Author: Luke McNally

FORAGED ELDERFLOWER WINE

Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation
Elderflower wine – five days old in secondary fermentation. Currently it is very dark but mostly from the raisin body and it will fall out.

Elderflower wine is possibly one of the most well known country wines along with The Good Life’s pea pod wine. While pea pod wine may be a long running joke (though by all accounts very nice) elderflower wine is a serious business. It is a bold confident wine with unique flavour that can stand next to any “proper” white grape wine rather than be an approximation of one. It has a lovely aroma and crisp floral taste that can be made into a very sweet or ultra dry wine. It hides to alcohol taste so never tastes too “hot” so to speak and can be easily adapted into a champagne. As few bottles are sold commercially it is unique enough to impress people if you share it and they will not be too bothered about the hippy drippy foraging you did to make it… just don’t get drunk and drone on about it. Not bad at about 70p a bottle once made!

GUIDE TO FORAGING ELDERFLOWERS

Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers waiting to be stripped

Most flower or leaf wines require a huge volume of ingredients usually the equivalent of the wine you are making. A gallon of dandelion wine needs a gallon of loose flowers picked. Elderflowers are packed with flavour so they only need half a litre of flower heads to make the 4.5 litres of an English gallon of wine. As they are so floral it is best to treat this like a white wine and go for a long slow fermentation. Do not boil the flowers as some recipes recommend simply pour over boiling water to blanch then steep them, doing it in a stainless steal pan will keep temperatures lower when fermentation starts dispersing some of the heat that fermenting yeast generates. It is best to use a good white wine yeast that prefers lower temperatures like Vintners Harvest CY17, SN9, CL23 or the champagne yeast EC1118. All this will ensure that the delicate floral aroma does not “boil” off as the yeast hits its stride.

MY QUICK GUIDE TO SUGAR AND A HYDROMETER

IMG-20160612-WA0001
Use a hydrometer to get the best results.

Elderflowers are a native to Britain and so many of the recipes suffer from British ideas about making overly alcoholic moon shine passed down from dotty grandparents. A hydrometer is very much needed and ignore any suggestion of adding 1.5kg of sugar to a gallon of wine. It will either make a stomach churningly sweet wine or head hurtingly alcoholic one. I made 10litres and only added about 2kg of sugar in total which was 1.09 SG on the hydrometer. If you want a sweeter desert wine it is far better to ferment to dryness and then stabilise and then back sweeten at the end to ensure it is to your taste. If you wish to make a sparkling Sham-pagne do not go past 1.08 SG so that the repitched yeast in a secondary fermentation can survive and carbonate in the bottle.

I have never oaked any of my white wines but I may choose to this time as the spiced and caramel flavours imparted will probably compliment the elderflowers well while also adding a little “buttery” mouth feel. As it is an experiment I will separate this 10 litre batch into two demijohns with one oaked and one left natural. I doubt it will need much so I will add 6g of oak chips for a couple of months at the end of bulk aging.

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ELDERFLOWER WINE – 4.5 litres

Suitable yeasts – white wine yeasts like EC1118, CY17, SN9, CL23
0.55L picked elderflower heads
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
250g raisins lightly chopped
1/2 mug of earl grey tea
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
1 tsp yeast nutrient
White wine yeast
4.5L boiling water

Elderflower wine ingredients

  1. Pluck the elder flowers from the stems removing as much green as possible.

    Elderflower wine prep
    Picked elderflowers, lemon zest and chopped raisins can be blanched together with boiling water.
  2. Place the elderflowers, chopped or minced raisins & lemon zest in pan and pour over the boiling water, add most of the sugar and stir in thoroughly so the flowers are submerged.
  3. Leave to cool to room temperature and fine tune to the desired starting gravity of sugar at 1.08 or 1.09 SG. Add the lemon juice, tea, yeast and nutrient and stir in.

    Elderflower wine primary
    A cap of flowers and raisins naturally forms as fermentation occurs. Push it down with a sterile ladle regularly to stop oxidation.
  4. Ferment in primary and punch the cap of flowers and raisins down four times a day if possible (at least once a day at least)
  5. Rack and filter to secondary though muslin to remove the solids when fermentation starts to slow. This will be at 4 to 10 days after pitching the yeast. Squeeze the muslin thoroughly to get all the raisin and elder taste.

    Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation2
    Secondary fermentation at six days old
  6. Rack at five weeks then another 10 weeks after that (and three months after that if needed)
  7. Stabilise and back sweeten if desired.
  8. Bottle at six months of age.

Can be drunk nine months after starting – 12 for best results.

FORAGING ELDERFLOWERS

Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers: Small flowers of five cream petals with yellow stamens on large sprays.

Elderflowers have started to bloom around Vintner Mansions and they have a special place in my wine making as it was the first ever wine I made. Sweet, dry or sparkling it is great stuff that goes down a treat. Elderflowers can also be added to rhubarb or gooseberry wines for a little twist, steeped in gin for a sweet summer cocktail, deep fried in tempura batter or even as a non-alcoholic cordial.

This is celebrity chef and part time Worzel impersonator Hugh Flannery Whittingstall’s recipe for cordial that Ms Gazette made while the wine is being started.

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL RECIPE

Elderflower Tonic
Elderflower cordial

For an alcoholic hit elderflower gin can easily be made. The stripped flowers of 15 heads, a slice of lemon zest and a few tablespoons of light brown sugar to your own taste. Submerge it all in a decent supermarket gin and shake every day for a week before filtering to get a gingery floral gin ideal for a Tom Collins.

You can find them dried for sale but these create a darker wine without the full perfumy scent and flavour of fresh flowers. To make the best wine you have to forage for the fresh flowers. The best time to collect is early on a warm morning when pollen is at its hight to add as much flavour as possible. This will also give you time to pluck them off the green stems and then to make the wine as quickly as possible to get the freshest wine you can. If you want them as an addition to gooseberry wine it is best to freeze them until gooseberries are in season. Add them frozen and thoroughly stirred in when they are needed – any exposure to air as they defrost they will start to turn brown and give an oxidized darker amber colour to your wine.

Identifying Elderflowers
Sambucus Nigra… the elder tree

Elder trees are scrubby little things part bush and part tree at 15m tall. The trunk is stout if visible at all and there are often a few stems that form the majority of the tree. The flowers are white/cream with five petals in sprays, the leaves are also usually arranged in sets of five though could be seven in total for some species. The easiest way to identify them is not sight but scent – a strong heady perfume that smells like a department store’s perfume counter.

It is customary to point out that elder trees are toxic… except for the flowers and eventual berries. Don’t eat the leaves, don’t lick the bark and certainly don’t go digging up the deadly roots.

Handsom Boy Foraging School 2
A wild Novocastrian hunting elderflowers

To make the wine you will need about half a litre of picked flowers which is about 20 to 25 heads. As these flowers are wild, be kind and only take what you need, taking too many will mean that an arms race will develop with other foragers as you compete. The more you waste the fewer elder berries there will eventually be later in the year. Elder trees give a double dip of excellent white wine with the flowers and excellent red wine from the elderberries – the “English grape.” I usually try to take flowers from trees that have trouble ripening to full fruit, birds will take them or fruit flies will infest the partially ripe berries. These are usually trees away from water courses or in competition with other trees.

Only take flowers you can easily get to. Trampling a few nettles or cow parsley is fine as it will regrow, trampling through a salt meadow or disturbing wild life is not the nicest thing to do. If an elderflower is out of reach do not climb up to grab them as the branches are brittle, be kind and leave them for the birds. When picking check the undersides to make they are not covered in cuckoo spit or aphids as these will just have to be tossed away.

The best advice to be an ethical forager is easy – don’t be a dick.

Full recipe next time with a mountain of images but click here for last years!

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE
Quince and rose petal wine

So spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the foragables is… sorry…

Spring is finally here. Elder flowers are starting to bloom and other more esoteric ingredients like oak leaves, gorse or dandelions are starting to become available for wine making. In a few days the elder flowers will be picked, plucked and starting to ferment, a few weeks after that I hope to make a walnut leaf wine for the first time. This means there is pressure on the demijohns to free up ready for new brews, not that space should determine if a wine is bottled.

CLICK HERE FOR THE QUINCE WINE RECIPE

2016 QUINCE WINE
Quince wine bottled

My quince wine has had six months since it was started and I have decided to bottle it. The taste is good, no starch or pectin haze is visible and colour is a lovely amber hue… Ms Gazette described it as a, “rose gold” as she wandered off planning her drunken quince debauchery. I say, “bottle” but it was only half of it as I am playing about with the remainder. Quince wine takes two years to mature and currently there are 12 bottles unopened in the “cellar under the stairs” and this will be joined by 7 more of the most recent batch. The remainder is becoming quince and rose petal wine inspired by Spanish membrillo.

