipped off and sold. Some wine however, will be stored for a period of time in the bottle before it is offered for sale.
The time a wine spends in the bottle is very important, although not every wine needs to spend a lot of time in the bottle. The more complex and more expensive types of red wine will benefit the most from aging in the bottle, to preserve flavor and color. The simple types of red wine however, don’t need to spend much time at all in the bottle.