WILD CHILD PLUM BARLEY WINE
Plums grow wild almost everywhere in the United States, much of Canada, and throughout Europe and Asia. In fact, they are so widespread that I must assume wild plums grow everywhere but in artic conditions. The common American plum (Prunus americana) is found in stands from Connecticut to Montana and south into Mexico.
It is a small, rather twisted, thorny tree or shrub growing in thickets, along roadsides, on riverbanks, and in drained lowlands. Its blossoms have a distinctive fragrance and usually appear in April or May.
The fruit change color from green to yellow to red in August and September, falling from the tree when ripe.
The Texas wild plum (Prunus texana) blossoms in late February or early March, and will completely ripen and experience fruit drop by May or as late as June. Both the American and Texas wild plums are small with tasty pulp and astringent skins.
The Canada plum (Prunus nigra) has slightly larger, tastier, and less astringent fruit than its American cousins. It also has larger flowers and the fruit ripen earlier - usually in August.
It is found in thickets and along woodland edges from Quebec to Manitoba and south to Ohio, South Dakota, and Iowa.
The Beach plum (Prunus maritima) is only found along the Atlantic coast from New Brunswick to Virginia, sometimes extending inland as far as twenty miles. The Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) ranges from New Jersey to Indiana and southward and is found in woods and thickets.
The Wild Goose plum (Prunus munsoniana) is found in thickets from Kentucky to Missouri and southward, and is most common in the Mississippi River floodplains. The Hortulan plum (Prunus hortulana) is restricted to moist woods and thickets in the middle Mississippi Valley and is rather rare.
The California plum (Prunus subcordata) is found only in northern California and southern Oregon. The Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), or myrobalan, is native to Asia and ripens to a red or yellow fruit.
Closely related to plums, and occupying the same genus, are cherries, but that is considered another fruit and will be covered separately.
Wild plums make an excellent wine, but like cherry wines, it must be aged for some time to come into its own.
When fermentation ends, wild plum wine is almost undrinkable, and the winemaker will be tempted to either over sweeten it to overcome its astringency or toss it out altogether. Either course of action would be a mistake.
The correct action is to simply put the wine in a dark, cool place and forget about it for at least one year. Plum wine is best when fermented slightly sweetened, but it does okay as a sweet or dessert wine. The following recipes should be considered guidelines only.
All will make decent wine from any wild plum chosen, but different plums will make different wines and different trees will produce different plums from one year to the next.
Astringency and sugar content are the primary considerations. Very astringent wild plums contain more acid but you should not reduce the acid blend appreciably. The sweetness of the flesh will not greatly affect the natural sugar content of the plums, but it will have a slight affect.
You might have to add or reduce sugar by one-quarter pound. It is recommended to test the pH of juice extracted from a few specimens and adjust to about 3.3. Sugar should be added to achieve a beginning specific gravity of 1.085 to 1.095.
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