Hedgerow Booze (Part 2) – Collecting flowers, starting your brew

This tutorial is about collecting your flowers, and starting your brew. Even if you’re not making gorse wine (but are holding out for other kinds of wine, which we’ll talk about in Part 4) we hope this video is useful, because it shows you just how easy it is to do this once you have the equipment. Our guide in this is the excellent River Cottage Booze book, which I would very much recommend.  

We are making one demijohn (5L) of wine in this video/tutorial. But you can make any amount you like – just change the ingredients proportionally. 

So, if we’re actually following a recipe in a book, why bother doing this as a tutorial and making a video for it? Because we think that reading about something you haven’t done before can be quite intimidating, especially when there aren’t detailed pictures – and that watching someone else do this is a much better way to build your confidence. As most of you know, we’ve been making cider for several years now – occasioned by moving to a place with several mature apple trees – and learning about the process gave us the confidence to try out other kinds of homebrew, too. And it turns out that cider is actually a much more involved process than most hedgerow things! For this gorse wine, as well as a number of other things, you collect your ingredients, put them in a bucket with water, sugar yeast (and sometimes grape concentrate), and wait. And that’s really it – but instruction manuals make it sound much more complicated than it really is and, like fancy baking books, can use unfamiliar terminology that’s really quite a big hurdle when you’re thinking about whether this might be something you would like to try. But, like breadmaking (or the other skills that Skills from the Hills is all about), once you’ve made it a few times and you’ve gained the confidence to trust yourself – that you know how to do this, that it works, that is is worth your time and energy – it becomes an easy thing to do.

How to make gorse wine

Collect your gorse. Be careful when you do this as the plants are very spiky – we find rubber-tipped gardening gloves work quite well for this. We collect our gorse in a big garden trug but you could use any bucket or bag. For a demijohn of wine – c. 5L – you need about 4.5L of flowers. Which is a tricky measurement! We collect about 10cm of flowers in our garden trug and that seems to be about right,  but you could also literally measure your flowers with a pint glass or measuring jug. 

You will need to process your flowers the same day, so pick a nice sunny day if you can – the flowers smell more strongly when there is sunshine, and this translates into nicer wine (we think!).

Once you have collected your flowers, sift through them to weed out any other parts of greenery you may have accidentally collected, and rehome the inevitable spiders and insects that have come home with you.

Sterilise your brewing equipment (see Week 1): your brewing bucket, your airlock, and your paddle. While this is doing, collect the ingredients you need and, if your kettle is a slow one, start boiling your water. For each demijohn of wine you will need the following ingredients:

4.5L of gorse flowers
1.2kg sugar (just ordinary household sugar)
2.5L boiling water
2L cold water
250ml white grape concentrate
2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrient – this is optional but we find the wine comes out more reliably good if we use this.
1 packet white wine yeast

Put the flowers in your sterilising brewing bucket, and add in the sugar. Add in 2.5L of boiling water and mix it all together to dissolve the sugar. This is where your brewing paddle comes in handy – it works much better than a big spoon. Add in 2L of cold water and stir again. Add in 250ml white grape concentrate,  the juice and zest of 2 big lemons (we just use a veg peeler on the lemons), and 1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrient, and stir really well – you want to aerate it all and get it frothy and full of air. Then add in one packet of white wine yeast and gently mix it in. Fit your bucket lid with the airlock – the airlock should have a bit of water in it.

And leave it to start fermenting, in a cool dark place. Stir it once a day for the first 6 days. After a week it should be ready to decant – we’ll talk about this next week.

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Return to Hedgerow Booze Part 1

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