Monday, February 11, 2013

Wine Making Additives - Part Two Of A Multipart Series

Thanks for visiting to learn about home wine making.    This is the second part of my multi-part series on wine making additives.   If you wish to read part one, the here is the link:

Wine Making Additives, Part 2


In this installment, I will be discussing Pectic Enzyme and Fining agents. 

UPDATE: Please check my new wine making website for more detail on wine making.   How To Make Homemade Wine
Pectic Enzyme

All fruit has pectin.  Some fruits have much more than others. Apples or Black Berries, for instance are very high in Pectin.  Pectin is desirable when making Jams and Jellies.   It is what makes the jam thicken when sugar is added to it and cooked down.   While pectin is desirable in making jam is not in making wine.   Pectin can cause your wine to be cloudy.

This is where pectic enzyme comes in.  I recommend Pectic Enzyme whenever you are making wine from fresh fruit. Pectic Enzyme is added to the juice prior to the beginning of fermentation.  This will enhance the clarification process that will come later, when fermentation is complete. The pectic enzyme breaks down the pectin cells that can leave a wine with a permanent milky appearance that is also known as pectin haze.

To use pectic enzyme in your wine making, add an 1/8 teaspoon of pectic enzyme powder for each gallon of juice, before fermentation.

Fining Agents 

In this section, I will discuss some of the fining agents used in winemaking.   Fining agents are used to help clarify the wine making it clear, without haze.    I will be discussing Bentonite, Sparkolid, Chitosan, Isinglass, Kieselsol, Gelatin, Siligel, Liquigel, Egg Whites, etc.   For each of these, clearing takes about two weeks.


Bentonite is a type of clay.  As a clarifier, it is used to remove fine, undesirable particles from a finished wine.  It works because Bentonite is negatively charged.   Like a magnet, it attracts the positively charged particles that are suspended in the wine.   These particles stick to the Bentonite, and then the Bentonite sinks to the bottom of the carboy.   You can then transfer the wine out of the carboy into another carboy, being careful not to transfer the sediment with the Bentonite. 

When using Bentonite, many people who make wine from juices and fresh fruit use it after fermentation.  Many kit wines, however, use it on the first day of fermentation.   In fact, every wine I have made from kits use it on the first day.  They reason for this is very interesting.  

From what I understand, when adding the Bentonite on the first day, most of it will be suspended in the wine for a few hours, then settle to the bottom of the juice.  When the yeast starts to get active in the fermentation process, the juice will circulate the Bentonite back into the wine, as the CO2 is being produced in the fermentation. Some call this active fermentation boiling, as the juice starts bubbling.   So, in a nutshell, the yeast’s activities will re-circulate the Bentonite over and over again…

When using Bentonite, it is important to mix it very well into a slurry.  You want it to be finely mixed throughout the liquid, not just clump on the bottom.

Chitosan, Isinglass and Kieselsol

Most fining agents stick to particles in the wine, and then sink to the bottom.   You would then transfer the wine off of the sediment, leaving behind the sediment that contains the fining agent and the particles that it removed.   The process of transferring the wine is called “Racking”.   
Chitosan is a shellfish derivative.  It is a very popular fining agent these days...   Winexpert, the largest manufacture of wine kits, uses Chitosan for their red wines and Isinglass for their white wines.    Isinglass acts in a similar way to Chitosan, but is a bit gentler on the wine.

Some companies use a two part fining mixture with Chitosan and Kieselsol.   The Kieselsol is added first and stirred thoroughly with the wine.   Like Bentonite, it attracts the particles in the wine to it using opposite charges, like magnets.    Then, the Chitosan is added to the wine, where it binds to the Kieselsol, and sinks to the bottom.

Now, some folks are allergic to shellfish.   Winexpert says that it is perfectly safe to use Chitosan, since it has no proteins in it, and it is the proteins that people are allergic to.   I have spoken to them on the phone and they said that in Canada, it is used as part of their water filtration system for the public water supply.   That may be well and good, and I am sure they are being truthful, but I am not willing to take that chance that someone with a shellfish allergy will not react to the wine.   For that reason, I don’t use the Chitosan, even if it comes in the kits I am making.


Sparkoloid is a clearing agent that I have had some great success with.   All you do is dissolve a tablespoon of Sparkoloid powder with a cup of boiling water.   Stir well and make sure it is complete dissolved.   Let it cool, and then stir it into your wine.

