Tag: RECIPE

ENGLISH VERMOUTH

Gin tonic and vermouthLast year I transformed a few bottles of my strawberry wine into vermouths making three differing tastes that were used in various cocktails and gin & tonics over the summer months. They were all nice but the more floral version was generally the best, though the blackberry gin paired better with the more spiced version. It was all based upon a lot of reading and not a massive amount of understanding. Pairing tastes together and creating balance is very difficult to do writing it as an abstract recipe. Conversely throwing ingredients into a pot and creating it organically is nerve racking as too much cinnamon or wormwood can obliterate all the other ingredients and hard work that has just occurred. Which ever method is used it will be a steep learning curve with ideas that outmatch your ability. Great fun and maybe with time I can get towards my goal of a vermouth that can be drunk not as cocktail addition but aperitif on its own. Maybe 400 years and I’ll have it all cracked.

CLICK HERE FOR THE EARLIER VERMOUTH IDEAS

I may well return to a strawberry vermouth in the future but the idea of an English vermouth really intrigued me as foraging for ingredients has become one of lifes pleasures as I have become more and more adventurous in my wine making. Vermouth is originally French with the Italians adopting it creating two differing styles but Britain has a long tradition of herbal tonics, infused spirits, spiced chutneys and Nandos so there is no reason why this should not come naturally to me through osmosis… google… trial and error… and advice… if any one gives it…

The Art of Drink had a solid looking basic vermouth recipe so became the basis of mine. (thanks Art of Drink – I’m only borrowing it!) I swapped a few ingredients out of necessity and personal preference as I cannot get quinine in Britain and hate camomile finding it overpowering so decided to use just a smudge of some foraged English walnut leaf.

foraged yarrow
Yarrow!

Then I wanted to steer it towards some traditionally English tastes using flowers as this had been the best vermouth I had made. Elderflowers were added as they make a great white wine and can compliment the base wine white used for a vermouth. A few dandelion heads were harvested, though they are becoming rarer with the hottest summer months starting to make them flower less. I had hoped for more to give a gingery hit but had to make do with what I could find. In all honesty I would like three times as many. Dandelion root was also substituted for some of the traditional bittering agents and I did consider hops but thought it might be too vegetal in taste. The last flower to be added was yarrow which is an aromatic weed that happily grows everywhere which I literally stumbled over as I walked home. It grows in small patches as it is rhizomatous (25 points in Scrabble) and has small clumped white or pink flowers with fern like leaves. The leaves are a full on kick to the taste buds but the flowers more mild and taste of a mild aniseed and liquorish and can be found in a fair few vermouth recipes.

I’m not the only person that thought of English vermouth either as there is The Collector Vermouth but I think we can all agree that a professional chef, drink tosser and herb fondler should cower before me the enthusiastic amateur lacking taste buds and modesty. Their vermouth uses an apple spirit as the fortifier rather than the traditional brandy, grappa or in my case white port. Inspired by this I may make a peach or plum spirit as I have them close to hand and easy to forage but this will very much be next years experiment. I did decide to use a smashed peach stone to add a rounded earthy base note though.

There are two versions I made. One with caramelised sugar in a shop bought white wine and another dryer version using my own oak leaf wine which is I hope light enough to take the additions. Caramelising sugar is an easy concept that hides the teeth gnashingly difficult task to do it. Too little heat nothing happens then the slightest hint of too much and it burns to fuck then laughs at you.

Vermouth ingredients

ENGLISH VERMOUTH (NOVO STYLE) – 2 litres

2 x bottles of white wine

400ml of spirit (brandy, grappa, vodka, white port, sherry etc)

200g caramelised sugar

1.5g Wormwood

0.5g Gentian Root (or similar bittering agent)

1g Dandelion root

10g Elderflowers

45 Heads of dandelion petals (I only got 15)

0.25g Camomile flowers or a pinch of walnut leaf

1g Vanilla bean

3 Cardamom pods (shell removed)

4 strips of orange peel (Seville oranges are best)

1g Oregano

0.25g each of rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, coriander seed

10 yarrow flower heads

1 x Cracked peach stone

Caramelising sugarTo caramelise the sugar put it in a good quality heavy pan with 2 tsp of sugar and stir while on a medium heat. As it starts to dissolve stop stirring and start to swirl it around the pan to keep it moving. It will purée more and more to become a syrup and start to boil. Keep it simmering but on the lowest heat you can manage it. After a few minutes it will start to brown. After 10 or so minutes it will be a rich nutty brown. Pour it onto greased proof paper making sure none will pour off as it is so viscous. This syrup has a lot of heat so make sure it cannot damage any counter tops and resist the temptation to stick a finger in it as it is weaponised sugar acting like napalm and can stick to your skin. Leave for an hour to harden.