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE PREPARATION
Rose petals, pre and post boil.

Quince is a good wine bone dry but I want to quince and rose petal to be totally different with a sweeter taste to compliment the floral rose petals. Adding the rose petals is easy – making a tea out of dried petals to add to the remaining British gallon (4.5 litres) of quince. I used 5 grams of petals boiled in about a mugful of water and it made a heady perfumed brew with a fair amount of tannin present, there is plenty of time for this to mature out over 18 months. Boiling not only extracted the flavour and aroma but also sterilised the brew too. Once cooled it was dropped in to the target demijohn that I racked the quince into.

STABILISING WINE
Stabiliser by itself is not enough! Use a two pronged attack like a buffalo

Adding this flavour is easy but adding sweetness is more arduous. If sugar is added to wine it can start a secondary fermentation due to dormant yeast having a nice new sugar banquet to dine on. Yeast can happily live for 18 months in a dry wine ready to rise from the grave. If a sweet wine (sweet in any form rather than just dessert wines sweet!) is wanted you have to inhibit the yeast. There are a few ways to do this and even more myths about how to do it. The important thing to remember is that a two stage attack is needed. Campden with its sodium metabisulfite will be a chemical cosh to knock any tired yeast back and then a stabiliser with potassium sorbate will be a chemical condom stopping them reproducing. Other processes could help like cold stabilisation making the yeast temporarily dormant but these are all moot compared to the chemicals. Some prefer to “max out” the yeast so that alcohol kills the yeast stone dead but this means the yeast determines your flavour and recipe rather than you – why be a slave to the properties of the yeast rather than your taste buds?

STABILISED QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE
Don’t fear the foam – as the wine stabilises it foams but it will dissipate.

Now we have the wine violence and prophylactics out of the way you need a little time and effort stirring these chemicals through once a day for four days to make sure it is dispersed and active to be effective. It should be noted that the yeast can still ferment during this time, probably intangibly to the home wine maker though. A hydrometer test with three days unchanging readings is a definitive test but generally after four days it is safe to add sugar as there will be no more fermentation and risk of exploding bottles at worst or an unintended balance of sugars to acids and tannins otherwise.

GARLIC WINE RECIPE

GARLIC WINE
Garlic wine – 10 days old.

Not once have I ever uttered the line, “Waiter, can I have a glass of garlic wine please,” for a few reasons. The first is I am banned from our local Italian restaurant and secondly because it tastes horrible to drink. This is not a wine to drink but a wine to eat as a stock to risotto, mussels, meats or any other meal when white wine or dry vermouth would be added.

GARLIC WINE INGREDIENTS
Garlic wine ingredients

Before you start have a think about how much you need as 6 bottles of stock is a lot to make as an experiment, it also stinks for the first three days of fermentation and by “stinks” I mean it really really honks. This dies down as fermentation gets under way in primary and is eliminated by the time it enters secondary fermentation with an airlock. If you have sensitive family or a vampire staying over best leave it a few days before kicking it off!

GARLIC PEELED
There are no hard and fast rules on the volume of garlic.

As this is a stock added for taste the measurement of the garlic is not really that exacting. I used 14 bulbs as they were small, others I have seen have used only 6 giant bulbs. The average is 12 regular bulbs as a guide. Pealing all of that will take eleventy billion years but the easiest way to do it is to press the full garlic bulb down so the skin cracks satisfyingly, then separate all the cloves apart and then start to slice to woody base off to peel. Once all the skin has been removed divide it in half with one set being baked and the other half thinly sliced.

ROASTING HALF THE GARLIC
Baking the garlic to hopefully caramelize the sugars

To roast the garlic pack it tightly into some foil and seal it with some tight folds then bake it for 20 minutes at 180° C / gas mark 7. For any Americans reading I’m sorry but I have no idea how you would gauge this but I imagine it is 3 cups of medium heat per quart of garlic time. The time is only approximate but when you open the foil it should be soft but not browned and it can be squished into a purée and dropped with the other sliced garlic.

Add to the garlic the lemon rind and chopped raisins and then boil for 15 minutes. The sugar will dissolve easiest when the water is warm so take the opportunity while you can.