Siligel and Liquigel

Some kits come with these for clearing agents.  Siligel is the same this is Kieselsol.   Liquigel is Gelatin.   You use these the same way you would use the Chitosan and Kieselsol.    You put the Kieselsol in the wine first, stir very well, then add the Liquigel (Gelatin ).   Like with the Chitosan/Kiesolsol method, the order you put the clearing agents in is very important.

This comes standard with the wine kits from Mosti Mondiale.   Their wine kits are excellent and I have made wonderful wines with these kits.   So wonderful, that I usually cry when I get to the last bottle.

Egg Whites

Some folks use egg whites for fining.   Using egg whites will also remove some tannins.  The dosage is ½ an egg white for 5-6 gallons with a pinch of salt.     I, personally don’t use egg whites for fining.   I can’t tell you how effective egg whites are for fining, but it does make a great breakfast.

Clearing without any of these agents…

Your wine will clear on its own without any of these things.    It will take much longer, though.     You can let it sit, carefully racking off the sediment, over and over again for a long period of time.    Keeping the wine cool during this process will aid in clarification, as well.

Of course, you can follow the directions that come with your wine kit, without knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it.   You will probably make wonderful wine simply by following the directions exactly.   I want to know exactly what is going into my wine, just like I want to know what is going into my cooking.   Like with cooking, if you want to customize something, understanding what you are doing and why you are doing it is very helpful.

I sure hope you enjoyed this installment of my wine additive articles.    Wine is as important of a part of any Italian meal as the main course.     Enjoy your wine!   Enjoy your food!

Keep checking back for my next update on wine making additives.  Thanks for making part of your success in Italian Cooking, Wine Making and Organic Gardening.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wine Additives - Part 1 of a Multipart Series.

Wine making is fun and rewarding.

Welcome back to my blog on Italian cooking and wine making.   I have been asked a lot of questions on the additives that are used when making wine.

UPDATE: Please check my new wine making website for more detail on wine making.   How To Make Homemade Wine

This is the first in a multipart series on wine making additives that a home wine maker would use.    Many of these things are included in wine kits.   If you are making wine from juice, or other fresh fruit, you will need to get these things separately.

In this first part, I will be focusing on Metabisulfite and Sorbate.   Future parts will involve other additives, such as clearing agents, and enzymes that break down pectin that is found in many fruits.


There are two types of metabisulfite that is used for the same purpose   The two types are Potassium or Sodium metabisulfite.   Some people call it K-Meta.   

Metabisulfite is used for two main purposes in wine making:

  • As a sanitizer:  When metabisulfite is mixed with water in a high concentration, the water based solution becomes a great sanitizer.   This sanitizer is used to sanitize all of your equipment and bottles, in essence anything that touches the wine.
  • As an additive to wine:  In a weaker concentration, it is added to wine at different stages.   At the beginning of the wine making process, it may be added to kill unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria.   At the end of a fermentation, it can be added to stop fermentation before clearing and bottling. It also acts to minimize the effects of oxygen on the wine.

Metabisulfite as a Sanitizing Solution

To make a good sanitizing solution, dissolve 2 oz metabisulfite powder for each gallon of clean water.   Store this is a tightly sealed one gallon glass jug.  The sanitizing solution can be reused over and over again and will last for about 2 months.   The fumes of the metibisulfite sanitizing solution are intense, so make sure to keep the area that you are working in well ventilated.  People who have asthma or other breathing conditions may find the fumes can trigger an asthmatic attack.

Sanitizing is not the same as cleansing.   The process of getting your equipment ready to work with winemaking involves first cleansing with a cleanser and rinsing well.   Then, sanitizing your equipment with the metabisulfite solution.

After I sanitize my equipment with the metabisulfite solution, I rinse it well.    The exception is after fermentation is complete.  When racking to a carboy for clearing, bulk aging, or when bottling, I use the solution to sanitize and I don’t rinse afterward.   Instead, I leave the bottles or carboy upside down, and allow all excess solution to drain out.    This will leave a thin film of the sulfite on the inner wall of the bottle or carboy.    When filling with wine, the dried sulfite on the walls of the bottle react with the wine and become a sanitizing gas that aids in killing bacteria and assists in preventing oxidation.

Many people are concerned that this will add a lot of sulfites to the wine.   Homemade wines made in this way have about a ¼ of the sulfites that commercial wines, yet still offer the protection that the sulfites proved against bacteria, re-fermentation, and oxidation.