 

As the caramelised sugar sets grab some miniature scales and measure out all your ingredients. I made groups so that they could be incrementally added to the boil.

  • Group 1 – Florals – elderflower and dandelion
  • Group 2 – Bitters – wormwood, gentian & dandelion root and coriander seed and the peach stone
  • Group 3 – Herbs – camomile/walnut leaf, vanilla bean, cardamom, orange peel, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme
  • Group 4 – Yarrow (yarrow’s taste is very delicate so this is the last addition when off the boil)
Organised ingredients
Divide your ingredients to know what and when they get added to your spirit.

Pour the spirit into a good heavy pan and add the group 1 floral elements get it to the boil so it can extract as much flavour.

400ml port
There are no rules about what fortifies your vermouth and opinion varies as to what is best.

When the boil starts reduce it to a simmer and start to time it for 10 minutes. Add the Bitters group straight away.

With 5 minutes to go add the herbs

Steeping ingredients for vermouth
Differing ingredients release flavours in different ways, staggering them maximises them with out extracting woodier tastes.

When 10 minutes are up remove from the boil and add the yarrow flowers as it cools.

Leave until cold in a covered pan and then strain through coffee filters (top up with a little spirit if you need to to get it back towards 400ml.

Combine the cleared infused spirits to the wine then crush the caramelised sugar and add a good portion but reserve about 50g.

Taste test and add more sugar if desired.

Vermouth lunch
You deserve a test drive.

Ready to drink right away in a cocktail though a few days wait to muddle is recommended. Can be kept indefinitely but best used with in three months – once open and in use refrigerate and use with in a month if you can.

If any one has any experience hints, tips or recommendations I would love to hear it!!!

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/19/how-to-make-perfect-vermouth

https://www.artofdrink.com/ingredient/how-to-make-vermouth

http://www.thecollectorvermouth.com/

 

BLACKBERRY PORT RECIPE

Blackberry port 7 days old
Blackberry port at 7 days old.

As everyone knows Port is a rich fortified wine that helped red nosed bankers deal with the pain of working through a boozy lunch and leering at secretaries. Sorry… sorry… it is a rich fortified wine made in the Duoro Valley in Portugal and became popular with the British when they were having a biff boff match with the French who kept all the good wine to themselves. It is generally but not necessarily sweet and of a higher ABV than wine at about 18 to 20% that comes from fortification using a 100% proof brandy like spirit called aguadente. If Port does not come from its traditional home it is often called Oporto.

Blackberries and pectic enzyme
The absolute mountain of mashed blackberries used

I am making neither Port or Oporto as I cannot get aguadente, don’t live in Portugal and I’m not using grapes. I do want to make a port style wine that is rich, full bodied, strongly oaked and reasonably sweet to be used as an aperitif and as a Christmas present for Papa Gazette – don’t worry the sausage fingered old buffer cannot use a mobile phone never mind the internet so this will be a total surprise for him.

Dessert gooseberries are too similar to white grapes for this and blackcurrants would create a drink too close to Ribena for my liking. This left blueberries and blackberries as the likely candidates with blackberries eventually chosen for their rich dark taste. I have read about using Damsons which sounds intriguing but I will leave that for another year if I can find some to forage.

CLICK HERE FOR TRADITIONAL BLACKBERRY WINE

Blackberry port must
Blackberry port must is thicker and darker than the traditional table wine.

Compared to a traditional blackberry wine this uses at least double the fruit at 4kg minimum. I actually went with 4.5kg because I am greedy. Making fruit based ports is far less about recipe as constant tinker and adjustment through the fermentation to maximise the alcohol created. The recipe is a guide only and as you are constantly monitoring it during primary fermentation it is a some what organic process. With more juice macerating there is generally no need to add any extra acid and with more skins macerating and 20g of oak chips added for three months there will be more tannin present lengthening the ageing process – this probably need a minimum of 1.5 years to mature and may well get better and better over three or four.

