Tag: Kathleen R. Adams

Of Texas and Muscadine Wine (plus a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

In the Old West, folks couldn’t just walk into a liquor store and pick up a bottle of their favorite hooch. Some saloons and general stores sold wine and spirits by the bottle or jug, but a goodly number of people — especially those who lived on remote homesteads — fermented or distilled their own. Homemade wine was common all over the South and West, where pulpy fruits and weeds like dandelions grew in profusion.

P&P RECIPES LOGOWild muscadine and scuppernong grapes provided the base for many southern home-brews. The two varieties differ primarily in color: Muscadines are dark, from deep cherry-red to almost black; scuppernongs are green to bronze to almost white. Both are highly acidic. Failure to wear gloves while picking or mashing can leave a rash on the skin. However, the high acid content, coupled with prodigious fruit production, makes muscadines and scuppernongs excellent candidates for fermentation.

Although the muscadines and scuppernongs used in contemporary artisanal wines are cultivated like any other crop, the wild foundation stock behaved — and still behaves — much like kudzu, overgrowing everything in its path. To say the grapes are aggressive and abundant would be an understatement. The landscaping around my home can attest to that.

wild muscadine grapes (photo by Bob Peterson)

wild muscadine grapes (photo by Bob Peterson)

In fact, according to local lore, the people who owned this house in the 1920s made good use of wild muscadine grapes. They had to be sneaky about their “hobby,” though, because during Prohibition revenuers were everywhere. Reportedly, the covert libation operation was discovered when a driver lost control of his car and collided with a hastily erected addition to the house, which dutifully collapsed. Vats and vats of muscadine wine spilled into the street. I’m not sure how that worked out for the brewers, but since they were prominent citizens, I doubt anyone got in too much trouble.

The homeowners rebuilt the addition with a good deal more attention to sturdiness. I use it as an honest-to-goodness living room (as opposed to the formal living room at the front of the house) and call it “the wine cellar.”

Muscadine wine comes to the rescue of the hero in “Making Peace,” one of two short novellas in The Dumont Brand. Heroine Maggie Fannin mixes quinine with her homemade wine to treat the malaria hero Bennett Collier picked up while tramping through swamps during the Civil War.

****

The Dumont BrandHer back to him, the woman stood at a rough-hewn table against the wall on the opposite side of the hearth. Sunlight leaked through chinks in the mortar between the split logs, gleaming along a russet braid that traced a stiff backbone. A faded calico dress hung loose on a frame without softness or curves.

She turned and caught his stare in eyes the color of warm cognac. A soldier’s eyes: resigned, yet defiant; determined to go down fighting.

Levering up onto stiff arms, he braced his palms on the floor.

The woman knelt and shoved a tin cup forward. “Drink.”

His gaze dropped to the vessel for only a moment before returning to those fascinating eyes.

Her lips and brows pinched. “Drink or I’ll pour it down your throat. I didn’t nurse you through three days of the ague just to turn around and poison you.”

The rustic music he’d heard earlier underlay the sharp words. Holding her gaze, he shifted his weight, took the cup, and drew it to his lips. The sweet wine almost hid a familiar bitterness. “You found the quinine.”

Quinine—more precious than gold to any soldier who’d spent too much time in the swamps. He’d stolen the near-empty bottle. The righteous Bennett Collier, a common thief. “You went through my saddlebags.”

“I didn’t take nothin’ else. I swear it.”

He hadn’t meant the statement as an accusation. “Nothing in there worth taking.” Except the bundle of letters from his father. I miss you, son. Keep yourself alive and come home. Three years too late. He nearly choked trying to clear his throat.

He tossed back the rest of the wine. The bitter drug sharpened a pain in his chest; the sweet wine, a bitter memory. “Muscadine.”

****

Today, most home-brewers use commercial yeast and add pectic enzyme. The latter clarifies the wine and draws more color from the grapes. Typically, those who ferment wine at home also add Campden tablets (potassium or sodium metabisulfite) to kill bacteria and inhibit the growth of wild yeast.

None of those ingredients would have been available in Maggie’s rundown shack on the mainland across the bay from Galveston, so her recipe might have looked something like the one below, which I found written in tidy cursive on a yellowed slip of paper tucked into one of my grandmother’s books. I have no idea how old the recipe is or from whence it came. The comments in parentheses are mine.

Muscadine Wine

(makes 5 gallons)

5-gallon bucket very ripe (soft and starting to shrivel) muscadine grapes

12 lbs. white sugar

Spring water (or any water without chlorine)

  1. Rinse grapes. (If the grapes have been sprayed with pesticides, wash them. Otherwise just rinse. Wild yeast on the grapes’ skins and in the air, combined with sugar, causes fermentation.)
  1. Mash grapes in large (glazed ceramic) crock. (The vessel should be large enough to hold the mashed grapes and the sugar with a couple of inches of “head space” between the top of the liquid and the lip of the crock.)
  1. Add sugar. Give mash a good stirring.
  1. Cover crock with thick cheesecloth (or use a T-shirt). Tie string around lip (to hold the cheesecloth). Set in warm place.
  1. Give mash good stirring every day until stops bubbling. (The amount of yeast in the environment will determine when the mixture starts bubbling and how long the activity lasts.)
  1. Strain juice into clean (glazed ceramic) crock or churn. Add spring water to make five gallons. (Again, leave head space between liquid and rim.)
  1. Cover crock. Set in cool cellar or barn. Let sit six weeks. Strain into jars. (Knowing my grandmother, “jars” meant Mason jars. That’s how my grandfather bottled his moonshine. I’d use wine bottles, but what do I know?) Screw on lids, loose for a few days. Tighten lids, let sit six months in cellar or barn.

