Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Making Wine with Herbs & Flowers

Wines made from flowers, herbs and fruits other than grapes are often just as tasty as the store bought stuff. There is a long tradition in homemade wines and there are quite a few recipes for homemade wines, some of which are unusual. As a bartender or a great party host, you might want to perfect a special wine that you can serve as your own. The methods are a bit complex but not really difficult and can be mastered with a little practice. The ingredients are exchangeable in many cases, where a fruit or herb is not available at the time there is often another similar fruit or herb that can be used instead, with no great adjustments than changing the amount of yeast that is used. This means that wine making can go on year round and the possibility of perfecting a personal wine is within reach.

Some common substitutes include using blackberries, loganberries or mulberries instead of elderberries, which is a huge relief for those of who live in arid areas like Florida and southern Cal. Elderberries are a rare find for us. Plums can be used when Peaches are a hard find. And, believe it or not, pansies, clover, primroses, mints or marigolds can be substituted for dandelions. However, if you have weeds in the yard you can find a dandelion. Just take a look and see.

Of course, experience and experimentation will reveal many other possible ingredients that excite you; your own wine can be a personal pleasure that you, and only you, create.

Most of the traditional wine making procedures that are used for making the grape wines you buy at the store are also used in making these wines from herbs and flowers. The only important difference you will encounter is in the preparation of the must. In most cases, the fermentation and racking of the wines is the same across the board and where there are minor variances, they are noted in the recipes.

I guess you realize by now that I am going to give you recipes. In this post, I am going to give you what I call "quickie" recipes that will give you a fast wine you will enjoy. But in the next few posts, I am going to give you a big variety of wines that you can practice with, from strawberry wine to coffee wine. So you should dial back in over the next few weeks if you are interested in making homemade wines. You will certainly find something interesting here.

Here is some information you will need as you move through the learning process. Remember these rules if you want to get going and get it done quickly.

1. Flowers are often too low in the nutrients necessary for the healthy activity of wine yeasts so raisins are always added to those recipes that use flowers as the main ingredient.

2. Many fruits and flowers lack sufficient acidity to promote the growth of yeasts, so lemon or orange rinds are often called for and should be added to the mix. When adding citrus rinds, leave it at the rind only and do not include the white lining (or "pith") of the fruit or the wine will be too bitter. The best method for adding citrus rind is to use graters and simply "scrub" off the zest.

3. Some fruits, such as apples, strawberries, plums and peaches contain too much pectin and cause the finished wine to be too cloudy. You will have to use pectic enzymes with these wines to get rid of the haze.

So here are a few small time starter recipes that won't take you long to finish. Get started with these and see how they come out. After that, come back here in a week or so for the first of many homemade wine recipes to come.

Dandelion Wine


10 cups Dandelion Flowers
1 tbsp bruised Ginger Root
thinly pared peel or grated zest of 1 Orange
thinly pared peel or grated zest of 1 Lemon
4 cups brown sugar
juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Wine Yeast


Bring 5 pints of filtered or distilled water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Remove the bitter stalk, stems and calyx from each Dandelion flower and put the cleaned flowers into a large bowl or bucket. Pour the cooling water (all 5 pints) over the flowers and then cover it all with a cloth. Leave covered this way for 24 hours, stirring once in awhile.

After 24 hours, move the water to a large cooking pan or pot. Add the Ginger and citrus rinds or zests (both orange and lemon) and return to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes.

Strain the liquid to remove the zest and the flowers. Rinse out the large bowl and pour this liquid back into it. Stir in the sugar and Lemon juice. Allow to cool. Add a small spoonful of this water to a small bowl and add the Wine Yeast. Cream it into the liquid, making a paste. After creaming, add the yeast to the main bowl and cover the entire bowl with a cloth. Set the bowl on a large saucer. Leave it this way for 2 days. There will be frothing liquid coming over the brim and should be caught in the saucer.

After 2 days the frothing should have ceased, and when it does pour the contents of the bowl (and saucer) into a cask. Stopper it with cotton wool and NOT a cork. You may use a large bottle with an airlock if you have one. But you must allow gas to escape as it forms. Leave the blend this way until all fermentation ceases and there are no more gas bubbles forming. Once the fermentation ceases, then you can use a cork. Cork the bottle or jar tightly and leave in a cool, dark place for 2 months.