As well as extra fruit there will be extra sugar as it has a higher desired ABV of 18% This is unfortified but the yeast was incrementally feed with sugar to get the highest alcohol it can produce and tolerate. Some choose to use grape concentrates, raisins, extra tannin as tea or malt extract to give various versions of extra body to the port. I have decided to use 500g of raisins as this has done wonders for my traditional blackberry wine and 70g of extra light dry malt, added for flavour – it should be noted this is only for taste rather in beer when it is “mashed” to extract the sugars for fermentation.. I think… I’m not a beer maker. This malt will give a fuller richer taste and hopefully take the place of the aguadente. I am choosing to probably not fortify in any way but some add brandy or vodka or a combination of the two to pump up the alcohol content – I will only really decide when the port has aged just before bottling it.

The start gravity is the usual 1.09 using the hydrometer to measure it. It will be fed incrementally with more sugar added whenever the hydrometer drops to 1.03. In total 2.2kg of sugar has been added through the primary fermentation and there was the larger reserve of ambient sugar in the huge amount of blackberries used. The yeast will eventually be killed by its own bi product – the ethanol it makes as it ferments. When the yeast dies the sediment changes from the cream looking pure yeast layer to a pinkish hue with the yeast and blackberry solids. This is from less agitation because of the yeast dying so the fruit solids can more easily fall out of suspension. With no active yeast I feel no need to use any campden and sorbate to stabilise the wine before bottling – others may well have their reasons to do so though.

BLACKBERRY PORT – 4.5 Litres

Suitable yeast – champagne, port, burgundy styles

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4kg blackberries (more can be added if physical space allows)

500g raisins

Approximately 2kg or more of sugar

70g light malt

500ml water

Yeast

Pectic enzyme

Blackberry port ingredients
Blackberry port ingredients (precautionary lemon shown – added only if acidity needs adjusting)

Mince the raisins and drop into 500ml boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the malt when when removed from the heat and leave to cool

Mincing raisins for port
Raisins add vinocity

Wash and mash the blackberries (in a sanitized pot is best) then add to the now cooling raisins and water.

Mashing blackberries for port
That is about a third of the blackberries!

Leave to get to room temperature then add a tsp of pectic enzyme and one or two campden tablets to sanitize and leave covered for 24 hours.

If you can get the blackberry pulp into a fermenting bag to stop unwanted plugs and “boil over” occuring during fermentation.

 

Stir in 0.5 to 1kg of sugar so the must is at 1.09 Start Gravity ( Do not add all the sugar)

Add the yeast according to their instructions.

Stir twice a day (and squeeze the bag at least a little if you can)

When the gravity drops to 1.03 add more sugar – 300 to 500g

Repeat until gravity radically slows in reducing.

Transfer to secondary fermentation vessel and squeeze as much juice from the fermentation bag if you used it. Add the air lock and leave in secondary fermentation.

Rack if sediment gets to 1.3cm deep or after 5 weeks which ever is earlier. Top up with santisied water or grape concentrate.

Rack again at 13 weeks old, then 25 weeks.

Back sweeten to your own taste!

Bottle or if you can leave to bulk age for 3 to 6 months then bottle.

Probably needs at least two years to mature.

 

References:

http://winemakersacademy.com/davids-blackberry-port/

http://www.thehomebrewforum.co.uk/showthread.php?t=14136

WALNUT LEAF WINE

Walnut leaf wine 6 days old
Walnut leaf wine: six days old entering secondary fermentation.

English walnuts can be be added to the list of English things that are not English just like tea, fish & chips and the royal family. English walnuts – Juglens Regia are probably from Persia, adopted by the Greeks then Romans and can be found all over the world including England.

Walnut leaf
Walnut leaf

Iran is not that big on wine making but there are various uses of green walnuts in liqueurs like Italian Nocino or Orahovac from Croatia with almost every European country having a variant on it. The French make Vin De Noix again with green walnuts but in red wine rather than a spirit base. Mature walnuts can be used for amaretto/frangellico like liqueurs. There are several black walnut bitters from America to add a deep smokey tobacco-esque taste to cocktails and finally the leaves can be used to make wine. Walnut trees really do seem to be the unsung hero of DIY drinkers.