 

Muscadine wine

muscadine wine

I can’t vouch for the recipe because I’ve never tried it. Use at your own risk.

Home-brewing has become a bona fide trend over the past several years, so recipes and equipment for making beer, wine, and mead are everywhere. If you’d like to attempt a more modern approach to muscadine wine-making, you may want to visit this link (from Louisiana) or this one (from Kentucky).

Be aware: Unlike in 19th-century America, today’s federal government and all U.S. states have laws governing the production of alcoholic beverages for personal consumption. According to the federal Internal Revenue Code, home-brewers may produce 200 gallons of beer or wine per calendar year if there are two or more adults residing in the household; 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one adult residing in the household. If they produce more, they must pay federal taxes on the overage.

State regulations vary widely. In Texas, for example, the head of a household or an unmarried adult living alone may produce 200 gallons of wine, ale, malt liquor, or beer per year. Those who wish to produce more — or do so “accidentally” — not only owe state taxes in addition to federal tax, but also must acquire a license.

 

INTRODUCING PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS! by CHERYL PIERSON

Cheryl7126Have you ever had a dream that “just happened” –before you could think about it anymore, or try to decide how to accomplish it—it was just…there?

One of the things I’ve always “thought about” was opening a publishing company of my own. That would be impossible because as everyone who knows me is well aware, I am NOT a “computer guru” at all. So how could I ever do all the things I’d need to do to open a publishing house? The answer is, I couldn’t.

I’d pretty much let those thoughts go until Livia Reasoner and I were talking about a way to be able to get some brand new, very talented authors “out there” for others to read and enjoy, and this topic came up. As it turned out, we both had the same idea—an imprint for women authors, both well-seasoned and fresh talent, to submit historical westerns and historical western romances.

Since so many women read westerns and western historical romances, Livia and I thought this might be a great way to reach even more women authors who write those kinds of stories.  What we wanted to do was provide a venue for these authors to shine—to get their work “out there” with a publisher who is interested in helping give them a hand navigating the publishing waters and seeing that they get their fair share of profits for their hard work. With that in mind, our imprint, PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS, was born!PRAIRIE ROSE PUB PINK logo

Livia and I are so excited to be working together. With her bookkeeping, formatting, and other computer skills and her ability to make such fantastic covers for our books I have no worries. It’s my job to edit, promote and do much of the correspondence (cause I DO love to talk about writing!)

Our first venture will be a Christmas anthology called WISHING FOR A COWBOY. We’ve got a wonderful group of authors lined up for this collection: Phyliss Miranda, Tanya Hanson, Sarah McNeal, Jacquie Rogers, Tracy Garrett, reviewer Kathleen Rice Adams, Livia and me. This short story grouping will be western historical romance, in the sweet to sensual category. All the stories have mentioned a certain holiday food, and the story is either built around the food or can just mention it casually. The recipes will be included in the back of the book, and we are just having a fantastic time with this! WISHING FOR A COWBOY will be available November 1, 2013, in print and digital formats—it’ll make a great Christmas gift for anyone!

Wishing for a Cowboy SmWe also have another anthology of cowboy romance coming your way for Valentine’s Day! It’s called HEARTS AND SPURS, and in addition to all the fine writers listed above, our fellow filly Linda Broday also has a story to contribute. These stories will be a bit “steamier” than the sweet stories in Wishing for a Cowboy. Well, it IS Valentine’s Day!

But it doesn’t stop there! I have a novel coming out early next year called THE HALF-BREED’S WOMAN. More about that in the future, but I am so excited about it that it’s really hard to keep it under wraps a while longer.

Once we opened PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS, we got e-mails from writers who wanted to know if we had a children’s line? Did we have a contemporary/futuristic line? Well, how could we say no? So, for the younger readers of western/historical stories (Middle Grade 9-12, Young Adult 13-17, and New Adult 18-24) we opened PAINTED PONY BOOKS. We’ve already had several submissions for this line and look forward to bringing out some excellent quality reading  materials from this imprint.Painted Pony Books Logo O

In addition, we opened FIRE STAR PRESS for contemporary/futuristic books for adult readers, and TORNADO ALLEY PUBLICATIONS for young readers of this same genre. We are having a ball with all this, and are so thrilled with the submissions we have received. Our main goal is to help authors receive the royalty money they are due, and to provide some wonderful reading material for all ages.

We have a brand new website here: http://prairierosepublications.yolasite.com/

If you have questions, you are welcome to contact me at fabkat_edit@yahoo.com or Livia at livia@flash.net

Please wish us well on our new publishing adventure, and come on over to the website for more information on the anthology and submissions procedures.

Thanks for all your support! Here’s a sneak peek at HEARTS AND SPURS (available Jan. 15, 2014).

Hearts and Spurs Med

 

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