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I intend to make a melomel based on a Polish trójniak with (sour) cherries. As we're in season, I will probably buy fresh fruit at my local grocery store or market. What I wonder about is how to best sanitise the cherries without stripping them of their flavour.

I was thinking about giving them a quick Starsan bath and/or spraying them with 70% ethanol before chopping and freezing. Is this a good idea? I am aware that freezing alone will kill off some, but not all of the bacteria and wild yeast that can be found on fresh fruit.

In case it's relevant, trójniak is one part honey and two parts water (by volume), resulting in an OG ~35°P (1.154). My mead yeast strain has 21% alcohol tolerance.

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    How do you plan to ferment? Juice the cherries first? Can you use a steam juicer? (This may also impact flavor a bit, but would certainly kill wild yeasts and bacteria.) Do you just roughly cut the cherries? Can you still give them a boiling water shower? I'd not use sanitizer on fruit, it's meant for equipment, not food. – Robert Aug 23 '18 at 21:01
  • As I've never used fruit, I'm open for suggestions. My plan was to pit and quarter the cherries, freeze, thaw and add to secondary. I certainly can give them a hot bath or even steam them, however I'm afraid of losing a lot of the flavour that way. – mingos Aug 23 '18 at 21:17
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    Steaming worked fine for blackberries that we picked in the wild. It gave us the peace of mind and the flavor was good. You couldn't tell they had been steam-juiced. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_juicer – Robert Aug 23 '18 at 21:23
  • I don't happen to have a steam juicer, I'm afraid. Only a steam cooker, which is a completely different thing. – mingos Aug 23 '18 at 21:27
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No point in using StarSan to sterilise fruit of any description. It will not be very effective as it can only affect the surface and contains phosphoric acid and a surfactant (basically a "detergent" wetting agent). If one had to wash the fruit then metabisulphite (Campden tablets) would be a good alternative.

I would use a microwave on the cherries in a clip top plastic food container. It is only necessary to pasteurise the cherries which can be done at temperatures around 70C for about a minute or so. If you have a sous vide then the cherries can be sealed in a bag and held at 70C for (say) 5 minutes. YMMV.

To capture all the volatile flavours and olefactants one could heat the cherries in (some of) the water to be used. One could chop and de-stone the cherries and then add in one go to some water at (say) 80C. Keep a lid or other cover on the vessel and let it cool (or add more cold water) until at a suitable temperature to add the yeast. A sous vide could do the same thing in much the same way.

Alternatively wait until the alcohol level of the brew is high enough that it will naturally inhibit bacteria. Adding cherries then ("in seconday") would be a viable alternative.

Freezing fruit is not an effective method of sterilising it - although it tends to be fatal to any bugs inside.

  • So essentially, either I should pasteurise the cherries when using in primary, or forget additional sanitation (other than freezing, though that's for breaking the cell walls more than anything else) when using in secondary? I expect the alcohol level to be at 15+% ABV at that point. – mingos Aug 24 '18 at 22:05
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    I don't know why you want to do this. Do you know what type of funky crap is all over grapes people continue to make wine out of grapes. Did you know that nothing is done to most grapes. No washing. Cleaning or anything. Some people sort them by hand to but you don't wash them. Either way, I would just put your cherries in your mead after primary is done and let them age a bit so the mead soaks up the flavor of the fruit. – farmersteve Aug 25 '18 at 14:00
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    The yeast used to ferment grape juice to make wine comes from the grapes themselves - this is why they're not sanitised. On the other hand, I already have my yeast strain and if at all possible, I'd like to avoid any unknown organisms competing with it for the remaining sugars. – mingos Aug 25 '18 at 15:45

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