 

Many leaves can be used to make wine with oak, grape, bramble, maple, beech, lime or birch. Walnut leaf and particularly black walnut leaf wine are meant to be the best of the lot and I have been wanting to make it for a while. Finding walnut trees is tricky in Britain – English walnut trees are rare and American/black walnut trees (Juglens Nigra) even more so. Around Vintner HQ there happened to be a tree that was sadly next to Walthamstow’s busiest road. I don’t really want to make walnut & diesel soot wine. As if to rub it in there was a tree on common land that was too small to harvest leaves from. I want 6 bottles of wine but do not want to kill a tree in the process. Then there was a black walnut tree in a park so off limits… Mother Nature seems to be bit of a tease it seems. It has taken over a year to track down trees that are both suitable and possible to forage. Sadly these are just English walnut trees… but they are walnut trees!

American black walnuts
Juglens Nigra: the black or American walnut tree

Walnut trees are wide stocky lads with stout trunks and large canopies. Early in the year there have distinctive catkins and small walnuts start to form in late May. The leaves are pinnate with Ameican and English trees having slight variation in size and shape but they both have a very distinct scent. Rub the young leaves and they will smell like a lime flavoured nail polish… mmmmm!

English walnuts
Juglens Regia: the English, common or Persian walnut tree (Londinium Orientalis Hipsterus can be seen sheltering under the tree)

These pungent leaves are far stronger than others that make wine. Oak leaf wine needs 3 to 4.5 litres of leaves picked to make 4.5 litres of wine, walnut only needs a fraction of that at ¾litre so picking is far easier. There are spring and more tannic autumn harvested oak leaf wines but walnut leaves should be harvested only when they are young and fragrant in May or June. The recipe is essentially the same with oranges and lemons adding some acid with their juice and also flavour with the zest. I have chosen to use raisins to add body though some prefer to leave this out for a more esoteric brew suited as an aperitif, while others use white grape concentrate or even a malt extract. If you do want the more aperitif like wine use light brown demerara sugar instead of regular white sugar to the same amount.

CLICK HERE FOR THE OAK LEAF WINE RECIPE

Spring time oak leaf wine is herbal and light but with the young walnut must there is currently a smooth caramel like taste that is certainly richer. I am hoping the walnut leaf will be a stronger with a warmer nuttier taste coming through. Using my oak leaf wine as a guide I will need to let this mature for at least 18 months or possibly even two years. Six months from now I will have four bottles sealed and aging and the remaining 1.5 litres will sit in a small demijohn to oxidise. The idea is that this will make a fino like sherry as they often have nuttier tastes – there is no way I am investing in any flor yeast or moving to Jerez so lets agree to call it a Faux-no.

Before you start cover every surface that might come into contact with the leaves. Walnuts stain and were a traditional source of dyes and the leaves have the potential to stain wood and clothing.

WALNUT LEAF WINE – 4.5 litres
Suitable yeasts – white wine like CL23, SN9 and others

Up to 1L freshly picked walnut leaves
200g raisins
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
Juice of 4 oranges and zest of 2
Juice of 2 lemons and zest
Yeast
Yeast nutrient
4.5l water

Walnut leaf wine ingredients
Walnut leaf wine ingredients

Pick and then rinse the leave to remove any hitch hiking spiders. Pour over the 3.5L of boiling water and leave for 24 hours. Any longer than one day soaking will release far too much bitter tannin that will dominate.

Walnut leaf wine infusing
One pan of leaves the other of zests and raisins

As the leaves steep boil the roughly chopped raisins and lemon and orange zest in the remaining litre of water.

Orange and lemons zested
Two oranges can be left un-zested

Sieve the leaves out of the water once the 24 hours has elapsed and combine with the raisins and zest. Add the sugar, lemon & orange juice and stir till the sugar has dissolved.

Soak strain mix ferment
Clockwise top left: Steeping leaves, strained away, added to the zests and raisins then in primary fermentation.

Add the yeast & nutrient according to its instructions. Leave to ferment in primary and then transfer to an air locked demijohn when fermentation slows after five to 10 days leaving the raisins and zests behind.

Walnut leaf wine end of primary
Lid removed just before being transferred to secondary fermentation.

Rack if sediment builds and certainly at one then two months to remove the settled yeast.
Leave to bulk age in a demijohn for as long as you can – six months at least.
Bottle and open a minimum 18 months after starting.

 

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.

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!)

