(…time really flies, as it is not the 20th of october anymore….)
time flies. how cliche is that– so cliche it makes me gag a little. i do have a rather strong gag reflex, but still. how is it already october 20th? i have no idea. either way, today is the day i marked on my calendar 6 weeks ago– today is “check wine” day. ! ! !

eagerly, after a summer bounty full of gooseberries, service berries, currants, red raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and the whole spectrum, i sorted and froze like a mad woman. my neighbors watched me with curious, raised eyebrows, i have no doubt, as i greedily and seriously harvested berries from bushes they assume to be for the birds… but alas, they are for my stomach, too!

with so much bounty, though, i wanted a creative outlet. i mean, jams check. sauce check. on ice cream check. crisp check. i wanted to make some booze.

my coworkers make mead and wine, and the michigan microbrewery scene has taken me captive. i wanted to participate in this daunting, elusive niche. berries to booze.

a good friend of mine told me he knew how to make some wine, easy. all i needed was berries, sugar, water, some clean milk jugs, yeast, and… unlubricated condoms (i learned later balloons work just fine). he helped me boil the gooseberries in the sugar/water solution, let them sit overnight to cool, guided me in the shaking of the yeast/gooseberry mixture, attaching the condoms, and taping with electrical tape.

i had done it: i had made WINE!

for the next few days, i checked with amazement and some unease–how could i be sure i was doing all of this right? the condoms expanded in ways i didn’t know possible as the ferment took. gooseberry guts ended up in the condoms…they began to sag… was i missing something? i decided to forget about these experimental jugs of wine and deal with the legitimacy of my concoction at a later date.

two weeks ago, another good friend offered to come and check on this crazy experiment– when i described my process, he looked at me with confusion and concern and offered to stop by and give it a look over.

breaking it to me softly, easing me in, he explained, “gwen, this is not gooseberry wine. this is none other than prison hooch!” and burst out in a tirade of laughter. there’s no doubt about the humor here.

that night, he helped me filter the hooch from the less than ideal plastic jugs into a a proper glass fermenter with an airlock. we strained the cheery pink liquid through a t-shirt to collect the skins an seeds, and took a sample before tightening the airlock.

and this blushing beverage was delicious! sweet and not overpowering, the bright color lured us in and caught us where any good drink should– especially for a first attempt at…prison hooch.

today i removed the airlock for another tasting. my calendar told me to. i think it was against policy, i think i am supposed to leave that lock on tight. but the bold pink gooseberry hooch called my name and i could not resist the walk to its basement hideout.

t.a.s.t.y. tasty. next time: gooseberry mead. oh, the glories that thick golden honey will add to those beautiful gooseberries. delightful.