Metabisulfite to Kill Wild Yeast and Bacteria
If you are NOT making wine from a kit and instead using a juice from fresh fruit, before putting your winemaking yeast into the wine, you may want to kill off the wild yeast and bacteria in your juice.    For 6 gallons of wine, ¼ teaspoon of metabisulfite powder can be added and stirred in.   After doing so, you will need to wait 24 hours to add your yeast.   If you add the yeast too soon, the metabisulfite will kill they yeast you are adding.  

To make things easier, metabisulfite is also sold in a tablet form, called Camden tablets.   All you would need to do is crush one Camden tablet per gallon of wine.   For example, you would crush 6 tablets for your standard 6 gallons of wine that will eventually fill a six gallon carboy.

This whole process of adding metabisulfite is often repeated after fermentation is complete, many times prior to de-gassing and clearing.

Potassium Sorbate

After your wine is finished and prior to bottling, Potassium Sorbate, also called wine stabilizer, is sometimes added reduce the possibility of re-fermentation.  This is very important if you have a wine that is sweet in any way.   If you don’t add sorbate, you run a great probability that the wine will re start fermenting while it is in the bottle.   When this happens, the wine will get more gas, and in some cases the corks will shoot out with the added pressure being built up in the bottles.   Since you will be storing your bottles on their sides, your wine will pour out all over the floor, and you will most definitely cry.

To prevent this nightmare, it is strongly recommended that you use Potassium Sorbate in any wine you are back sweetening or any wine that is still sweet after the fermentation is complete.   In a nutshell, anything that is not completely dry, I would recommend the use of sorbate.   You work hard to make your wine! To have to remove all of your wine from the bottles, de gas, sulfite, sorbate and rebottle is a lot of unnecessary work that could have been prevented if you used the sorbate in the first place. 

Prior to bottling, add the sorbate to your wine by first dissolving it a cup of wine.   After it is dissolved, add the cup to the rest of your wine and stir the mixture thoroughly.   If the wine is sweet, I would recommend ½ teaspoon for each gallon of wine.   If you choose to use it in a dry wine, you would use half that amount.  Do not exceed ½ teaspoon per gallon of wine.

This is the end of part one of my mulitpart series on winemaking additives.    Please stays tuned for more updates and feel free to ask any questions.    I hope this information is helpful to you, and I am delighted to be part of your home winemaking success story!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Veal Piccata Recipe! - Easy to make Italian recipe.

Veal Piccata is one of those dishes that is very popular in Italian restaurants in New York.    It is a veal cutlet dish in a lemon and wine sauce.   In addition, it has capers that add a wonderful dimension to the flavor.   

Veal Piccata - Italian Recipe
Veal Piccata - You can make this!!!!


The secret to using the capers is to rinse them really well.   In fact, I rinse them several times, sometimes soaking them in water for a few minutes and rinsing again.   You don’t want to intensity of the capers to overpower the dish.

I also use a Ziploc bag to contain each cutlet, as I pound it with a mallet.   This greatly reduces the mess.    Many folks use plastic wrap, but I find that the plastic wrap tends to break very easy.   The Ziploc bag will withstand pounding from the mallet.


  • 1 lb Veal Cutlets
  • ¼ Cup Flour
  • ½ Cup Chicken Broth
  • ¼ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Capers, rinsed very well, drained and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • Juice of ½ Lemon
  • Sliced Lemons
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste


  • Place one veal cutlet in a zip lock bag without closing the bag.  Using a mallet, pound the veal to about a ¼ thickness.    Remove the veal from the bag and repeat for all of the veal cutlets.   Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.
  • Spread the flour on a plate.   Coat each veal cutlet in the flour, and shake off the excess.   Only flour the amount of cutlets that will fit in your pan at one time.   You can flour the next set of cutlets, while this set is frying.
  • Heat up 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp oil in a large pan or skillet.   Cook the veal cutlets in half of the oil and butter, turning and browning thoroughly on both sides.   When the cutlets are done, remove and place on a plate.  Continue cooking the remaining veal cutlets.  You will need to add more butter and oil to cook the next set of cutlets, but retain 1 Tbsp of butter for use later when we make the sauce.
  • When you are finished cooking your veal cutlets and they are on a plate, we will make the sauce.  Pour the chicken broth and wine in the same pan.   Do not wash the pan first.   Turn up the heat to high and continue to cook.   Scrape the bottom of the pan.   The chicken broth with start to thicken a little bit.  
  • Add the lemon juice, capers and parsley and cook for another minute or two.
  • Add the remaining butter and remove from the heat once the butter in melted.
  • Plate the veal, and pour the sauce over the cutlets.   Add some sliced lemon and serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy this very popular Italian recipe.    Veal piccata can be served with a side of pasta or rice and some sauté broccoli with garlic and olive oil.    Pair it with either a chilled white wine, or as I do, with a red that is not too intense.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winemaking with Frozen Pails - Winemaking Update