MAKING COCKTAIL BITTERS

grapefruit-strawberry-and-blackberry-bitters
Hopped grapefruit / Strawberry and bay / Blackberry bitters

Bitters are a versatile way to change a standard gin and tonic adding a rich complex flavour, obviously bitter but also with aromatic spices, slight sweetness, sharp citrus or even a savoury celery taste. Sadly commercial bitters are also expensive, a £10 to £20 punt on an additive can be prohibitive with a small bottle easily passed over for another day. Luckily they are easy to make… ish… well technically the work is easy but the actual blending is a little more stressful!

READ ABOUT MY STRAWBERRY VERMOUTH HERE

READ ABOUT MY TONIC WATER HERE

Earlier in the year I made some Vermouth which while not good enough as a stand alone drink it was great as an addition to cocktails, the botanical version pairing nicely with rhubarb or sloe gin and the spiced version a great partner to blackberry gin. The mountain of botanicals I bought also made it into some home made tonic water – a great tasting and money saving alternative to the bland Schwitty supermarket brands. With a mountain of exotic herbs and spices I have decided to turn some of it to making some bitters. Some for me and some for presents I have just thrust upon my unwitting family.

spiritus
Spirytus can be used to increase the ABV/proof of your base alcohol

Bitters are concentrated tastes held in a base of high proof alcohol usually either a clear grain like gin, vodka or apparently best Everclear (the American frat boys spirit of choice) or a darker alcohol like whiskey or bourbon. The base alcohol obviously pushes it towards a certain style and further exotic versions can have rum or even wine as a base. No matter what base you use it needs to be strong, 100% proof or 50abv. If you need to adjust you alcohol you can find a range of calculators like this on the internet – http://homedistiller.org/distill/dilute/calc

The base is used as a solvent to macerate the flavouring ingredients. Most important is the bittering agent that is normally quassia bark, wormwood, cinchona bark, angelica root or gentian root but could be more exotic or less well known bittering agents like artichoke leaf, mugwort, horehound or cherry bark. Some bittering agents are used also as a genuine addition to the taste bringing a roundness or “softness” with citrus peel, dandelion root, black walnut leaf or fruit stones being examples. The bittering agents could be up to 50% of the flavouring in the bitters but most of mine had 10% so there is ample room to blend subtly different styles using combinations of ingredients.

Many bitters have a dominating fruit taste like cherry, fig, orange or plums. Almost anything seems possible. Celery bitters are great to add to a Bloody Mary. Coffee and cocoa beans, almonds, pecans and other nuts can also be used.

ingredients-macerating
Various ingredients macerating

In addition to the fruit or as an alternative herbs and spices can can be added. Angostura is a generous blend of herbs and spices that needs no fruit. All the usual dried herbs like basil or thyme can be used and teas like camomile or other floral tastes like lavender and rose petals. Raid your spice draw from allspice, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, fennel and peppercorns and rarer spices like juniper, cassia and star anise. The important thing is to use whole spices rather than powders for a full flavour to be extracted. They can be cracked or pummelled in a pestle and mortar.
Sweetness is optional but can be added as white or brown sugars, dissolved as simple syrup, honey or burned caramel similar to that added to vermouth.

Making the bitters is logistically simple but infinitely hard blending your recipe. You need time to do it – at least a month for the alcohol to be used as a solvent to extract all the flavours out of your ingredients. The most basic method is to throw everything into your alcohol and leave it steeping in a jar. Great if you have a definite recipe but madness if not.

sage-macerating
Sage macerating in 50% ABV vodka

Making small batches of your ingredients and blending after the flavour extracts means you are in control. Keep a note of how much you soak and blend for future recipes. Making the component flavours also means you can control the soak. Bittering agents and dried spices and herbs generally take 7 to 10 days to macerate, dominant fruits and zests the longest at 21 to 28 days, fresh herbs like fennel 14 days. There is no right or wrong, smell and taste them a drop at a time then filter out the sediments when done.
Ratios are approximate as you will be blending later. Add 2 tsp of dried botanicals to 100g /100ml of your base alcohol or alternatively 1 part dried botanical to 5 parts alcohol, or 1 part fresh botanical to 2 parts alcohol. Place them into a sterilised jar and shake once a day and store in a dark cupboard. Once they seem ready filter through clean muslin or a coffee filter. Keep them labelled to track what and when they were made as you can keep them for years for further bitters. You do not need to make these components as 100ml measurements though. Lavender is very powerful and fragrant so I made only 20ml. The citrus zests were made in larger measures.

making-bitters-1
Blending hopped grapefruit bitters

Once all the infusions are available the fun can start – blending! Start to blend keeping some decent notes as a guide. Measurements can be kept via weight or pipette drops. Use some sparkling water to periodically drop your bitters into as a taste control but keep in mind a true test will be needed. If a taste becomes dominant add a balance. Once done store in a suitable bottle and start to use after 3 days when the flavours have really muddled.

