Posted on 12 September 2010 by

Tomato Wine Makes Me Feel So Fine

tomato_wineBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

This year’s tomato crop has been huge.

I have canned everything you can think of when it comes to tomatoes.

I have canned juice, sauces, and stewed tomatoes along with ketchup and salsa.

I have also dried and frozen tomatoes. Cooking this year has centered on tomatoes for every meal. Tomatoes for breakfast either on the side or juice tomatoes and for lunch either sliced or just placed in salads.

Dinner has seen many grilled, stuffed, and kebob tomatoes as sides and main dishes. My family’s snacks have also centered on tomatoes either just eaten out of the garden or as a salsa or pico de gyllo to go with chips. So in a nutshell my garden’s memory will be the Year of the Tomato.

But as I look for more space for my preserved tomatoes in my abode I reminisce about my Great Uncle Clyde and his Year of the Tomato. His Year of the Tomato was 1975. You may wonder how I remember that date well in my area of the country the winter of 1975 brought on unprecedented amount of snow to the tune of 27-inches in less than 24 hours. And my family was caught in the mist of the worst snowfall on record for my Midwest state.

It started out as a simple trip to the country to pick up a side of beef from my Great Uncle. The roads to his farm were windy and his driveway was covered in a thin layer of old gravel. We arrived mid afternoon and had dinner with my Great Aunt Ruthie and Great Uncle Clyde. After dinner we settled down to a game of penny poker.

Nobody looked outside and the company was so great there was no need for other entertainment such as the radio or television. My parents and Great Aunt and Uncle Clyde continued to play while I watched the thrills of the game. Around 7:00 p.m. my dad decided it was time to load up the beef that my Great Uncle raise and go home.

Everyone felt the temperature had dropped enough to keep the beef frozen until we got home but there was a problem. It had started to snow but my dad felt we could get out o.k. So the beef was loaded into the truck and backseat and away we went. My dad started the car and crept down the old driveway but we were not moving.

The weight of the beef that my dad thought would increase traction was only holding us back. My dad thought if he gave it a little more gas the problem would be solved but the extra gas caused us to spin into a ditch. But before the spin my wise Great Uncle Clyde had already got the tractor out of the barn ready to pull us out.

He hooked the tractor to the bumper of my dad’s car and pulled us out. He told my dad that it looked like he was going to have overnight guests and directed us to go to the house. The beef remained in the car and we stomped through the snow to the house. And to this day I still do not understand how my Great Aunt Ruthie knew the outcome but she already had homemade hot cocoa with marshmallow cream for me and coffee for the adults ready. It was like she knew what was going to happen to those city slickers but just let us learn from our mistakes all the while preparing for her unplanned overnight guests.

Sleeping arrangements were made and blankets and pillows were dispersed. The evening’s entertainment became more penny poker with chips and homemade goodies on the side. My Great Uncle Clyde was discussing his wine selection he kept in his root cellar. Dandelion, blackberry, cherry, gooseberry, and hard cider were just a few of the alcoholic concoctions he mentioned. I was used to all this talk until I heard Tomato Wine. Tomato Wine I thought my Great Uncle had really lost it but he never lead me astray so what the heck. After my dad heard the alcoholic choices like one would hear in a fine restaurant he picked Tomato Wine from the wine list.

When my Great Uncle Clyde passed away my Great Aunt Ruthie gave me something more valuable than any of her carnival glass. She handed me a yellowed notebook that contained all his recipes and hints he developed through 70 plus years of farm life. Below is a modern-day version of Tomato Wine.

Red Tomato Wine

  • 5 pounds ripe tomatoes, washed
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 2 campden tablets
  • ½ teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 1 package wine yeast
  • Water

Green Tomato Wine

  • 3 ½ pounds green tomatoes, washed
  • 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 4 lemons, juice only
  • 1 campden tablet
  • ½ teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 2 pounds raisins
  • ½ ounce fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1 package wine yeast
  • Water


1. Chop tomatoes and put into a large saucepan and cover with water.
2. Bring tomatoes to a boil and cook until soft.
3. Mash tomatoes and add water to make up 1 gallon.
4. Then add sugar, yeast nutrient, lemons, campden tablets, pectic enzyme, and in the case of Green Tomato Wine add raisins and ginger.
5. Let mixture set overnight.
6. The next day strain the mixture and add yeast.
7. Stir everyday for the next 3 days.
8. Siphon mixture into a Secondary Fermentor and add water until 1 gallon of liquid is reached. Then attach airlock.

To make a dry wine siphon liquid to remove sediment in three weeks and return to Secondary Fermentor and continue with this process every three months. Continue this pattern for a year and then bottle.

To make a sweet wine siphon liquid to remove sediment in three weeks and add ½ cup of sugar to 1 cup of wine while stirring until dissolved. Return to Secondary Fermentor and repeat the above steps every six weeks until fermentation stops occurring when sugar is added. Then siphon liquid while removing sediment as above every three months until one year is reached. The bottle and prepare to enjoy.

The Year of the Tomato will be celebrated by my own version of my Great Uncle Clyde’s Tomato Wine. It will be bottled 2011 and be ready to celebrate a very special birthday in 2012. I will gladly pop open the cork on my childrens’ 21st birthday and tell the story of Tomato Wine.

So until we blog again, Tomato Wine makes me feel so fine. Makes me reminisce about my Great Uncle Clyde, and while it may not be that fine, it is still great Tomato Wine.

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