GARLIC WINE BOIL
Boiling the garlic, rind and raisins.

When it has totally cooled add the mug of strong tea, orange and lemon juice then stir the yeast and the nutrient in. I chose to primary ferment in a large demijohn but if you pan is big enough just leave it covered in it. The boiling will have sterilised everything nicely already so no laborious cleaning and sterilising of other containers.

Primary fermentation leads to a pungent garlic smell that permeates your house so be prepared. I got used to it but opening the door when coming home really knocked me back, this is only temporary so persist through it for a few days or hide it in a cellar, shed or the servants quarters if you can. As there is a lot of solids in the must this will all lift due to the carbon dioxide bubbling away from the fermenting yeast. Stir it at least twice a day and four if you can and pour the must through sterilised muslin into a secondary fermenter when it starts to slow. The remaining pulp can be squeezed though to extract as much flavour as possible.

GARLIC WINE 1 MINUTE OLD
Garlic wine – 1 minute old

The raisins give a dark brown colour to the must but this will soften as particulates drop out during secondary fermentation. Pretend it is a rich butterscotch rather than a murky brown if you can. Racking should be done as usual at about 5 weeks and then 8 weeks after that but there is no long ageing process needed. The wine should be fermented to dryness so no need to back sweeten. When the wine is clear it is pretty much ready to use though some leave it a month for flavours to mellow and mix nicely but there is no reason why four months after starting you cannot be using it. While the wine will keep for a year or so it should be noted that it needs to be refrigerated once a bottle is opened. It should happily sit for a month as the 13% ABV will be a natural preservative. Because of this I am choosing to put it into capped beer bottles as they are smaller and more manageable.

There are no rules to when or how to use it simply add to your own desired taste and if any one has any particular recipes it can be added to I would certainly be interested to know!
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GARLIC WINE – 4.5 litres

12 regularly garlic bulbs
500g raisins
2 lemons – juice and zest
3 oranges – juice only
1 cup of tea
4.5litres of water
1kg sugar
Wine nutrient
white wine yeast

1. Peel the garlic and divide roughly in half.

2. Roast half until softened but not browned and thinly slice the rest as it is in the oven.

3. Combine both and add the roughly chopped raisins and lemon peel then boil with 4.5 litres of water for 15 minutes

4. As it starts to cool stir in the sugar then once fully cooled add the cup of strong tea and juices pof the lemons and oranges, yeast and the nutrient.

5. Stir twice a day in primary fermentation in a covered container.

6. When fermentation starts to slow pour through sterlisied muslin into a demijohn and squeeze out as much flavour from the resulting pulp. Seal with an airlock and rack in 5 weeks or so when fermentation ends.

7. Rack every 2 months until there is no more sediment and bottle. Leave for an extra month if you desire.

Four months from pitch to… er… cook.

GORSE WINE RECIPE

Gorse wine at one month
Last years gorse wine

Broom is a number of months from flowering but gorse is in season and will be except for the hight of summer – both flowers use the same recipe. It should be noted that broom is toxic and that rarely is it mentioned in recipes online so proceed with it with caution. The flowers can be made into a technically easy to make wine though it needs a decent afternoon to pick the flowers needed for it. It also requires some dexterous fingers or gloves as gorse are covered with spines on their stems.

3 to 4.5 litres of lightly packed flowers are simmered in boiling water with some tea and raisins adding body. Gorse creates a light coconut tasting wine that mellows in the bottle. The time of year the flowers are harvested can alter the taste and some make gorse and rose petal wine with two litres of gorse flowers and on lire of fresh rose petals.

Parsnip Quince Gorse
parsnip / quince / gorse wine (most of the gorse colour comes from the raisins which eventally lightens)

GORSE WINE – 4.5 litres

Suitable yeasts – EC1118, SN9 or CY17

3.5 to 5 litres gorse flowers
4.5 litres water
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
500g chopped raisins
2 lemons – juice and zest only (no pith)
Half cup of strong tea
Yeast nutrient
White wine yeast

Gorse wine at one month21. Bring the water to a boil and add the gorse flowers – simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Add most of the sugar, the raisins, lemon rind and tea

3. Once cool adjust sugar to 1.09SG, add the yeast and nutrient and stir twice a day.

4. Sieve and squeeze into secondary when fermentation starts to slow

5. Rack at five weeks and then if needed every 2 or 3 months. Bottle when clear.

Leave at least 12 months to mature before drinking though 18 months is best.

