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American Black Cherries

The black cherry, found almost everywhere in the eastern half of the United States and in the Big Bend country of Texas and the mountains of southern Arizona, New Mexico and northern Old Mexico, is one of the many species of the prunus genus native to the United States. The botanical name is Prunus serotina, but it is commonly called the American black cherry or simply the black cherry. It resides in mixed hardwood forests, woodlands, and Southwestern mountain canyons. It forms round-crowned trees up to 60 feet tall. The cherries form from narrow, elongated clusters of white flowers with 5 rounded petals that grow after the first leaves have developed in the spring. The cherries ripen from August through September, are easily hand-picked and, when fully ripe, can be shaken from the tree. They can run 1.0% acid (as malic) and should be balanced with citric and reduced if necessary. They make a decent wine, but it does not age well. Make plenty and drink at 6-18 months.


Pick only ripe berries. Wash and destem cherries, discarding any that are not sound and blemish free. Chop the fruit as best you can. It is not necessary to destone the cheries, but discard any stones that crack or break open. Put in crock with water, stir in crushed Campden tablet and, 24 hours later, pectic enzyme. Cover and set aside four days. Pour through nylon sieve or jelly-bag and squeeze well to extract all possible juice. Add sugar, citric acis and nutrient and stir well to dissolve sugar. Transfer to secondary, add yeast starter, fit airlock, and set in warm place (70 degrees F.). Rack after initial fermentation subsides (14-21 days), top up with cold water, refit airlock, and ferment to dryness in cooler place (60 degrees F.). Rack again and bottle. For sweeter wine, stablize and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar-water before bottling. Taste after 6 months or allow to age one year. Drink within 18 months. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry's 130 New Winemaking Recipes]


Pick only ripe cherries. Wash, destem and remove stones from cherries, discarding any that are not sound and blemish free. Chop the cherries and mince the raisins while bringing water to boil. Place fruit and sugar in primary and cover with boiling water, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Allow to stand until temperature drops to 70 degrees F. Add pectic enzyme and nutrient. Wait 12 hours and add yeast starter. Cover well and set in warm place for 14 days. Strain through a nylon sieve, pressing thoroughly, and pour into secondary. Top up and fit airlock. Rack after three weeks and again after additional three weeks. Taste for sweetness (should be medium dry). For sweet wine, stabilize and add up to one cup sugar water (to taste), or simply bottle. Taste after 6 months. [Adapted from Brian Leverett's Winemaking Month by Month]


Pick only ripe cherries. Wash, destem and remove stones from cherries, discarding any that are not sound and blemish free. Chop the fruit, add one pint water and bring to low boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Drain through nylon jelly-bag. Reserve drained juice and seep jelly-bag in 2 pints cold water for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze jelly-bag thoroughly to extract residual juice and color. Discard pulp and combine juices, sugar, pectic enzyme, citric acid, and nutrients in crock or bowl. Add remaining water, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Test total acid and reduce to 0.85% if necessary. Pour into secondary and cover with cloth. After 12 hours, add bentonite and yeast starter and fit airlock. Move to cool (55-60 degrees F.) place. Rack every three weeks until no new deposits form. Bottle and store in dark place to preserve color. May taste after 6 months but improves with age to 18 months. [Author's recipe.]

Last update was November 2nd, 2000.

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