HERBAL WINES -
One of the many pleasures of a life in the
country is the abundance of free food and the makings of fine drink. Sitting
here at my desk, glass of Dandelion wine in hand, the golden glow of the
flickering firelight passing through the pale amber nectar drifts my mind back
to the Spring and the picking and preparation that led to this magic moment.
Anyone who has ever made their own wine or beer will understand my feelings but
nowadays of course, wine nearly always refers to a Chateau produced store bought
liquid, made from grapes grown in some exotic far away land. However until very
recently, many other varieties of fruit and even flowers were used by
enterprising brewers. Dandelion, Red Clover, Rosemary and Rose flowers were all
used and all have their own distinctive nose, flavor and effect Herbs were used
for their traditional medicinal values, the wine-making process being me rely
the method of preservation.
Dandelion for the digestion and liver
Cowslip to help with sleep Clover flowers as a tonic and mild euphoriant
These herb wines are very simply made, with
minimal amounts of time and equipment and once tried and successfully imbibed,
they can become an integral part of your routine and life style. After all, what
better way is there to take your medicine than in a glass of fragrant ambrosia?
Hoping that I've caught your interest, (excuse me while I pour myself another
glass!), perhaps you'd like to give flower wines a try.
Here to help you on your way is my own
tried, and very well tested, recipe.
TRY THIS RECIPE
Two quarts of Red Clover or Dandelion flower-heads. (Or any other type of
edible/medicinal flower. Good ones to try are Calendula, Rose, Violet,
Elderflowers, etc; Use your own judgment, the recipe is good for almost any
combination of flowers and herbs).
One Kilo of sugar & 3 lemons. Four ounces
un-coated raisins or sultanas. One packet Champagne type wine yeast.
You will also need some equipment, most of
which can be found in the kitchen, viz: One, two or three gallon container,
(stainless steel, earthenware, glass or un-chipped enamel).
A one gallon glass flagon, Fermentation
lock, campden table and siphon tube.
(These can be obtained quite inexpensively from any home-brewing store).
Pick the flowers on a sunny morning after the dew has dried. They are best
picked after several days of full sun but Mother Nature is not always so
obliging. Choose only the best flowers and discard all green parts at the base
of the flowers. (They will make the wine bitter). Collect two full quarts of
flowers for each gallon you wish to make. (This is a good job to give to the
kids on a sunny Sunday afternoon. You won't see them for at least an hour.) It
is very important that you collect only from areas that have not been sprayed
with garden or agricultural pest sprays. Avoid all roadside flowers as they
contain high levels of pollutants.
It is important before starting in the
kitchen to ensure that all the implements and containers used are scrupulously
clean. Make up a sterilizing solution using the campden tablets, (follow the
instructions on the pack) and then thoroughly rinse and clean everything you
intend to use. This is the most important operation in home wine making, get it
right and your wines turnout perfectly every time, screw-up and your friends
will find all sorts of reasons for why they can't pop over to watch the game,
join the barbecue, etc; etc; Anyway, we are digressing. Back to the wine.
Clean the flowers of insects and dirt and
place them into the largest container. Add the juice from the three lemons and
the washed raisins or sultanas, and immediately pour over them six pints of
boiling water. Stir it all up with a sterilized spoon, cover the container with
a sterilized lid and leave to stand for twenty four hours.
Next day, lift up the lid and take a peek at
the dead flowers and other bits, floating in the water. Hmmm...Give it all a
good stir and then strain out the liquid into a clean sterilized container.
Rinse out your original container with some sulphite solution and then
immediately pour the strained liquid back in. Add the sugar and two pints of
boiling water, stirring well so as to dissolve the sugar, and then add the
yeast, which has been prepared beforehand as instructed on the package. Stir it
again, cover and put it away in a warm spot where the temperature stays around
70-80 degrees. Now forget all about it for one month.
The month has passed and you rush like the
wind to take a look at your wine. Urgghh!! It smells weird and looks weirder,
but don't worry, every thing should work out fine. This is where the siphon,
flagon and fermentation lock come into the picture. First sterilize all your
equipment with a sulphite solution and rinse thoroughly. Then siphon the
contents of your brewing bin into the flagon. This will give you your first
taste, but don't despair it gets much better! Set up the fermentation lock as
per the manufacturer's instructions, pop it on top of the flagon and now take it
back to that warm out of the way place where you hid it before.
Now comes the hardest part of the whole
show. You have to forget all about this big bottle of fermenting nectar for at
least six months. Don't be tempted to peek inside, smell or God forbid! taste
your new concoction. Don't even think about it! That day is still in the far
Six months have passed. November arrives and
the nights are getting longer. Remember the wine?? It's now ready to be bottled.
You'll need about six or seven bottles for each gallon. Use only those bottles
that are designed to hold pressure, i.e. Champagne or sparkling wine bottles,
even those thick heavy old-fashioned cola bottles. Use a sulphite solution to
sterilize the bottles, corks and caps, and using a sterilized siphon tube,
carefully siphon the clear liquid from the flagon into the bottles without
disturbing the sediment in the flagon. Tastes pretty good now eh!
To make your wine just a little sparkling
add no more than a half teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. Seal the bottles well
and let them stand in a warm place for three days. Then place them in the
coolest part of the house and wait six more weeks. It will then be just about
ready to drink. Of course like many wines it will taste better if left longer, (
about a year is best).
But of course we're all only human and so
must inevitably try out the fruits of our labor. Invite around your true
friends, break out the best glasses and then carefully open your first
delicately cooled bottle, without disturbing the sediment on the bottom. Pour
carefully into each glass, filling them all in one delicate movement, again so
as not to disturb the sediment. Sit back, raise your glass in a toast and sip
this delightful ambrosia. Revel in the complements and congratulations of your
friends, for they are truly deserved. And think of the coming Spring and the
fifteen gallons that you plan to brew.