BLUEBERRY AND POMEGRANATE WINE RECIPE

Blueberry and pomegranate wine
Blueberry and pomegranate wine at 10 days

Deciding to do some blueberry and pomegranate wine was a snap decision and knocked the nettle wine out of contention that I did have plans for. A friend will probably brave the nettles so I may get to swap a bottle for a test drive… they might just be learning this as they are reading.

Blueberry and pomegranate wine ingredients
Ingredients including the cold macerated blueberries

The change of mind was by chance drinking some blueberry and pomegranate fruit juice and thinking it was an ideal for a wine. That fruit juice had preservatives so was probably unsuitable to to use as a base as it would clobber the yeast into submission. I quickly went off the idea of de-seeding 12 pomegranates and crushing them to get the juice too. Tracking down some sulphite free pomegranate juice from a whole-foods shop meant that the recipe was a goer.

Cold soak blueberries and mash
Add campden then blueberries and water, cover to stop oxidation then refrigerate. Afterwards MASH!

The blueberries were easier to source from a supermarket and they were frozen to burst the flesh and cool them down ready for a cold soak. The cold maceration/soak allows flavour and colour to be extracted from thick skins before the yeast is pitched. To do it a campden is crushed to keep the water sanitised and kill any natural yeasts on the blueberries. Enough water is used to at least cover the berries but more is beneficial. I personally boil then cool the water so it is safe but the campden should do this anyway. Cling film is then placed on the surface of the water to stop oxidation and then another to keep any nasty microbes away before it is popped into the fridge for a 3 to 5 days.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL DETAILS ON COLD MACERATION

Adding blueberryThe berries were mashed and squeezed in a sparge bag to rupture them and allow as much flavour out. The sparge bag will also allow a good pressing when I rack from primary to secondary fermentation. The berries were then married up with the pomegranate juice, remaining water, some tea for tannin and the juice of lemon for extra acidity. The ratio of blueberries to pomegranate is roughly 50/50 with 1kg of the berries and a litre of juice – there is no reason that this cannot be done to any other ratio for personal taste. Using a hydrometer I adjusted the sugar to 1.09 for a planned 13%ABV. I have not make this recipe before so I have no idea if I want a sweet or dry wine at bottling time. The taste seems fruity but complex so may be able to remain totally dry.

Adding pomegranateI imagine this will be a fruity medium bodied wine that will need no longer than a year to mature, blueberry wine being the quickest of the berries. Native European blueberries are less flavourful than the American blueberry and as such if this is a success I may tinker with the recipe next year. Most of the ideas for this did come from US recipes. Pomegranates to me have a naturally smokey taste so I may or may not choose to oak this wine and I may use some sherry chips as I am yet to throw them at any wine so far.
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BLUEBERRY AND POMEGRANATE WINE – 4.5 Litres

Yeast strains – Any red wine yeast like R56 or Lalvin 71B

1kg of blueberries
1 litre of pommegranate juice
1kg sugar – aiming for max 1.09 SG
3L water
1 cup of tea
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
Wine yeast

1. Freeze the berries then cold soak for 5 days in fridge at least with one campden and 1.5 litres of water.

2, Boil the remaining water and then leave to cool. Add then crush the berries and the pomegranate juice and leave to get to room temperature.

3, Add lemon juice, tea, sugar to 1.09SG then the yeast and nutrient.

4. Leave in primary to ferment then squeeze the berries for all the juice and filter into demijohn.

5. Rack at 5 weeks then again 10 weeks after that.

6. Age for 3 months minimum after that (5g of oak chips could be used)

7. Bottle.

One year from pitch to pop but better if left (I imagine!)

TIME OF THE ELDER-GODS

Time. That vast rolling expanse into infinity. In the time before time… well two years ago I made a blueberry wine as it was reputedly a good wine to drink young. I happily guzzled it within a year of pitching the yeast and it was all very nice. One bottle was squirrelled away as I often do with a 10 litre batch and it has been happily maturing for an extra year. This was a pleasure to drink with a totally different character mellowing into a spicy rose with “cherryish” blueberry and nutty tastes with an amazingly clear slightly purpled hue. All the talk of drinking it young seems to be flim flam and patience is a virtue.

