There has been some discussion about the various alcohol-based washes, how they are made, etc. One thing that has come up is the fact that many people really don't, for whatever reason, want to go and buy a bottle of wine. I should have seen this coming, since I myself have this same objection due to my own position as a rather conservative Mennonite.
So here we will look at a rather simple solution to this problem: Make your own wine.
This sounds kind of mystical and complicated, but it's not that hard at all. Making wine is really quite easy, and can happen by accident.
I make all of my own wines for washing, before that I had a bottle of cooking Marsala that I used for a little while. Now my wash brines are made from a wine I have made from local wild grapes. Our wild grapes are all red grapes (the species from which concord grapes are bred) So this gives our cheese a rather dark color.
I am also working on a cider wash.
So here is a little about my wine process.
First, I start off with wild grapes. I fill 2 plastic sacks full of them, which is about 8 pounds. Wash them off lightly with cold water.
Put the grapes in a big stainless steel pot, put on some plastic gloves (I use nitrile, since it it abrasion resistant) and smash the grapes thoroughly. Boil some water, and pour just enough water to cover the grapes.
Let the mashed grapes sit for a long time, 4 days to 4 weeks. I go 1 or 2 weeks usually. It will start to ferment in this pot but we don't want this wild yeast to be our main fermenter.
Strain all the liquid into another large stainless steel pot, and place all of the mash into cheesecloth, press it out as well as you can with your hands. Or, you have a cheese press. You could use that to press out your grapes too.
Add 5 pounds (gasp) of sugar and enough water to come to just over 2 gallons total. Bring the mixture up slowly to a boil to sterilize the wild yeasts and bacteria to a high enough degree as to allow your desired yeast to dominate.
When the mixture cools down to under 90 degrees F, you can add the yeast. Amount really isn't that important. Bread yeast is perfectly fine, we have always had good results with it. Put one or 2 tablespoons of yeast into warm water, dissolve, and add to the mixture, stir very thoroughly.
Now it will ferment into wine.
I put it into gallon milk bottles with a special lid. This lid has a hole drilled through it and a plastic tube inserted through the hole, sealed with wax or putty. The end of the tube sits in a glass of water. The end inside the jug must be above the liquid level. This contraption is a one way gas escape, the fermentation produces carbon dioxide. It will bubble out through the water, which keeps contaminated outside air from introducing new bacteria or yeast into the wine.
Set this in a cool place, around 65 degrees, for at least 2 weeks. For wash, we like a dryer wine so longer is advisable. The longer it sets, the more sugar is consumed and converted to alcohol. You can let it set until it stops bubbling, which means either all sugar is consumed or the alcohol level has reached a level so high as to kill all the yeast.
Take a plastic tube now a siphon the wine out of the bottles into new bottles with regular lids. There will be a lot of sediment on the bottom of the fermentation bottle -this is mostly dead yeast. Don't get this in there.
Set the new bottles in a cold place, this will firmly stop the fermentation. Let it set for at least a month or else the flavor is too harsh, particularly if using wild grapes like I do. I find that with wild grapes, new wine is almost unbearably harsh but when aged out a few months it is quite good.
For hard cider, It is easy. If you cider is not pasteurized it will often accidentally turn itself into wine. To control the process, just bring it to a boil, cool, add yeast, and continue as before.
Once you have your alcohol, you can use it for your cheese. Cider can be mixed with salt and a little water and used to brine the cheeses out of the press. Add a few herbs to the mix and you have the Appenzeller brine. Wine could in theory be used the same, but it seems wine washed cheeses are usually brined in salt water.
I'm up to mixing nearly half and half alcohol and water, then salting to taste. Maybe it is 1/3 alcohol. I need to test this some time so you know what salinity. Lets just say, it is very salty. To get less color on the rind, use less wine. Specifics here really are not that important, feel free to do whatever you please. Some times you can even use straight wine.
Keep the same mixture as long as you can, because you want the slimy goo that will colonize it. This is B. Linens. Eventually, though, you have to get rid of it. If you keep it in an aging room climate, though, and keep it covered, it should last most of a year. Just keep adding more water, wine, and salt as it gets depleted from use.