Hedgerow Booze (Part 4) – Other wines

Hopefully your gorse wine is brewing away nicely – ours is, and now the (seemingly endless) wait begins! For our final post in this course we thought we would share our experiences of other wines etc. we make, and also talk about things we’d like to try and haven’t. If you make your own booze, please share your favourite recipes and tips in the comments!

Like making jam, all wines are, fundamentally, the same. They use the same equipment and the same basic process, though some of the details differ. Once you’ve made a decent batch of something you’ll like find yourself looking at other ingredients, whether they’d make a nice wine – and that’s the beauty of this (and so many other skills that we’re teaching here): that they’re not recipes to follow, but methods and skills to learn that, once you have them, are part of your repertoire and can be adapted in whichever way you like. 

So, wines we make successfully without really thinking about them too much:

Rhubarb Wine
This is by far our favourite. It is ‘white wine’-like with just a hint of fruit, and doesn’t take a lot of rhubarb – and is thus much easier to set up than the gorse. Tutorials on how to make this talk about making a choice between a sweet wine and a dry wine, and that the amount of sugar you use determines this. We land somewhere in the middle, though a proper dessert rhubarb wine with upped sugar content is one the list for this year. We use rhubarb that is grown locally – by us or our neighbours – and the stems are fairly green, which means the wine turns out lighter in colour than you tend to see in pictures – but it still tastes great. The way we make this is basically the same as the gorse, except:

  • to start off the wine, we chop the rhubarb into c. 1cm pieces, and cover with sugar in the brewing basket, with the lid on. We leave this for 3 days and wait for it to turn into liquidy mush. We stir this once a day.
  • After that, we strain the syrup (to remove the rhubarb pieces) and set it aside while we do the next step.
  • The next step is to add the rhubarb pieces back into the fermenting bucket, pour over 2 litres of cold water, stir to dissolve the sugar, and leave for a couple of hours. Then we strain this, too, and set it aside. If we have time we repeat this step, adding more water to the rhubarb (usually less, though – maybe 1.5L?), and repeat the whole thing. 
  • Then we add the syrup and other strained juice to the brewing bucket, and add in the grape juice concentrate, and we add in enough water to have c. 5 L in total – so be sure to measure when you pour everything back into the brewing bucket. At this stage, we also add in our yeast nutrient, some pectic enzyme and a crushed campden tablet, which we find this type of wine really needs (much like cider).
  • We leave this for a day, and then stir vigorously and add in the yeast. After that, we brew it for 5-7 days, stirring every day.
  • We decant it into a demijohn once it has stopped fizzing/making noise
  • We leave it for c. 6 months and then bottle it

Proportions of ingredients are:
1.5kg rhubarb
1.5kg sugar
250ml white grape juice concentrate
1tsp yeast nutrient
1tsp pectic enzyme
1 campden tabled, crushed
5g wine yeast (we usually use Sauternes)

Elderflower wine (somewhat fizzy)
We make a great bitter elderflower that tastes like bitter lemon, and is great with gin or on a hot day. But we’ve never managed to make a sweet one that actually tastes like elderflower!

Our basic versions is this:
Florets from 8 elderflower sprays
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1kg sugar
250ml white grape juice concentrate
1/2tsp yeast nutriet
5g champagne yeast

Flowers, lemon zest and juice, sugar and grape concentrate go into the brewing bucket. Add 2.5L boiling water and stir, then add 2.5L cold water and the yeast nutrient. When it’s all cooled down, stir vigorously and addd in the yeast. Leave to ferment for 5-7 days, stirring once a day, then decant into a demijohn. This concoction will continue to fizz, so don’t worry about this – but you must have a demijohn with an airlock. The bubbles should appear in the airlock about once per second, and this will keep slowing down. After about 10 days, bottle this. It will probably still be lively, so be sure to use bottles that can withstand this – we’ve had corks go up and now use beer capped bottles for this!    

This seems like a bit of a cheat, but we love making fruit infusions. For this, you need fruit, sugar and a base alcohol. Gin and vodka are very popular for this, but our favourite by far is tequila. It adds a really nice flavour to the fruit liqueur! We make them all in this way:

Fill your bottle with fruit, about 2/3 way. Really shove it all down – the tip of a wooden cooking spoon works well for this, and a funnel is essential. Add a good amount of sugar, c. 1/4 to 1/3 of the bottle. Top up with your base alcohol of choice. Put a lid on your bottle, and shake vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Do this once a day until all the sugar is dissolved, and afterwards shake it whenever you remember. Store in a cool dark place, and leave at least a month. We don’t tend to remove the fruit and just decant it all eventually. 

In terms of fruit, we enjoy using raspberries, blackberries, damson and rhubarb for this.

These and apple cider are our go-to wines – they turn out the way we like them, so we make lots of them. But we’d like to be a bit more adventurous, and this year we want to try:

Blackberry wine
Elderberry wine
Rosehip wine
Elderflower and gooseberry wine

These are all things that grow nearby or in our garden and will be easy to come by. In terms of more adventurous things, we’d like to try dandelion, peapod, birch sap!

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