Juneberry Wine Making

It’s never all about mushrooms!

We forage for all kinds of foods here at Chicago Mushroom Man, and today my sweetie and eight year old son took a short trip to the neighborhood Juneberry spot. You’ve got one in your neighborhood, some hospital landscape planting, a city park, some urban wood land that some smart restorer demanded a few Juneberry bushes be planted.

Juneberry Ripening

Mine is a a two block long stretch of urban parking lot, planted just off the sidewalk, with over 60 Juneberry “trees”. Three weeks ago they were just ripening, the top most berries on the racemes were just showing a little light purple color – then the heat came! Usually they fruit around the fourth of July, but suddenly the entire raceme was ripe! Last weekend was peak time for my little spot, they were incredible, the pie I made was almost too flavorful, it actually took four days to eat!

Today we harvested about five gallons, the three of us, the youngest, Spencer, seemed to be eating as much as he put in his bag, though he actually may have won in weight brought home.

We left home in the late afternoon, soon after a sudden sprinkle was over and as the heat of the day was diminishing, and tied boxes or bags around our necks and went to work. It took us each a few minutes to get going, adjusting, retying, getting comfortable, but when all is said and done we managed about 1 1/2 gallons each in under an hour. When you can pull a branch down directly over your box and strip juneberries with the other hand, or strip high branches with both hands it goes very fast!


we cleaned about 2/3 of the berries for later use in jams and baking IQF freezing some, and used the remainder, stems and all, to make a wine “must.” I actually added a fair amount of the cleaned berries to the “must” wasting a bit of work, but hopefully making a fuller wine.

Juneberries closeup frz

Essentially you crush your berries with a potato masher, pour a boiling simple syrup over them and let them sit overnight to cool, add yeast, then let work for a week or so – like bread baking – to make a really nice treat – there is ingrained knowledge one must develop, but the basics are simple.

We actually brought our must up to boiling tonight – the berries were actually getting a little old, so I wanted to kill off any bacteria and other hangers on as I could. Many recipes call for this for wild fruit wines, I think it’s because when picking wild fruit there is a wide range of age in the fruit that one picks, and unlike store bought fruit, that one can buy just barely ripe, a forager harvests what nature has ready. Often a mix of nearly ripe, ripe and very ripe fruit – tasting even five percent of what’s picked is a struggle (oh glorious struggle)! So being proactive is important when it comes to making wine.

Juneberry Must

Tomorrow we transfer the must into my primary fermenter (a food save 6.5 gallon bucket with lid with hole for the “bubbler”)  I’ll add just a little Sodium Metabisulphite – I need to kill off the yeast that is naturally occurring, as some of the Juneberries were quite ripe, and also add a little Pectic Enzyme, as Juneberries are very high in Pectin and Pectin locks up much of the flavor and sugars in the berries, making the job for the yeast a struggle.

In a day or so I’ll add a packet of Champagne Yeast, stirring every day with a sanitized spoon, and resealing, for about a week. Then I’ll transfer into a sanitized stock pot after squeezing out the berry skins, and clean and sanitize my primary fermenter. I’ll check the specific gravity, might add more water and sugar and a little more Champagne yeast, and let it do it’s business for a week or so.

After that I might “rack” into sterilized bottles, or do what we did last year, and ladle the raw wine right out of a bucket and drink a refreshing, Hillbilly wine as is.

Juneberries make a great, refreshing red wine, with the lovely almond/blueberry flavor that the Juneberry is known for. Using some brown sugar brings out a Sherry flavor.

Addendum: It’s two days later, left the “must” in a stock pot on the stove, and just poured it off, through a jelly bag, and into the primary fermenter. I was passing my local Brew and Grow store and picked up a couple packets of champagne yeast. Since I was there I picked up another hydrometer, since I emptied my office to convert into a mushroom lab, I’ve not found the one I’ve had a few years. I measured the specific gravity and if all the sugars were consumed by the yeast is was to come out about 16%. I like a little dryer, lower proof wine so I brought it down to about 13%.

I cleaned and sanitized the primary fermenter,

I cleaned and sanitized the bubbler and tools,

I them sanitized the jelly cloth, then poured the wine through, sprinkling yeast right on top.

Over the next week I’ll stir the must a few times, but really the process works itself out.

I prefer Champagne yeast to Shiraz or others because in my experience it’s more forgiving.

In early August we’ll host a foray for wild blackberries, partnered with a Wine Making 101 class.

The foray, as always, is served with a light lunch that focuses on wild foods, is $35.00 and limited to 12 people.

Basic wine making materials are less than $50.00, the class – with the yeast, fermenter, sugar, and chemicals should run about $90.00 – and you take your “must” home to ferment – and phone if there are questions, as well as a part two class.

In July we’ll be running a series of Chanterelles forays to location within one hour of Chicago. Call for details.


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