The first year of the Timber Garden, my parents asked me how many peas I had planted. ‘Oh, almost a full bed,’ I said. They laughed. A month later I was furiously picking peas every day.
Peas are prolific, but any pea grower experiences a sense of loss looking at the HUGE pile of pea pods left over after shelling. A cup of peas and a grocery bag of pods, bound for the compost bin.
In my search for dry white wines I can make for free/cheap, I came across the claim that pea pod wine tastes like Riesling. Riesling is considered one of the finest white wine grapes, Riesling can stand up to aging a little better than most white wines. This quality doesn’t translate into the peas…but hey, I’ll drink a crisp Riesling all summer, that’s what I’m after!
The first article was promising…digging deeper into the research was not. One winemaking chat board showcased two failed attempts to make pea pods drinkable. I followed the posts forward in time from boiling the pea pods to bottling and sipping. Both winemakers admitted the results were less than delicious.
Boiled? They boiled the pods?
You’ve all overcooked peas. The smell is awful, the sweet green flavor disappears, everything gets mushy. Why on EARTH anyone would attempt to boil the pods to extract the sugar is beyond me. Yet every recipe I found began with boiling pea pods to death.
I decided to skip that step.
- An unruly pile of pea roughage.
It doesn’t take long to gather 4 lbs of pea pods. We picked and shelled three times, and froze the pea pods to store them and break down the cell walls. While the pea pods were still frozen, they went into the Cuisinart to be chopped. One reason to boil the pods is to sterilize them, but a pinch of potassium metabisulfite takes care of wild yeasts and bacteria, and careful sanitation of the equipment also helps.
Makes 1 gallon(-ish)
5.25 lbs pea pods, frozen, uncooked
1 tsp pectolase
2 skins only medium grapefruit
1/3 tsp Potassium Metabisulfite, or 1 Campden tablet
6 oz golden raisins, or regular raisins if your are a Philistine who doesn’t care about the finished color of your baby white wine
4.5 pints water
…and then 6 cups additional water, because there was NO liquid in the pea pod mash!
The pea pod mash sat for 48 hours, without any noticeable wild fermentation. The color was beautiful…the bright spring green you would expect from mashing up pea pods. I hoped the color would keep over the aging process. Some interesting smells came out of the bucket whenever we took off the white plastic lid. Green and grassy…a hint of the grapefruit rinds…rotten pea pods? Not sure…too early to tell.
The morning of the Day 3, at 0900, I boiled 1 lb of sugar in 1 cup of water, then squeezed in the juice of one grapefruit and stirred it in. I also added 1/2 cup of strong black tea, and then pitched one 5 gram packet of Red Star Cote des Blancs yeast into the plastic fermentation bucket.
- Yes, that IS a $10 Le Creuset spatula I am using to make free booze.
Shortly after leaving for work, I realized I’d forgotten to test the sugar level, and every minute that passed the yeast was eating the sugar and I would never know the true final alcohol level of the wine. I also realized I had forgotten 10oz of sugar. I went home for lunch at 1300, mixed a batch of sugar water (10 oz sugar and 1/2 cup wine), stirred it in, and strained a cup of liquid out of the pea pod mess. The sugar level put it at 15%…oops! A little high for a white wine. Cote des Blancs has an alcohol range from 12-14%, which means it would leave unfermented sugar in the wine. Fortunately there are unlimited pea pods and plenty of water, so thinning it out and getting a dry wine won’t be hard. Cote des Blancs emphasizes the fruit characteristics in the wine, so it is an excellent choice. This yeast ferments better at temperatures from 65-85, so warm summer days won’t be a problem for fermentation…in fact, I might move the bucket to a warmer spot.
On the morning of Day 4 I readied a sanitized wood spoon and lifted the lid off the bucket. The pea pods had all risen to the top, which meant the yeast was working actively, producing carbon dioxide. I stirred the weird liquid vigorously to release all the carbonation. The smell coming off the liquid was transforming…it had been different every few hours.
Evening of Day 4: I popped the lid off the pea pod wine and noted the thick layer of pea pods pushed to the top. (We shall call this the pea must from now on.) Having only curiosity but no spoon, I shook the bucket vigorously to release carbonation. It smelled like WINE! Wow! A really crisp, dry white wine smell was coming from the bucket only 4 days in! Mentally, I ordered more gallon carboys and notified my gardening friends to start saving their pea pods for me.
Day 7, we strained the liquid into a sanitized gallon carboy and a quart jar, topping with a little bit of water. We pressed out as much liquid as possible with a spatula, but didn’t squeeze through cheesecloth. The liquid was a milky yellow color, and smelled pretty good! Only faintly of peas.
To be continued…