Being a kid on Halloween meant dressing up in a costume, staying out after dark, and asking strangers for candy. Saying it like that makes it sound kinda strange – maybe even dangerous – why on earth would I do something like that? I was a young boy, so I did most things because they were strange and dangerous. Ah the good ole days! So, can a sensible but bored adult still live on the edge a little on Halloween? I don’t know, but it made me think about pumpkin wine.
Starch makes pumpkin different from other wine bases
Pumpkins contain starch, which is a lot (hundreds or thousands) of sugar molecules stuck together. These molecules fit together in a tight compact mass, making raw pumpkin flesh hard and unpalatable. In order to make wine from it, we need to extract the flavor and aroma compounds with water. To do that, we need to loosen up that tight compact mass and allow the water to penetrate. That means cooking. There are several ways to do this. One way is to cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pulp, then bake the two halves, flesh sides down, in a cookie sheet at 350F for 30 minutes.
Mashing the pumpkin
Winemakers and homebrewers treat starch very differently. For winemakers, starch is a problem that causes haze. Homebrewers convert starch to fermentable sugar by “mashing” it, and when they’re using pumpkin in their brews, they’ll often bake it and toss it in the mash. We can borrow that technique from our homebrewing friends and mash the pumpkin flesh. We’ll need to add enzymes that will break down the starch, and we’ll need to control the temperature so that it’s warm enough for the enzymes to do their work, but not so hot that they are destroyed. It turns out that there are two important enzymes that work together on this, but each works best at a slightly different temperature. A compromise that works well is to hold the mash at 150F (about 66C) for 30 minutes.
You can make pumpkin wine without mashing, but there are two benefits that make it worthwhile. By converting the starch, you increase the amount of fermentable sugar and ensure that no starch ends up in your wine. The extra sugar probably isn’t all that significant, but starch in your wine can cause a haze and support spoilage organisms. Those are headaches worth avoiding.
Towards a pumpkin wine recipe
A recipe or procedure for making pumpkin wine is still a work in progress for me. The starch in pumpkin makes it so different from other sorts of wines that I wanted to address it separately. This pumpkin wine looks a lot like a beer so far, and you can make good pumpkin beers, but next time I’ll address sugar, acidity, and the typical issues in making a wine.
Was this helpful?
If you got something out of this article, why not spread the word? You can click any of the icons below to give this page a +1 or share it on your favorite social media. Everyone likes a pat on the back - even me!