I don’t know what it is about Dale Duchow’s wine, but I can attest to the fact that it loosens the old purse strings. I found this out several years ago, when a buddy and I stopped at his house where he was conducting a huge garage sale. Dale was sitting behind a table with little paper cups in front of him, generously giving out small samples of his many flavors of wine. When he offered me a cup of his strawberry brew I was impressed. “Wow!” I exclaimed, “This is tasty.” Then he gave me another sample, asking what kind I thought it was. “Blueberry?” I guessed. “Yup,” he said “Right on.”
As the little sample cups kept appearing before me I got more and more into the challenge of determining the different flavors, even going so far as emulating a highly trained and knowledgeable wine connoisseur. I would smell the elixir, swishing it slowly around the cup. Then I would take a small sip, letting it trickle over my tongue while rolling my eyes heavenward with furrowed brows.
I tried samples of raspberry, grape, blackberry, pear, apricot and even a few fruity mixtures before I started perusing the items at his sale. By then I was in the mood to purchase just about anything and ended up with a framed collection of buffalo nickels and a heavy duty ice cream scooper. I have to say it was one of the most entertaining garage sales I have ever attended.
After that, every time I saw Dale at different neighborhood functions, he would tell me about his latest wine making adventures. I had assumed he had been concocting these delicious brews for quite some time, but he has only been at this hobby for about six years.
It all started when he found some wild grapes in a fence row while visiting his parents’ grave down near Juda. That’s the area where Dale was raised on a farm. He moved to the Northwoods when he was a junior in high school. “My dad had breathing problems and he had to get out of farming,” said Dale. “We came up north to vacation one summer and stopped at the Northwoods Store which was for sale at the time,” he said. “My parents decided to buy it. I wasn’t very happy about it.”
But Dale came to love the Northwoods. “I really got into hunting and fishing,” he said. “And I loved how people up here knew how to take care of themselves.” After high school Dale worked at several jobs and then settled at Twist Drill for the majority of his career. “I worked there three weeks shy of 30 years before they shut the place down,” he said.
Dale has always been a self sufficient type and loves to preserve food to not only eat during the winter, but also share with neighbors and friends. He cans and freezes a variety of goodies, including jams, jellies, grape juice, pickles and a host of other delectables. But it was those wild grapes that spurred him to try his hand at wine making. “My dad always made wine and so I thought I would give it a try,” he said.
He turned to his wine making friends Lloyd and Rosemary Dretzka for advice. “They gave me recipes and taught me the process of it,” said Dale. After making that first batch Dale was hooked on the hobby and even planted a long row of grape vines in his backyard. “Last year I got almost 17 five gallon pails of grapes,” he said. “But I really do love the process of it. While I’m making my wine I have no cares in the world. I think that’s because it’s in my blood.”
And while Dale truly enjoys the process of wine making he doesn’t drink much of the finished product, but prefers to generously share it with others. “I’ll have a glass or two every once in a while but I just like giving it away,” he said. “People really seem to enjoy it.”
This week I’ve included a couple of Dale’s favorite recipes that he makes every year before the winter months set in. Of course, these days he’s also down in his basement on a frequent basis, checking on his latest concoctions, making sure the fermenting process is proceeding correctly and bottling the batches that are ready to age.
However, a few days ago, as Dale and I sat sipping one of his perfectly aged red wines, I did ask him if he was going to have a garage sale in the near future. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I just felt the urge to purchase something.
Dilled Brussel Sprouts
2 lbs. brussel sprouts
21/2 cups water
21/2 cups vinegar
3 Tbs. salt
4 heads dill
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 garlic cloves
Cook brussel sprouts until just tender. Combine water, vinegar, salt, pepper and dill. Boil 5 minutes. Pack brussel sprouts into hot jars. Pour boiling hot vinegar solution over sprouts leaving 1/4-inch head space. Place a clove of garlic into each jar. Adjust caps and process pints 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Start timing boil time after jars are placed in canner and water returns to a boil.
Apricot Zucchini Freezer Jam
6 cups peeled and grated zucchini
5 cups sugar
1 6 oz. pkg. apricot jello
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup crushed pineapple
Boil zucchini on low heat for 15 minutes. (Do not add water.) Stir often. Reduce heat and add sugar. Boil 6 minutes stiring often. Add lemon juice and pineapple with juice. Boil another 6 minutes, again stiriing often. Remove from heat and add jello, stirring well. Pour into containers. Cool and freeze.