After 2 months, siphon off the liquid and bottle it in wine bottles or similar containers. These containers should be the bottles you wish to serve the wine from when it's ready. Just make sure the container is sealed or corked tightly. Leave the bottle of wine for at least 6 months before drinking. The longer you store it, the better it will be.



1 bunch of Lemon Thyme
1 branch of Lemon Balm
1 branch of Rosemary
10 Cloves
6 crushed Allspice Berries
1 Cinnamon stick
a piece of bruised Ginger Root
1 Mace blade
5 lbs Honey (Lime Blossom Honey is recommended)
Wine Yeast to make 5 Pints


Pour 1 1/4 gallons of water into a large pot or pan. Add the herbs and spices and then let simmer for 1 hour. Add the Honey to a large bowl. Strain the water and pour it warm over the Honey. Remove it from heat and as it cools, add the Wine Yeast.

Obtain a cleaned, sterilized jar. Pour all but 2 tbsp of the water and yeast mix into the jar. Set aside the 2 tbsp in a glass or bowl. Place the jar on a large saucer or plate and cover. Leave the jar in a warm room and let it ferment. The overflow should end up in the saucer. As the liquid lowers in volume, add from the 2 tbsp of water to fill as needed.

When the frothing stops, insert an air lock. Watch closely until the bubbles stop forming and then move the bottle to a cool or cold place (such a refrigerator or cooler) and leave it there for 2 weeks. Make sure the air lock is tight. After 2 weeks, siphon off into a clean bottle, cork tightly and seal up with wax.

Store the bottle this way for 6 months. After 6 months, siphon off again and pour into the serving bottles. Cork the bottles tightly and wire the corks down. Then store these bottles on their sides for at least 2 years before cracking. You have to wait for 2 years or more or the wine will be too sweet.

NOTE: Do not use Australian Honey because the Eucalyptus makes the wine bitter.

Elderflower Wine


2.5 lbs Sugar
3 whole Lemons
4 oz of uncoated raisins or sultanas
1 pkg Champagne Wine Yeast
2 quart containers full of Elderflowers

You will also need: 3 gallon glass or enamel container, 1 gallon glass flagon, fermentation lock (airlock) and siphon tube. You get all this stuff online at home brewing supply shops.

Sort through the Elderflowers and pick the nicest ones. Remove and discard all green parts at the base of the flowers. Make sure you remove all insects, dead or alive, and rinse off any dirt. Spend some time sterlizing your equipment and bottles, dunking them into boiling water or putting them in a sink and pouring over with boiling water. Make sure they are clean. Dirty bottles and utensils can spoil the end product.

Place the Elderflowers into the large container. Add the juice from the three lemons and the washed raisins or sultanas. Boil some water in a large pot or pan and then pour the rapidly boiling water over the blowers and raisins. Stir it all up with a sterilized spoon, cover the container with a sterilized lid or clean cloth and leave it to stand for twenty four hours. During this time, prepare the yeast as per package instructions.

After a day has passed, strain out the liquid into a clean pot or pan. Rinse out your original container so that it's clean and then immediately pour the strained liquid back in. Now, add the sugar and two additional pints of boiling water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the prepared yeast. Stir it again, cover with a cloth or lid and put it away in a warm spot for an entire month.

After 30 days have passed, siphon the contents of your brewing bin into the flagon. Set up the fermentation lock as per the manufacturer's instructions, pop it on top of the flagon and now take it back to that warm place and leave it there for 6 whole months. After 6 months, the wine is ready to be bottled. This mix should make a gallon or so of wine so you will need 6 or 7 bottles. Use old wine or champagne bottles that have been sterilized in boiling water. Now, carefully siphon off the liquid from the flagon into the bottles one at a time, using the siphon tube. Try not to disturb the sediment in the bottom of the flagon and leave it there.. you don't want it in the wine!

To make your wine just a little sparkling add no more than a half teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. Seal the bottles well and let them stand in a warm place for three days. Then place them in the coolest part of the house and wait six more weeks. It will then be just about ready to drink and if you drink it now it will taste fine. But the longer you wait, the sweeter it will be, so give it as long as you can stand it before cracking it and serving it up.

After you are done attempting these recipes, come back here for more next week.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the tips for Making Wine with Herbs & Flowers. Will give it a try and see if it works.