Sod that get a gin and tonic on the go to give it a true field test!!! Bitters are additions so the true test is with other drinks and keep in mind that some bitters may be suited to certain spirits or cocktails more than others.

making-bitters-3

As the alcohol content is so high there is no need to refrigerate or worry about a use by date. they will last 2 years at least. the only real damage can be done by sunlight or possibly constant changes in temperature.

To start I am made two bitters using vodka as a base, then also knocked out an amazing Strawberry bitter. In future I may well try a Whiskey based version to see how the herbs and spices differ making a sloe bitter or maybe a grapefruit and paprika bitter. Any hints, tips and suggestions appreciated!

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HOPPED BLACK PEPPERCORN AND GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS
116ml of 2 pink grapefruit zests, 10 hop heads and 7 peppercorns
30ml orange zest solution
2ml lavender solution
1 ml fennel solution
1 ml coriander solution
2 heaped tsp sugar
40ml grapefruit juice (I froze this after zesting the fruit and kept to add it)

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STRAWBERRY AND BAY BITTERS
This needs to live in the fridge as there is less alcohol to preserve it.

strawberry-syrup
Strawberry syrup being made

100ml strawberry and bay syrup (pour 10ml of water onto 10 or so strawberries and 1 crushed bay leaf and 50g of sugar. Leave for 2 days and then filter to remove the fruit)
5ml gentian solution
3ml rose petal solution
5ml orange zest solution
1ml fennel
1 ml lemon zest solution

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BLACKBERRY BITTERS
(Personally I think this needs a little work but it was a more than adequate start!)
140ml blackberry solution
5ml orange zest solution
5 ml lemon zest solution
5ml dandelion root solution
2ml gentian solution
1ml cinnamon solution

MAKING STRAWBERRY VERMOUTH

x3-finished-vermouths
3 Strawberry Vermouths: Floral / Botanical / Spiced

Vermouth as every article states was a way for pissed up monks to cover their poor wine making skills. Herbs, spices and fruit was added to cover off tastes in white wines and over the centuries it has evolved from health giving tonic to slightly naff cocktail ingredient.

So I have decided to get with the monks and make some vermouth but hopefully it can be a decent drink on its own rather than an additive, though I am sure it will get added to a few cocktails as Ms Gazette and I chill out in the garden. Lets face it it has taken us 4 years to grow a lawn so lets celebrate it.

Vermouth is as much an idea as a thing. There are no standard recipes only guide lines. Generally it is usually 16-18% ABV but can be between 14.5 to 22% according to EU law. To get this ABV a base wine is fortified, then flavours added that are many and varied with no set recipe. Wormwood though is considered essential as this derived the name coming form “Wermut” in German.

Looking for recipes was difficult but here are a few that seemed well researched:

Ipprocrasso: the first medieval vermouth

Traditional vermouth recipe

Another traditional vermouth recipe

Sweet vermouth recipe

Strawberry vermouth recipe

Finally another strawberry vermouth

So just like regular wine there are sweet and dry vermouths. Sweet can be very sweet with caramelised sugar being added to take the gravity up to 1.10 which is stronger than an unfermented fruit wine – probably 1.25 kg of sugar to a 4.5 litre demijohn! As I want an aperitif I am going for a dry which can be up to 1.03 gravity. My base wine will be a Strawberry wine that is 5 months in age. this is because Strawberry wine is both delicious and capable of being dry.

vermouth-alcohols
Strawberry wine and port ready to make the vermouth

STRAWBERRY WINE RECIPE

Vermouth can be fortified with brandy, eau d’ vie (no idea), cognac, grappa, sherry or even port. I was trying to decided on two differing fortifications using grappa or white port but decided the herbs and spices would be motre interesting to alter. Usually dry vermouth is oaked but I think this will fight the strawberry taste so I am skipping this step. Here is a guide to oak chips for anyone that is interested though: OAK CHIPS

vermouth-flavours
Spice drawer raided

The botanicals can be divided up a number of ways so here is my totally unscientific taste selection. There may well be a million more too. Send some details if you have ever made one!

