Thursday, November 10, 2011

South Carolina Homemade Wine


South Carolina Homemade Wine

It started when I picked a gallon of blackberries then sweetened them with pure cane sugar and poured melted canning wax into the top of the wide mouthed glass jug that the berries were in. I placed that jug under the house in some deep dark shade so the fermentation could proceed at a slow pace. I figured a month or so of fermenting then I would strain it out to some real fine blackberry wine.

About the same time I blew the engine in my old Comet and rather than periodically loan me his car, my step daddy decided to teach me the fine art of engine rebuilding. We pushed that car up under the high part of the back of the house where there would be a dry place to work and got started tearing it down. The jug of blackberries was sitting over in the dark working it’s magic; turning from sweet sugar coated berries to fine South Carolina homemade wine. I will never understand how that fermentation process kept from blowing that wax plug out of the top of that gallon jar but somehow it was holding tight.

My step dad really did know how to disassemble a six cylinder Ford engine so in a few days we had it down to where he could take the block and have a machine shop grind it out so it was fit to be rebuilt. My step dad threw the bolts, nuts and mounting brackets into a bucket as he went without keeping records of what went where. We would usually go through a six pack each evening as we worked under a hundred watt bulb hanging from a cord we had spliced into one of the house circuits going to a bed room upstairs.

We were getting close to having the engine rebuilt when Leon came up under the back of our house where my step dad was showing me how to resurrect the old Comet. Leon wanted to borrow some money so he could go drinking. I told him I didn't have any money, and that if I had, I would have gotten Rudolf to rebuild the engine so that I could do something more fun than scrape gaskets and gunk out of a blown engine that had been run three hundred thousand miles while low on oil and leaking coolant. That engine had had so much STP put in it over the years that each part was so slick that they had to held with a pair of pliers in order to move them around.

All of a sudden Leon spied that gallon of blackberries waxed in under the top of that wide-mouthed jar. That berry stuff had worked in there till it had settled down some and just looked like a sticky goo with the seeds still in the berries. The plan was to strain it out when I got through with that greasy engine rebuild but now I guessed that plan would never be executed. Leon cocked his head & asked if I minded him trying it and I said okay, figuring that was the cheapest way out for me. If I could get Leon drunk on that, he likely wouldn’t steal something on his way out. He stuck his thumb through the wax in the top to make a drinking hole and tested the consistency of the mash to see if it would flow. It flowed so there he stayed 2 days & a night, sleeping next to that jar. When Leon would wake up, he would relieve himself then settle back down in the dirt and take a few more swigs, maybe a pint and a half or so, and doze off again.

By the time the jar was empty, Leon had an odor about him like stale air that had been shut up in a tight space for about six months. He was getting rank. It was to our salvation that my step dad tightened down the last bolt he could find a place for, though there were still several in the bucket that should have gone somewhere. He stood up straight and said try it. I got in the car and turned the ignition and to my disbelief the engine cranked up and though skipping badly, it ran. My step dad said, “Let’s set the timing and we will be done.” He had me bump that starter till he had the timing set and then I drove the car back out into the world of daylight and fresh air.

Later that day, Leon’s wife called to see if we had seen Leon anytime in the last couple of days. When told that he was passed out under our house she promised to come get him when she got off work. When she came we had to help load Leon into her car. That was over forty years ago and I have never seen Leon since but recently I got a friend request from him on Facebook.

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October 24, 2011, Bill Prince, All Rights Reserved

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