When life gives you watermelons, why not make wine?

Barb Radewald, at right, and her daughter, Diane, stop by Jane Ammeson’s house with a load of watermelons.

I had surprise visitors last week when Barb Radewald and her daughter, Diane, stopped by to deliver a watermelon.

It seems that Barb and her late husband, Stanley, sold their large farm to the Kerlikowske family. When they stopped to see Ed Kerlikowske Jr., he packed Barb’s SUV with watermelons, which he produces by the busload.

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When life gives you watermelons, why not make wine?

Ed Kerlikowske Jr. and his wife, Tina Kerlikowske, check on their crop of seedless watermelons last year at their farm near Berrien Center.

Not wanting to waste them, and unable to consume that many watermelons, Barb and Diane were on a mission to deliver watermelons to people they knew. By the time they arrived at my place, they were down to about 60, and when they opened the hatch of their SUV, it looked like a farm truck with all those watermelons packed in there.

I already had a watermelon at home, but I didn’t want to tell them that, so I figured I needed to find something to do with it – after all, as much as I love it, eating two melons in one week is a little much. That’s where Richard Bender’s “Wild Winemaking: Easy & Adventurous Recipes Going Beyond Grapes” came in handy.

I’d been wanting to try some of his recipes, which don’t call for sophisticated equipment, for making wine at home. Instead, he focuses on small batches using available fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs – running the gamut from every day (Bing Cherry Wine) to the exotic, such as Dark Chocolate Peach, Plum Champagne, Kumquat Cayenne, Sweet Potato Saké and (I’m not sure if this is legal in Michigan) Cannabis Rhubarb.

You’d think with all these combinations, that Bender might have a watermelon wine, but, alas, he doesn’t. He tried watermelon and Granny Smith apples, but it didn’t quite work out.

Since his wine recipes are fairly interchangeable, typically calling for fruit and water along with sugar and a packet of wine yeast for fermentation, I thought why not?

Now you will need some equipment, if you’re going to try this.

Before investing, you might want to wait and see how my watermelon wine works out before trying the recipe I created.

It takes four to six months to completely ferment, so I can’t report back really soon, but by next summer I should know if it works.

You can buy fermentation jugs, but Bender suggests some cheaper ways in his book, including food-grade buckets.

I’ve included some other recipes from the book, in case you don’t want to try my watermelon wine.

Watermelon Wine

3 pounds fresh watermelon, including rinds

1 gallon water

3 pounds sugar

1 packet wine yeast

Wash the rind and cut the watermelon into chunks. Put the watermelon in the fermentation vessel.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sugar, and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the boiling sugar-water to the mixture in the fermentation vessel. Cover and let cool.

Stir in the yeast and cover. Stir twice a day until fermentation slows, 7 to 10 days. Discard the rinds.

Press out the pulp and seeds, pour the wine into your secondary fermentation jug, and secure the fermentation lock.

Check it the next day; if there is a deep layer of lees (the cloudy layer of particles and spent yeast), rack and filter the wine. Rack again every 2 to 3 months.

The wine should be ready to drink in 4 to 6 months. Let it age in the jug for as long as possible before bottling, at least 6 months to 1 year.

Bing Cherry Wine

3 pounds Bing cherries

1 gallon water

3 pounds sugar

1 packet wine yeast

Stomp or cut up the cherries; don’t bother to remove the pits. Place the cherries in the fermentation vessel.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the boiling sugar-water to the mixture in the fermentation vessel. Cover and let cool.

Stir in the yeast and cover. Stir twice a day until fermentation slows, 7 to 10 days.

Press out the pulp, pour the wine into your secondary fermentation jug, and secure the fermentation lock. Check it the next day; if there is a deep layer of lees, rack and filter the wine. Rack again every 2 to 3 months.

The wine should be ready to drink in 4 to 6 months. Let it age in the jug for as long as possible before bottling, at least 6 months to 1 year.

Lemon-Lime Basil Wine

1/2 pound raisins

3 pounds mixed lemons and limes

1 quart lemon basil

1 quart lime basil

1 gallon water

3 pounds sugar

1 packet wine yeast

Soak the raisins in enough water to cover overnight, then chop them, with the water, in a blender. Chop the lemons and limes, including the peel. Combine the raisins, lemons, limes, lemon basil and lime basil in the fermentation vessel.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the boiling sugar-water to the mixture in the fermentation vessel. Cover and let cool.

Stir in the yeast and cover. Stir twice a day until fermentation slows, 7 to 10 days.

Press out the pulp, pour the wine into your secondary fermentation jug, and secure the fermentation lock. Check it the next day; if there is a deep layer of lees, rack and filter the wine. Rack again every 2 to 3 months.

The wine should be ready to drink in 4 months. Let it age in the jug for as long as possible before bottling, at least 6 months to 1 year.

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com or by writing to Focus, The Herald-Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, MI 49085.