Charming and delicate, herbal wines can be made from the leaves, flowers, fruits or roots of any edible herb. Examples of delicious herbal wines include elder flower, elderberry, dandelion, chamomile, lavender, and parsley.
Wine-making equipment such as sterilising solution, bottles, jars, and bottle lids or caps can be purchased from chemists or home-brew shops and the remainder is usually found in the home kitchen. Fresh, ripe fruit should be used and any unripe, rotten or mildewed berries discarded; flowers should be picked when they first open and any stalks removed as they will add bitterness to the wine.
Only use glass or earthenware containers and make sure any equipment is scrupulously clean. Never use metal containers as the acid in the wine can dissolve the metal resulting in poison and don't use any containers that have cracks in them as they can harbour bacteria. Large polythene buckets may be used for making wine but be sure they are rigid so they can withstand the addition of boiling water - if they are the soft type they could soften when the boiling water is poured over the plant material you've chosen for your wine creating a disaster.
Containers should always be kept covered with a lid or tea towel to prevent bugs or debris contaminating the liquid or as known in wine-making, the 'must'. When the must has been left to stand for the recommended time, which is usually three days, it's transferred to earthenware crocks or large glass jars to ferment. Because fresh air oxidises wine and turns it into vinegar it's essential to purchase fermentation locks that will fit into the necks of jars.
After fermentation has finished the wine is syphoned into bottles - recycled wine bottles are ideal as long as they have been washed in hot soapy water, rinsed well and sterilised with the sterilising solution left in them for several hours or as per the instructions. Put the lid on the bottles or use straight sided corks if preferred. If wine is properly made it will become clear of its own accord with the sediment settling at the bottom of the bottles after fermentation has ceased. After this has happened syphon the clear liquid into clean bottles.
4.5 litres dandelion flowers
4.5 litres water
1.6 kg sugar
15 grams dried yeast
Boil water and flowers together for an hour. In the meantime grate the orange and lemon rinds and put the rind in a large container with the sugar. Strain the hot liquid on to the sugar. Put one teaspoon sugar and yeast in a small bowl with a little warm water and leave it to 'work'. After the liquid in the large container has cooled to blood heat, add the yeast, cover, and allow to stand for four days, stirring daily. Strain into fermentation jar and add the juice of the lemon and orange. Put fermentation lock into the jar and leave to ferment. When fermentation has ceased, syphon the liquid into bottles.
Proprietor, author, and tutor of The Home Herbalist Online Course.