W is for …
… wine making.
G’s had a bit of a love affair with rhubarb this year and decided to make wine for the first time when it became apparent that a daily dose of rhubarb fool was slowing him down on the badminton court. Fast forward a month or two and we have 5 bottles of rhubarb wine maturing in the cellar (‘racking’ to use the correct technical term), rhubarb and raspberry wine fermenting in the demi-john, damson and raspberries soaking in sugar and several kilos of rhubarb in the freezer waiting for an empty demi-john to occupy (the fruit gives out more juice apparently if it’s been frozen).
G googled how to make wine from various fruits, read through lots of recipes and then in true G fashion made up his own simplified version! Here’s his basic ‘how to make home-made wine‘…
what you need to make rhubarb wine
1.3kg frozen rhubarb
mug of grape juice (we used Nic’s home-made mixed berry cordial)
4 litres of water (approx or enough to make up 1 gallon of liquid)
mug of cold black tea
1 Campden tablet (to kill the yeast at the end of fermentation/prior to bottling)
a large plastic container (to extract the juice from the fruit)
a large pan (to decant the juice into)
a demi-john container with air lock (for fermenting the juice)
5 glass bottles with screw top lids (we use fizzy water bottles cleaned using sterilising tablets )
a funnel (for decanting juice into the demi-john and the new wine into bottles)
a hydrometer (for measuring the gravity of the liquid)
how to turn rhubarb into wine
Chop the rhubarb into 1 to 2 inch pieces. (G’s developed a scary looking ninja-style technique for chopping the rhubarb stalks mid-air into a bowl, without a chopping board, using a large kitchen knife. ‘It sounds dangerous, but it’s a lot easier and safer than using a board – but only if you have good hand eye co-ordination and are careful when you get close to the end you’re holding!)
Place the required weight of rhubarb into a plastic bag and freeze for a day or two. Freezing changes the molecular structure of the rhubarb making it easier to mash up by hand later on.
Remove from the freezer and place rhubarb pieces in a clean, lidded plastic container. You can get special food grade fermenting buckets for this, but G’s use of a spare composting bin has served him just as well.
Add the sugar to the fruit in the container. Close the lid and leave for a couple of days until all the juice has been released.
After 2-3 days mix it all up with a spoon and use a potato masher to mash up the pieces of rhubarb. Transfer the mixture to a large pan using a fine sieve or strainer to separate the rhubarb pieces from the juice. Squeeze all the juice out of the strained fruit. When adding the water you can pour about a litre through the mashed up rhubarb to get the last remaining sugary juice out of it or simply discard the rhubarb and add enough cold water to make up a gallon of rhubarb juice. Remember to add your mug of grape juice/cordial and mug of cold tea (adds astringency and useful tanins) before making up your gallon total.
Using a funnel decant the juice into a demi john and add 1 teaspoon of wine yeast. Leave for as long as it takes for the hydrometer reading to reach 1.01 or less, indicating a suitable alcohol level for wine or your preferred sweetness/dryness balance is achieved. Then add the crushed up campden tablet to kill off the yeast.
You’re now ready to decant the new wine into your 5 sterilised glass bottles and store in a cool place. Rack for at least 10 months during which time the wine should clear naturally. You’ll have some liquid left after filling your fifth bottle but it’s probably best to discard this as it’ll contain lots of sediment. To avoid this you can siphon the liquid off from the demi-john but G didn’t have any piping for his first attempt so simply made sure he was very careful decanting it.
G’s various batches of wine will all be ready in time for our wedding anniversary next year. We celebrated 13 years of marriage last week and while G prepared fruit for his wine I made an enormous batch of damson chutney.