You've got some fruit lying around, but you've never tried to make wine before and you aren't sure if making wine is for you. This is something that we hear all the time at Midwest, and there are some options that are very inexpensive to give fruit winemaking a try. You should know that you will still need fermentation equipment, and that's one area that you don't want to skimp on in any case. You can save some money on crushing and pressing equipment. While this equipment is very handy to own if you'll be making large amounts of wine, there are other ways to accomplish the task. You'll not only find out if you'd like to continue making fruit wine, you'll also learn how much work it is and why the pressing and crushing equipment is a great investment for the winemaking enthusiast. At the very least, you'll need one of the equipment kits listed below.
Crushing the fruit
A crusher makes this part of the process A LOT easier, but it is not necessary to make wine. If you have several people willing to roll up their sleeves, get dirty, and sweat a bit, then you can crush a bunch of fruit to make wine. You'll need is some kind of large clean container or bucket and a 2X4. You can even use that gnarled up, bowed piece that has been sitting in your garage for years; just make sure it's relatively free of debris. While placing the fruit in your container or bucket, try to remove as many of the stems as you can. Stems can make the wine very bitter and unpleasant. Once you have the fruit in the container, start breaking it up by using the 2X4. On soft fruits, like grapes, you are only trying to break the outer skin. With a hard fruit, like apples, you are trying to mush it up as much as possible.
This is a very messy process, so do yourself a favor and do it in the garage or the back yard. Wear something that you won't mind being stained by the juice that will splash up. Use some common sense here so we don't have to create an answer to, "I was crushing my fruit, but how do I get the stains off of the ceiling?" And yes, you can use your feet like the Italians do. Yep, you can make wine the same way as Lucy did on her show. You can also have the same laughs as she did on her show. There are many parts of the world that still use their feet to make wine. We don't care what those wine snobs have to say about bruised fruit. Besides, it is great exercise!
You can also use a heavy duty, stainless steel meat grinder for harder fruits. Just quarter the fruit and add it to the top of the meat grinder like you would with meat. The fruit comes out the other end all pulped up and ready to go.
ATTENTION: PLEASE DO NOT use a fruit juicer for this part of the process. We've lost count of all the people that have told us stories about burning up the motor by doing this.
Pressing the fruit
There really isn't a cheap replacement for a press, but there is a way to squeeze the juice out of the fruit without having to invest in one. Take a nylon straining bag, or even a clean pillow case will work, fill the bag ½ way full with fruit, and wring out the bag like you would a wet towel. You are not going to get every last drop out of the fruit, but you are going to get quite a bit. Again, keep in mind that this is going to be very messy, so dress accordingly. Do your best to have the juice end up in the collection container and not on you. Some wine makers will even wear rubber gloves for this because darker fruits will tend to stain your hands. There is nothing like going to the job interview on Monday with purple hands. Try to explain that one!
Be as creative as you want when trying to extract the juice from the fruit because the simple idea is to make the fruit as soft as possible so when you add pressure the juice extracts from the fruit easier. The challenge is to have the juice end up where you want it and not on you, your walls, your ceiling, etc.