I don’t plan on going to prison any time soon, but if I do somehow end up there I’d at least like to be prepared. I’d imagine that a day in the life as a new prisoner can be quite stressful, and what better way is there to relax after a long day of making license plates and trying not to get shanked than with a nice glass of wine? Since prisons ban all alcoholic beverages however many inmates have taken to making their own wine, or “pruno” as it’s often called.
There are plenty of different pruno recipes out there, but I decided to use the most popular one, which is attributed to a man named Jarvis Masters, who is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison. Making prison wine is actually surprisingly easy, and all you really need is a one gallon plastic bag, ten oranges, eight ounces of fruit cocktail, some sugar cubes, six teaspoons of ketchup and a towel.
The first step is to peel your oranges and toss them in the bag along with the fruit cocktail. Then you’re going to want to mash up the oranges as much as you can and add 16 ounces of water to the bag as well. The next step is to seal the bag up nice and tight, put it in your sink and heat it with hot running water for 15 minutes. After that you’re going to want to wrap your bag up in a towel to keep it nice and warm to help with the fermentation process and then stash it somewhere safe for 48 hours.
Once the 48 hours are up you’ll need to check on your bag of mashed up fruit. Does it smell completely disgusting and look like it’s about to explode? That means it’s working! This is when you add the sugar and six teaspoons of ketchup to speed up the fermentation process even more (and to give the wine a little better taste). Jarvis’s recipe calls for 40 – 60 sugar cubes, but the more sugar you use the higher the alcohol content of your wine will be (up to a certain point) so I added 60 of them. Once the sugar cubes and ketchup have been added you need to seal the bag back up, place it under hot running water for 30 minutes, wrap it back up in a towel and let it do its thing.
Three short days after adding your sugar and ketchup you’ll have your very own prison wine! All you really need to do in that final 72 hour span is to open the bag once a day to let all the gasses out and then seal it back up and run hot water over it for 15 minutes before wrapping it back up again in the towel. Once the three days are up just separate the fruit mash from your pruno and enjoy!
If you’re reading this I know that you’re probably wondering how it tastes. It was actually a lot better than I expected it to be. The smell kind of throws you off, but it pretty much just tasted like a really thick orange juice with a hint of ketchup flavor. It obviously isn’t the best wine in the world, but then again, if you’re in jail it’s certainly better than having no wine at all.