Pyracantha


"A taste of its own...."

Pyracantha, or fire thorn, is an evergreen ornamental with small white flowers in the spring. These give way to green berries that persist throughout the summer, turn orange in the autumn, and bright red as winter arrives. Indians and early settlers were familiar with this shrub and it has long been used in making jellies and preserves. These uses have practically disappeared, apparently for no other reason than that urbanites today have largely lost the art of making homemade preserves, jams and jellies and those who still make these are unfamiliar with this particular plant's heritage and uses. One of those uses is as a base for wine.

Pyracantha berries should not be picked until fully ripe. If you watch the shrubs closely, one day you will notice the birds eating the berries. That's when they're ripe. Grab a bag, bowl or basket and start picking. Because the berries grow thick on mature plants, it doesn't take long to pick enough for a batch of wine. Pyracantha wine has an unusual but not unpleasant taste. It ages well and smooths out as it matures, both as a dry or semi-sweet wine. It is light-colored, like an orange-tinted rosé. Serve chilled or at ambient temperature.


PYRACANTHA WINE

Put 1 qt water on to boil. Meanwhile, sort, destem and wash the berries, discarding any not sound or ripe. When water boils, put the berries and raisins in water and adjust heat to maintain a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour berries and raisins in blender and chop, then place in primary. Add remaining water, half the sugar, the juice of the citrus, and the pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient. Stir very well to dissolve sugar thoroughly. Cover and set aside for 12 hours. Add activated yeast and recover. Stir twice daily for 7 days. Pour juice through a nylon straining bag into another primary, allowing bag to drip drain 30-45 minutes. Do not squeeze bag. Discard pulp and add remaining sugar to liquor, stirring well until completely dissolved. Transfer to secondary, attach airlock and set aside. Rack every 30 days for 3 months, topping up and refitting airlock each time. Set aside 3 additional months. Rack into bottles or stabilize, sweeten to taste, wait 10 days, and rack into bottles. This wine will age well. [Adapted from Dorothy Alatorre's Home Wines of North America]


This page was updated on May 22nd, 2002

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