CLICK HERE FOR BLUEBERRY WINE RECIPE

Blueberry Wine 14 weeks
10L Blueberry wine at 14 weeks old

Sadly no pictures in the glass as five of us all had a glass. I have got a new batch a year into aging and an experimental blueberry and pomegranate started in primary… more of which next week.

Elderberry wine 2016
Elderberry wine 2016

I do have pictures of the Elderberry that has just been bottled. On the right a clear bottle that shows off the colour amazingly. Again I am going to leave it longer than poeple suggest. Most blogs say a year is adequate to leave itand I am not so sure about that. Started in September it has had a fair amount of time of bulk aging in the demijohn and all the CO2 seems to have off gassed naturally so no vacuum pumping needed. The 2015 vintage is still not mature enough to drink being too tannic although the quicker elder and black is good. For this the 2016 vintage pictured I tried to modify my approach to make it less tannic. The cold aqueous maceration was extended from 3 to 5 days and then the maceration in primary fermentation was reduced to 5 days before being pressed (well squeeeezed in the muslin bag) so that the skins could be removed earlier. The pre-fermentation cold soak allows colour and taste to be extracted but as there is no yeast present producing ethanol the tannin is mostly left. Only when ethanol is present from the fermenting yeast is the tannin content of the skins and seeds started to be macerated out. This means I can use the two differing macerations to extract the ratio of flavours I want.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON COLD SOAK/MACERATION

The results are already evident as having a taste of the left overs lees the wine was fruitier tasting with far less harsher tannins present. It will still need at least two years to age, maybe even more but it seems a far better prospect that the 2015 version. I cannot say for sure why but far more tannin dropped out of suspension this year which you can see photographed from the bottom up. It could be from harvesting later or the warmer summer that seemed to create a bumper crop of elderberries.

Tannin left after elderberry
Tannin that precipitated out of suspension

I am hoping this year’s forage and fermenting will allow me enough berries to make two batches so I can compare and contrast methods. One will be may made with a 7 day cold soak and 5 day ferment of uncrushed berries before I press them. This will mean few of the elderberries are burst so the tannin rich seeds are never really exposed to the ethanol to extract their tannin. Seeds are said to have the harshest tasting tannins imparting the most bitter taste into wines. The other demijohn will have a 5 day cold soak and 4 day fermentation of crushed berries before I remove them. Both the skins and seed will be exposed to ethanol but for a shorter time.

STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB WINE RECIPE

STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB WINE
Strawberry and rhubarb wine at 10 days old

Strawberry wine is a great wine for beginners and it has become a staple recipe for me. I have adapted it from the initial 17% hooch I first made into a still white wine, sparkling “champagne,” some vermouth experiments and now into my first composite wine with two fruits used with Strawberry and Rhubarb.

CLICK HERE FOR A STRAWBERRY WINE RECIPE

MAKING STRAWBERRY VERMOUTH

STRAWBERRY CHAMPAGNE TASTING

The classic strawberry wine is a quick and easy wine ideal for the beginner. Forgiving as a sweet or dry wine and quick to age to perfection. As I am now more confident with flavours, methods and throwing myself into experimenting with recipes I have decided to try and modify it to a slightly fuller rose rather than white wine. The first experiment was started last week with bananas added to bring a subtle fruitier weight to a purely strawberry wine with a more velvety mouth feel. This strawberry and rhubarb wine has two ideas to test out. The first is that rhubarb compliments strawberries as a classic taste combination creating a rounder top note, the second idea is that the raisins add a fuller base just like the bananas.

CLICK HERE FOR STRAWBERRY WINE WITH ADDED BODY

STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB INGREDIENTS
Strawberry and rhubarb wine ingredients

When making the strawberry wine with added body I thought that the fruitiness of the bananas would fight the rhubarb making a muddled wine with three fruits fighting for dominance. Using raisins I hope will compliment rather than battle the tartness of the rhubarb with less perfumed scents floating about in the final bottle.

rhubarb maceration master
Rhubard macerating in sugar

Using two fruits in combination adds some complexity in logistics and recipe. Ideally strawberries and rhubarb are macerated with different methods so it is more work to prep before the yeast is even pitched. Strawberries require an aqueous maceration and rhubarb uses sugar to draw out the liquid as it dissolves. Both methods are used for the same reason to minimise bitter tastes being extracted from the fruit with only liquid being present when the yeast is eventually added. As the must is overwhelmingly liquid you have an easier life when this is in primary fermentation with little stirring needed compared to say blackberries that require a labour intensive stir four times a day!

