Strawberry wine coolers were born one year after I’d bottled my Strawberry Melomel and discovered I had about half a bottle left. I’d bottled a lot of mead and wine that day, and I was in no shape to be imbibing any more. Patrick suggested we turn it into wine coolers. They were delightful, and I’ve used a slightly modified version of this recipe to turn a variety of fruits into light, refreshing, lower-alcohol fermentations akin to hard cider.
For this recipe, I recommend you use the freshest, ripest strawberries you can find. U-pick farms and the farmer’s market are great sources for fresh, sweet, perfectly ripe strawberries.
The optional ingredients I’ve listed are all available through a variety of home brewing supply shops and sites.
I like swing-top pint bottles for all my carbonated fermentation because they’re easy to cap and they’re quite sturdy. If you choose to use 12-ounce beer bottles, be sure that you’re getting the strong, returnable type. The thinner glass most six-pack beers are sold in may not stand up to the pressure of natural carbonation and have been known to explode, causing a dangerous situation as well as a huge mess.
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 1 pound light honey
- 4 pounds fresh, cleaned, stemmed Strawberries
- 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (optional)
- 1 campden tablet (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme (optional)
- 1 packet Montrachet yeast
- a plastic fermenter with a cover large enough to hold at least two gallons
- a bung and airlock
- a fine mesh bag large enough to hold all your fruit and be properly secured
- bleach or another sanitizing solution
- 1 mixing spoon
- measuring spoons
- a small measuring cup or another bowl for activating the yeast
- 8-pint bottles or approximately 10 12-ounce beer bottles with caps and capping equipment.
- Clean and stem your strawberries.
- Sanitize all of the equipment that will come in contact with your must. This includes your fermenter and its lid, airlocks and bungs, the fine mesh bag, and your mixing spoons.
- Measure one pound of honey into your sanitized fermenter.
- Add half a gallon or so of warm to cool filtered water.
- Use your mixing spoon (or your hands) to mix the honey and water until the honey is thoroughly dissolved in the water, thus creating the first half of your must.
- Add the other half gallon of water to your must in the fermenter.
- Carefully add the strawberries to the fine mesh bag and tie the top securely so that no bits of strawberry will escape as the must ferments.
- Add the bag of strawberries to your must.
- Use your hands (my favorite method) or a sanitized potato masher to carefully and thoroughly mash the strawberries. Your must will begin to blush with the juices released through this process. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.
- Add the yeast nutrient and the crushed campden tablet to the must. (If you are not going to add a campden tablet, you can add the pectic enzyme now and skip steps 12 and 13.) Mix well.
- Cover the fermenter with its lid, airlock, and bung.
- Let the must stand at room temperature for about 12 hours or so. I usually let mine stand until the next day.
- Add the pectic enzyme, mixing well and covering the must securely when you’re done.
- Let the must stand another 24 hours at room temperature.
- Pitch the yeast into your must using the procedure suggested by the manufacturer. If your yeast didn’t come with instructions, use the same method you would use for activating bread yeast, giving it about 10 minutes or so to activate before you pitch it into your must.
- Now the fermenting begins. Take a few moments each day to stir your fermentation, admire the wonderful work those little yeasties are doing, and anticipate the day when you’ll first imbibe its goodness.
Removing the Fruit, Racking, and Bottling
Under most household conditions, Strawberry wine cooler must takes about one to two weeks to ferment out. After the first week, you should carefully lift the fine mesh bag and the remains of the fruit out of the fermenter. Let it hang over the fermenter to drip out, but do not squeeze the contents of the bag into the fermenter.
After you notice all signs of fermentation have ceased. (The airlock no longer dances or bubbles. The scent of the yeast at work has subsided.) Take a reading with a hydrometer or give it a taste. If the P. A. reads under 4 percent or you taste little to no sweetness in the brew, you’re ready to rack or bottle. If you don’t mind your wine cooler a little cloudy, skip racking and go straight to bottling.
Rack, or transfer using a sanitized racking tube or siphon hose, your Strawberry melomel into a sanitized gallon-sized glass jug. Be sure to fill the jug to nearly the top, leaving only an inch or two maximum of space between the cap and the top of the melomel. (Air contact at this point can cause the melomel to have off-flavors or, horrifingly, to vinegarize.)
Let it stand in a safe, dark place for three months or until it is as clear as you desire. Because you’ll be drinking your wine coolers quickly, you can get away with bottling before it cleared completely. You will want to rack it several times through this period to help it clear and to prevent off-flavors.
When your melomel is as clear as you desire, or you’ve had enough of waiting, rack it into clean, sanitized bottles. Add a scant eighth to a sixteenth of a teaspoon of sugar to your bottles (the more sugar, the more carbonation, and the more potential for gushing or exploding bottles later.) You’ll want to experiment with the amount of sweetener that works best for you. Cap and label each bottle.
I prefer my wine coolers dry and bubbly. If you like a bit of sweetness in your wine and don’t mind it flat, you can add wine stabilizer (available through home-brewing supply sources) following the manufacturer’s instructions then add a bit of raw, unrefined sugar or honey to your melomel just before bottling. A little bit of sweetener here goes a long way, so be sure to add just a small amount of sweetener at a time, mix thoroughly, then taste to determine just how much you need to satisfy your palate.
One gallon of wine cooler will fill approximately 8 pints or 10 12-ounce bottles.
Storage and Use
Once you’ve capped and labeled your bottles, let them stand at room temperature for about a week to give them time to ferment enough to carbonate. After that, or if you chose to stabilize and sweeten your wine coolers, store them in the refrigerator. Strawberry wine coolers make a delightful, refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day…or on a cool fall day…or in the dark of winter…or just about any time of year.
For more recipes and information on Strawberry including updated text; Standard and Advanced Medicinal Processing; Conditions best helped by Strawberry; Gardening and Gathering tips; Household uses; Animal Husbandry tips; Cautions; a Printable Quick Facts Page; and References, buy Strawberry: A Wealth of Healing in One Sweet Tasty Package on Amazon, volume 1 of our The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio series.