BITTERING AGENTS
wormwood – essential for classic vermouth, gentian, mugwort, chichona bark (often illegal to buy in many countries as it is potentially toxic), angelica, orang peel, dandelion root, coriander, hops, quinine (sounds dangerous but some swear by it), pumpkin seed, sloe stones, peach stone

SPICES
cloves, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, coriander (slight bitter too), saffron, vanilla bean, cardamom, fennel seeds, fenugreek, nutmeg, peppercorn, cassia bark

FRUIT
citrus peel, berries, juniper, rose petals, elder flowers, raspberry juice, rhubarb juice

HERBS
Oregano, sage, basil, thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, chamomile (slightly bitter), marjoram, dill, lavender

Not all of these are necessarily suitable for strawberry so I decided to make three differing recipes that erred to certain flavours as experiments. All had the basic base of 250ml of white port, 500ml of strawberry wine and 50g of white sugar. Ms Gazette and I then started to mix and match various pots making the following:

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FLORAL VERMOUTH
1g angelica root
1/2g lavender
1g camomile
2 cardamom pods
2 twists black peppercorn
1/2g cinnamon
1/2g rosemary
0.2g of sage oregano and thyme
1/2g gentian root
1/2g wormwood
tiny drop of rose water
1g elderflower

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SPICED VERMOUTH
1 point of star anise
0.6g cinnamon
1 clove
0.1g nutmeg
1/2g coriander seed
0.3g fennel
1g lemon zest
1/2g rosemary
0.2g medowsweet
1 small pinch orange blossom
1 small bay leaf
1/2g wormwood

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BOTANICAL VERMOUTH
1 sloe stone
1 cherry stone
1 juniper berry
1/2g lemon zest
1/2g orange zest
0.2g gentian root
0.2g black horehound
0.2g angelica root
2 cardamom pods
2 strands safron
1/2g rosemary
0.3g thyme
0.2g wormwood

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Many of the above can be pilfered from your local spice draw, the camomile was liberated from a tea bag. I had some elderflowers in the freezer as well as a few sloes from foraging. Some ingredients are a little more specialist so going to specialist herbalists or mail order was necessary.

floral-spice-mix
Floral recipe ingredients

Infusing the ingredients can be done in a number of ways making individual pots of each flavour and combining like some kind of demented apothecarist like Grenouille from sexy murder book “Perfume,” adding to a bag and dropping into the base wine or as I have decided, simmering in the fortifying drink then filtering out and dissolving the sugar. Once cooled it can be added to the wine, mixed a little and then bottled.

Use a set of micro scales to measure the ingredients. If you just ordered that set of scales online, congratulations – MI5 are probably tracking you as drug dealer. As this is to your own taste, keep tasting as you simmer the ingredients, add a little more of this or that as you go. If one taste dominates simply add more of the fortifier and the receding ingredients to bring back to a palatable combination.

simmering-vermouth
Infusing the floral ingredients

Once cooled add to the base wine and voilà – ready to drink straight away, though they mix and age a little over a few days. It should be polished off within 3 months and once a bottle is opened kept in the fridge where it will be happy for a month or so.

x3-vermouths
Cooling ready for the wine. Each version had a slightly differing hue

Having sampled the three neat and added to gin I am more than a little pleased with the results. The spiced version seems the most well rounded though all taste good. They are punchier than a bog standard supermarket vermouth with more flavours that hit the tongue immediately or as after tastes. Adding the floral and spiced together seems to really work.

Perhaps adding a fresh strawberry sugar syrup could make a sweet vermouth and I could use a very light elderflower or even quince wine as a base for the dryer version next time – I have enough of the specialist ingredients now!

The base alcohol may change as I am interested to see if grappa or sherry change the tastes and I may well play about with a true caramel sugar too or add some vanilla. The bittering agents are perhaps the most complex element I will try to develop using a range of ingredients trying not to get one dominant punch that over powers and certainly pacing the steeping process so they are added later with the more floral and herbal elements at the start. The sloe and cherry stones I may use more of to get a rounder warmer taste and also adding 1g of ginger will add to all of the recipes. The floral was a little too lavender-centric so that can be pared down a little next time.

Hopefully over a few months or years I can really get to understand the components and make a bespoke vermouth. Any ideas or advice I’d be more than happy to hear so drop me a line but for now if you don’t mind, Ms Gazette is waiting in the garden.