Strawberry and Rhubarb ferment master
Primary fermentation at day 1, 3 then 5.

I chose to use MA33 yeasts as it can tolerate the harsh Oxalic acid in rhubarb and convert much of it to softer tasting Malic acid. It had hell of a party and was exceptionally quick to ferment taking only four days in primary with a thick foam present for much of that time. Initially it was a grimy brown as the yeast was held with in it but as they yeast coalesced it started to sink leaving a clean white foam instead. I chose to mix the yeasty foam into the must so that it did not have any chance to oxidise. As I want the rhubarb to compliment the strawberry I used it in a 1:2 ratio with with 700 grams of rhubarb and 1400 grams of strawberries per British gallon of wine. There are no hard and fast rules for this and you can change this ratio to match your own taste. Some even make two wines of each fruit and blend them just before bottling.

STRAWBERRY AND HUBARB WINE – 4.5 L

Suitable yeasts – MA33 or other white wine yeasts

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1200g firm strawberries
800g Rhubarb
200g raisins
1kg sugar to 1.09SG
About 4 litres water
Juice of 1 lemon
Cup of strong tea
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Sachet of yeast

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1. Chop the rubarb up into small chunks and pour over 1 kg of sugar. Stir it then cover. Leave for 3 days and stir twice a day to extract the juice into the sugar

strawberry-wine-mashing
Strawberries macerating

2. On day two trim and wash your strawberries and  mash thoroughly in a pan. Boil one litre of water then pour over 1 litre of boiling water (the other water can be set asside in a covered pan)

3. On day three chop the raisins roughly and boil in the remaining water. leave it covered red to cool.

4. Once the strawberries have puréed strain through sterilised muslin, then pour the now cooled “raisin water” through to extract the flavour. It can be stirred but do not squeeze the mush as this extracts bitter tastes

STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB GRAVITY25. Stir in the rhubarb sugar into the must and remove the rhubarb with a slotted sterilised spoon. Adjust sugar level to 1.08 (11%ABV could be made into champagne too) or 1.09SG (13%ABV) Stir in the strong tea, lemon juice and yeast nutrient and the yeast and leave in primary to ferment. The primary fermentation vessel needs be big enough to contain the explosive fermentation as strawberries tend to foam a lot!

6. Rack after a month, then 2 months after that if needed

Can be drunk after 6 months of pitching the yeast, ready in nine and great after 12 but this will not last beyond 2 years.

STRAWBERRY WINE. THE BANANA-MASS EXPERIMENT

Strawberry Wine Experiment
Strawberry wine 2017 at 5 days old.

Strawberry wine was the first home made wine that I got to drink. Being impatient for my elderflower wine to mature I made it to take advantage of the 6 – 9 month ageing rather than full 12 months for the elder flowers. It was more moon shine than wine as I had no hydrometer and as all British recipes always go for maximum alcohol I imagine it was about 17% abv. It got my parents in law absolutely spannered. I think it did anyway I was spannered too. Ms Gazette as well.

Strawberry Wine 14 weeks
10L of classic strawberry wine from last year

As I have become more refined I have been able to get a little more exacting in my recipes and methods. Strawberry wine is great as it can be sweet or absolutely dry and easily made into champagne…. well sparkling wine at the end of bulk ageing. Extracting the juice is nice and easy and after the initial maceration requires little work like other berry wines. It is quick to mature at nine months but best at a year old so suites a new brewer or one more experienced.

I am totally happy with the strawberry champagne I make as it is crisp and sharp with an unmistakable strawberry taste that is not overly pungent or too floral to be sickly. I say happy but its actually fucking great to open your own sparkling wine that costs about £3 to make and I personally think it better than the commercial version we used to drink on Ms Gazettes birthday.

