Jul 13, 2010

Wild Mustangs!

Grapes, that is. which grows wild allllll over the place down here in South Texas. Only one out of every ten vines that sprouts from seed is a grape-bearing female, but given the number of seeds the birds plant, that's a really good thing. We'd be hip deep in grapes right now.

We don't exactly live out in the sticks, but we do live in the country. This is the road "to civilization" and we drive it every day--all the better to check on whether the grapes are ripe. ;~)

This is a pretty sparse section of the vine--which covers a good 150 feet of fenceline--but I like the structure of the vine showing. It's a pretty old and well established one, the trunk in some places measuring five or six inches across. Tangled up in the barbed wire, growing side-by-side with stickers and prickly pear, it makes for an interesting harvest.

Did I mention the spiders? This is a Golden Orb spider, at work on a recent meal. They eat grasshoppers, sometimes bigger than they are, and for this we are grateful, because we've had a veritable plague of hoppers this year. This is the smaller of the two I encountered, at maybe 2.5" toe to toe.

Here is her larger sister, almost 4", and in this you can see her underside, along with the characteristic zig-zag they always make in their webs. When I eased in close for this photo, this one reared her abdomen toward me...not sure what she planned to do, but I was glad she was on THAT side of the web.

I had to work pretty hard to gather these grapes (should have gone out a few days earlier, before the birds had gotten all the easy-to-reach ones!) and came home sweaty, itchy, scratched and with a bleeding finger because I got clumsy w/ the nippers. But I was also full of gratitude and wonder at the beauty of this vine, her citizens, her generosity. I felt connected to nature, and was humbled by it.

This ended up being about 10 lbs, after a half hour of picking. Next year, if we go a before the birds get them, and the husband goes with me (and I am more careful not to cut myself), we can get three or four times this amount and make a more substantial batch of wine. Ideally, I'd like to pick enough to make several "experiments", involving different types of wine-yeast, different initial processing.

De-stemming took twice as long as picking. The deep red skins come off very easily, leaving a pale blob of grape w/ a seed inside. (It looks a little like a jellyfish.) So far I've only ever brewed mead and pear wine, which requires the addition of tannin, or tannic acid, either from a couple of teabags or actual tannin powder from the brew shop. But the skin of grapes have plenty of their own. You can make white wine, or a blush, from these grapes easily enough, given their slip-skin nature, but why? The red is so beautiful!

Another difference is that these grapes are verrrrry acidic (hence the gloves) and require a lowering of acidity once the must (the mess of mashed seeds and skins) has been removed. I have to go find some calcium carbonate to add to the brew once I get through the first week of must fermentation. Going through my brewing supplies, I was amused to find the opposite: powdered acidifier. Guess I won't need that for this particular vintage. Once I remove and press the must, I'm figuring I'll have two gallons to put in glass carboys for the next stage of fermentation.

I love brewing! There is something about the alchemy of seeing the process develop before your eyes, (we like to take credit, but it's not rocket science). Again, I'm grateful for the privilege of this connection to nature, being part of the give and take between us and the land we live on. Now, if I can just convince that mother vine in our front yard to stay out of the oak and up on a fence, we won't have to go down the road for our grapes!

Hope your Tiw's Day is a lovely one.

1 comment:

  1. I made some grape jelly out of some grapes that I found in Beeville back when I was in high school. They were probably Mustang grapes too. Very tart but they made a nice jelly. Come to think of it, I don't think I've made jelly since.

    I like those spiders. I call them writing spiders. I just need to leave lots of room between them and me.

    Have a great day!


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