While watching an episode of Moonshiners recently, I saw Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes create a moonshine mash using nothing more than cans of Mandarin Oranges, sugar, and yeast. Mark and Digger had a problem with their mash, however, in that they did not account for the acidic content of the oranges. This acidity caused the yeast to go dormant or die out. To counteract that, they added baking soda (and maybe some fresh yeast) to jump-start the fermentation. When a nearby grocery chain had a deal on Mandarin Oranges, I decided to try making a mandarin orange wine myself.
5 cans (15 oz. each) of Mandarin Oranges in light syrup
1/2 tsp. Gypsum
1/2 tsp. Yeast nutrient
8 pounds of table sugar (cane sugar)
2 gallons of RO water heated to 150F
2.5 tsp. baking soda (see Post-Brew Notes and Observations)
1 Tbsp. DADY (distiller's yeast)
Enough additional RO water to reach 5 gallons in the fermenter
- Clean and sanitize the fermenter
- Begin heating the RO water to 150F
- Open the cans of Mandarin Oranges
- Pour 2-3 cans (whatever fits comfortably) in a blender and blend to break up the big chunks of orange, then dump in fermenter.
- When the water is at temp, turn off the heat and stir in the 8 pounds of table sugar
- Stir in the baking soda, gypsum, and yeast nutrient
- Add the hot water to the fermenter and stir well
- Add cold RO water to the 5 gallon mark in the fermenter and stir well
- When the temp is 90F or lower, add the yeast and stir well again
- Seal the fermenter and setup temp control to hold it at 89F
After 7-14 days, there should be no change in gravity for at least 3 days, signifying the end of fermentation. At that time, you can strain off the solid material from the liquid using cheesecloth or another straining/filtering medium.
Taste the resulting wine and decide on your next steps. If you want it to remain "still" (uncarbonated) and backsweeten it, you can heat the wine to 140F to kill off the yeast, then add sugar to your desired sweetness level and bottle it. If you want to carbonate it and backsweeten it, you'll need to use a sweetener that yeast cannot ferment (e.g., Stevia) to hit your desired sweetness level, then use priming sugar to reach the desired carbonation level. If it's legal where you are (in the USA it is not), you could also do what Mark and Digger did, which is to distill the liquid into a form of liquor and consume it that way.
Post-Brew Notes and Observations
04/03/2021: I put this together fairly quickly and easily. The most time-consuming parts were heating the water, dissolving the sugar, and cleaning up afterward. My pH meter read somewhere in the 5.6 region in the fermenter, so I ended up adding another half-gallon of RO water to drop it closer to 4.2. If I was doing this recipe again, I'd only add 2 tsp. of baking soda and adjust if needed.
There was fermentation activity in the airlock pretty soon after pitching the yeast, so the slightly higher pH didn't seem to stop fermentation, thankfully. Gravity read 1.065-1.069 SG on the Tilt Hydrometer.
04/04/2021: There is regular airlock activity now, about a "burp" every second. Gravity is reading only 1.064 SG, down from a high point of 1.070 SG overnight. I didn't have temperature control running overnight, but at about 5pm today I put that in place at set it at 89F, so I am hopeful that fermentation will kick into high gear when the liquid reaches that temp. It's about 73F as I write this.
04/04/2021 8:53pm: Gravity is now 1.063 SG, and temp is up to 82F.
04/05/2021: Gravity is down to 1.058 with a temp of 85F. That means the mash is about 14% fermented at this point.
04/06/2021: Gravity is down to 1.046-1.047 SG today, with the temp holding at 85F. Gravity has been on a steady downward slope since yeast pitch, suggesting that the pH level is adequate for the yeast.
04/07/2021: Gravity is down to 1.034 SG today with a temp of 87F. That makes it roughly 5% ABV already with plenty of fermentation still to do.
04/11/2021: Gravity is down to 0.999 SG today with a temp of 90F. That makes it roughly 9.6% ABV.
04/12/2021: Fermentation is definitely slowing. Gravity is showing as 0.998 SG today at a temp of 89F.
05/09/2021: No real flavor to this thing. A hint of orange, but not what you'd expect for the color and aroma. I'm going to dispose of it.