CLICK HERE STRAWBERRY CHAMPAGNE MAKING

CLICK HERE STRAWBERRY CHAMPAGNE TASTING

The still wine although lovely still has room for improvement as it could have some extra body in my view. I have decided to experiment with banana added to create a more robust body. Banana is a recent idea that has been developed for country/fruit wine makers as it allows a more neutral taste than wine concentrates and raisins. The jury is out on how and where it can be used with some saying it is only good for tropical fruit, others for any berry based wines and others saying only white wines. As such I have no idea if this will work and I have a year to wait to a taste test so use the classic strawberry wine recipe below if you are the exacting type. Both will have advantages over many other recipes as it removes the fruit before any bitter after tastes can be extracted and forgoes any vigorous presses that squeeze out that bitterness.

CLICK HERE FOR STRAWBERRY WINE RECIPE

Banana Water
Making “banana water” to add body to fruit wine.

If you do want to use banana you have to plan ahead as very ripe bananas are needed. Seriously they should be going black on the skins. Chop them into inch long chunks, skin and all and then pop into part or all of the water allocated to your recipe. Bring it to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes and then wait for the water to cool overnight. The pan should remain covered to stop any bacteria falling in and remove the chunks once it is nice and cool. Initially I was terrified by what I had made as the bananas look like HR Giger made some nightmare sausage rolls. The flesh swells out of the skin and I am glad I have no photos as they look freakishly bizarre bloated messes. The resulting water is a rich peaty brown colour. When this is added to your must it will discolour it but as most of the colour is particulates it starts to settle out and will not affect the final hue. The idea is that the poly saccharides – the long sugars give added mouth feel providing a more velty feel on the tongue and the “neutral” fruit taste compliments the tastes of your base fruit. At least that’s what I read…

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EXPERIMENTAL STRAWBERRY WINE – 4.5 L

Suitable yeasts – Any champagne yeast like EC1118 or white wine yeasts like CY17 or SN9

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2kg firm strawberries

2 very ripe bananas

1kg-ish of sugar to 1.09SG

About 4.5 litres boiled and cooled water

Juice of 2 lemons

Half cup of strong tea

1 tsp yeast nutrient

Sachet of yeast

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1. Trim and wash the strawberries

2. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher, mix in most of the sugar in a litre of boiling water, cover and leave for a day or two until it pureés

3. Chop the bananas into inch cubes skin and all and drop into the rest of the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then leave to cool

4. Remove the banana chunks when the water is cold

5. Once the strawberries have puréed strain through sterilised muslin, then pour the now cooled banana water through it to extract all the strawberry flavour. It can be stirred but do not squeeze the mush as this extracts bitter tastes

5a. (optional) Add pectolaise and leave covered for 12 to 24 hours.

6. Adjust sugar level to 1.09SG, Stir in the strong tea, lemon juice and yeast nutrient and the yeast and leave in primary. The primary fermentation vessel needs be big enough to contain the explosive fermentation as strawberries tend to foam a lot!

7. Siphon into a demijohn when primary fermentation ends – this is usually very quick at 4 or 5 days,

8. Rack after a month, then 2 months after that if needed

Can be drunk after six months of pitching the yeast, ready in nine and great after 12 but this will not last beyond 2 years.

HEY I’D LOVE A BABYCHAM

dandelion-champagne-opened
Dandelion champagne cider wine stuff

Just like Alien3 and Ms Gazette and I re-enacting that potters wheel scene in Ghost, home made wine sometimes does not work out.

Last April I set about making some dandelion champagne which I was oddly over excited and too eager to make. I know exactly where the problems arose. It is not that the recipe is bad or my work was poor. I simply harvested the dandelion heads too early… in the colder and wetter spring rather than waiting until a far warmer and dry summers day. I finally popped one open to test the water and it is somewhat… odd…

It has a dominant peppery taste with hints of lemon that while not unpleasant is not what I imagined and does not work with the expectations of a glass of white wine. It is quite nice as a face punchingly strong cider as it has more body and is cloudy. I never thought that I would eventually make some kind of turbo powered Babycham which is the closest taste I can think of – a drink that got the 1950s laid but has never been high on any ones home brew list.

It is now abundantly clear that things cannot be rushed when making wine. Wait for the correct time to harvest and don’t try to cram too many fermentations through your demijohns as I did. The flowers are obviously free so that is a consolation though I did have to pick 27 billion dandelion heads clean of their petals. If any one is interested in making dandelion wine the recipe is below. I imagine it tastes like summer in a glass.

CLICK HERE FOR DANDELION WINE RECIPE

I might make it again this summer or next, though I have ideas about that another oak leaf or perhaps a walnut leaf wine if I can find some accessible walnut trees.