Right about now, wild muscadine vines across the southeastern United States are starting to droop with the weight of their signature plump, black-bronze fruit. When pioneers explored these woods, they recognized the inimitable smell of the French muscat, the grape whose name comes from the same word used to describe the buck musk deer. And they knew what to do with it.
There are many recipes for homemade muscadine wine. This one comes from Cajun humorist Gene Buller, for whom making the best of whatever comes out of his beloved Louisiana woods is no laughing matter. –T. EDWARD NICKENS
GENE BULLER’S MUSCADINE WINE
1 gallon (and a little more) muscadines 3 gallons distilled water 1 package yeast (not rapid rise) 8 pounds sugar
Crush the fruit in a plastic bag, or place it in a freezer until the skins burst. (Wear rubber gloves while crushing muscadines; they are highly acidic.) Combine with distilled water (save the empty jugs) and yeast in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Stir well. Cover and let it stand for 24 hours. Strain pulp from the mixture by pouring it through a double layer of cheesecloth into a second clean 5-gallon bucket. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Pour the liquid into the empty water jugs. You’ll need a couple of extras besides the ones from the water used for the recipe. Top the mouths of the jugs with a triple layer of cheesecloth held in place with rubber bands. The fermenting juice will bubble and foam like carbonated water for up to nine weeks. When the mixture quits bubbling, wait two days, then siphon the wine into glass bottles with screw caps, using plastic tubing. The wine will keep for years. If you can wait that long.