Winemaking From Frozen Pails

UPDATE: Please check my new wine making website for more detail on wine making.   How To Make Homemade Wine

Most of the wines I have made have come from kits.    These kits make excellent wine, and have the benefit in that you can make them any time of year.    Folks that make wine directly from grapes need to be confined to the particular period of time that is optimum for the harvest of excellent grapes.
Most wine kits typically come with a grape concentrate that you will need to add water to.  In addition, the wine kits come with ingredients, such as yeast, yeast nutrient, metabisulphite , oak and other additives. 

There is another alternative, though.    I took a field trip out on Long Island to a place that specializes in frozen pails of grape juice.   The grapes used in this grape juice is harvested at the optimum time, squeezed, and then frozen, to preserve the freshness.   The juice is not from concentrate, but is very premium.

The place I visited is A & P Grape, in North Massapequa.  The folks running the place are very friendly and helpful.  They answered any questions I had, in addition to answering questions I didn’t know I had yet.  It became very clear to me that they had a genuine interest in helping me make the best wine I could make, and wanted to help me with any potential problems that could come up in the process.  I will be sharing everything I learn here in my blog.  

Winemaking Store
This is the Wine Making Store I had the Pleasure to Visit.
Frozen Grape Juice Pail of Merlot for Wine Making
This Frozen Pail of Merlot is Super Premium


Although they ship, I decided to take a ride out to the Isle of Long to see what they had to offer.   I also needed some 375 ml bottles for my Chocolate Raspberry Port, so I thought it would be worth the trip...  And it was!

I came away from the place with knowledge, a few new friends, bottles and a pail of Nero D’Avola grape juice that came directly from Sicily!   Ahh….   I just doesn’t get any better than that…  This would be my first frozen pail!   I am so excited!!!!!!  I would say that it was well worth the trip, and I would highly recommend visiting them, if you are in the area.   If not, they can ship to you, too.  

Nero D'Avola Grape Juice
Nero D'Avola Grape Juice

I thought about the pros and cons, as it relates to my situation, of making wine from frozen pails or from wine kits.  In thinking about it, I thought that others may benefit from what I was evaluating, so I decided to make this post.  This is what I came up with.

The Cons of using frozen pails:

  • The juice is heavy, since it is not a concentrate.   This may make it heavy to ship, and I suppose this is why most wine kits include concentrate, as opposed to grape juice. 
  • The frozen pails do not come with any additives, so you will need to buy them separately.
  • Making wine from the frozen pails of grape juice takes longer.

The Pros of using frozen pails:

  • The juice is of excellent quality and processed less.
  • You can choose more specifically where the grape juice comes from. 
  • You can buy Organic grape juice.   I don’t know of any organic wine kits.
  • Since the frozen pails of grape juice are not a kit, and don’t come with the additives, you have more flexibility and can pick and choose what you want to add.   If you want special yeast, go for it.   If you want a combination of medium toasted French and Hungarian oak, in cubes, you can do that, too.

Armed with this information I have come to the determination that I will do both.    The wine kits are great.   The frozen pails give you more flexibility and will probably make a better wine, though.   

Many wine kits say that they are ready to drink in 4 to 6 weeks.   Do not believe that for a second.    Yeah, you can drink them, but you wouldn’t want to drink them.    Wine made from kits usually is enjoyable 3 to 6 months after they are bottled, which is after the 4 to 6 week period of time it takes to make it.  Wait longer, it gets better.  So, realistically, if you make wine today from a kit, expect that you will start drinking it in four to six months.

Wine from frozen pails takes 9 months to a year to make, before you will want to start drinking them.   For myself, I have decided to make wine from both.   The wine from the kits will be ready to drink sooner, so I will be drinking that, while waiting for the wine from the pails to complete.

And so, it begins!    Stay tuned for my progress with this exciting project.   I will be posting what  happens along the way.