Homemade Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas Wine”

I’ve mentioned our holiday homebrewing tradition before. Rather than deal with crowds, traffic, people, and the kind of over-stimulation that drives us both nuts, we use holidays as a bit of quiet time at home, enjoying each others’ company… while brewing up something tasty.

A few days before the holiday, my husband clears space in the brew room, while I design our recipe. For our Christmas day brew, we try to do something holiday themed, both to remind us of our “holiday”, and so that the final wine will be something appropriately themed for future holiday consumption. You know, being labeled as “Christmas wine”!

The first year of this tradition was when we designed the recipe for “Cuties” Mead, which has since gone on to become a favorite not only with us, but with other homebrewers. Cheers, guys!

As I’d mentioned last Christmas, our 2010 Christmas Wine was a cranberry-Cuties wine. Oh MAN, did it ever turn out amazing! 1 year to the day we brewed it, we were serving this up at a friend’s “orphan’s Christmas” Dr Who marathon. (Having moved our traditional holiday brew day up 1 day to accommodate such a worthy event!).

home brew cranberry orange wine recipe

This turns out a gorgeous light red, fruity wine. The Cuties oranges work beautifully with the cranberries, and the result is a smooth, festive libation. We really love the use of “crack oranges” to flavor our holiday brews… and they certainly didn’t disappoint in this recipe. Don’t wait til next Christmas to put a batch of this on – those Cuties oranges are at peak season for another month or so!

If you haven’t attempted making wine before, don’t be intimidated! Check out our primer to home brewing, it starts here, with parts 2 and 3 here and here. Just a small handful of entries, and you’ll be good to go!

Cranberry-Clementine Wine Recipe

13 x 10 oz fresh cranberries
1 case worth of “Cuties” orange peels (about 20 oranges worth!)
5 gallons spring water
15 lbs white sugar
4 lbs golden raisins
2.5 tsp Acid blend
2 tsp pectic enzyme
6 tsp yeast nutrient
1 packet Red Star “Montrachet” yeast
Potassium sorbate or other wine stabilizer

7.5 gallon pot (or bigger)
1 6.5 gallon fermenter bucket and lid
1 or 2 6.5 gallon glass carboys & stoppers
1 air lock
Siphon, siphon tubing.

Chop cranberries, set aside

In large stock pot – we used a 7.5 gallon turkey fryer – combine orange peels, water, and sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add chopped cranberries, stir and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add acid blend, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient. Stir well, turn off heat. Cover with a lid, allow to cool to room temperature – overnight.

Place raisins and yeast in a freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket. Use sanitized equipment to rack the liquid out of the cooking pot, and into the fermenting bucket. Using sanitized equipment – take a gravity reading. Keep track of the number! (This is an optional step, but will allow you to calculate your final ABV %)

If you’d like, use sanitized equipment to add some of the remaining cranberry-orange pulp to the fermenting bucket, if it will fit. (Totally optional!).

Cover with sanitized lid and air lock. Within 48 hours, you should notice fermentation activity – bubbles in the airlock, carbonation and /or swirling in the wine must. This means you’re good to go! Let sit for about a week, stirring (sanitized paddle!) every couple of days or so.

After a week or so, use your sanitized siphon setup to rack the must into a freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. Put the carboy somewhere cool (not cold!), and leave it alone for 2 months or so.

Using sanitized equipment, rack the wine off the sediment, into a clean, freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. (At this point, we added 2 lbs sugar for added sweetness. Cap with sanitized airlock, leave it alone for another 2-3 months.

Rack one more time, leave it for another 3 months or so.

When your wine has been racked a few times and shows NO more fermenting activity for a month or so (no bubbles in the airlock, no more sediment being produced, you can move on to bottling.

Follow the instructions on your selected type of wine stabilizer to stop fermentation. For potassium sorbate, this needs to be done 2-3 days before bottling.

Using sanitized equipment, take a final gravity reading, then rack the wine into clean, sanitized bottles. Cork. (We like to use these for corking our homemade wine. Easy to use – no special equipment needed! – easy to uncork, and – should you have any wine left in your bottle after serving (pfft!), the “cork” is easily replaced for temporary storage!).

I’m not going to lie – the wine you bottle is going to be a little harsh. Drinkable, but definitely unrefined. Put the bottles into the cases they came in and forget about them for at least a few months– you’ll have a much tastier wine at the end of the wait!

Our wine was smooth and tasty to drink 1 year to the date we made it, and has been a tasty hostess gift this holiday season!

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