Whether you’re harvesting straight from the garden or buying fresh produce, there’s nothing like preserving summer’s bounty to enjoy throughout the year. In Drink the Harvest (Storey Publishing, 2014), authors Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, share techniques and recipes for turning fruits, vegetables and herbs into delicious beverages to drink fresh or preserve for later. Try this All-Around Herb Wine Recipe from chapter 5, “Creating Wines, Meads & Specialty Drinks,” for an endless combination of homemade beverages, straight from the garden.
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Herb wines make good use of the most prolific — sometimes pesky — plants in the garden. The kinds of herb wine you make will depend on where in the country you live and what plants your local conditions favor. Choices may include anise, hyssop, lemon balm, dill, fennel, nettle, raspberry leaf, chickweed, rose petal, or cilantro.
Think of herb wines as health drinks from the past. The flavors can be delicate and entrancing, or distinctive and refreshing. Small bottles of your homemade herb wines make fantastic gifts for friends. Herb wines age gracefully. It’s easy to get addicted to this hobby, so get ready to stock your wine closet or basement with products that will only get better with the passage of time.
When measuring fresh herbs, it may be necessary to start with twice the amount called for, because stems and damaged leaves must be discarded. You can substitute dried herbs with equal success, but use different proportions: 3 to 4 ounces total dry weight instead of 2 quarts fresh material.
All-Around Herb Wine Recipe
• 1 gallon filtered water, plus 2 cups
• 2 quarts fresh herbs (2 wide-mouth quart canning jars lightly packed with leaves or flowers)
• 1 cup of any fruit juice
• 2 teaspoons (1 packet) Pasteur Champagne yeast or white wine yeast
• 1 inch fresh ginger, cut into slices
• 4 cups sugar
• 1/2 organic orange with peel, chopped
• 1/2 cup raisins (not golden)
• 1 thick slice (about 1 inch) organic lemon with peel, chopped
• 2 heaping tablespoons of priming sugar (optional)
1. Bring the gallon of water to a boil in a large pot, for cooking the ginger. At the same time, place the 2 cups of water in a kettle and bring to a boil.
2. Rinse the herbs, removing the stems, and set aside.
3. Heat the juice to lukewarm (approximately 100–105 degrees Fahrenheit), and sprinkle with the yeast. Set the mixture aside to let it proof.
4. Add the ginger to the large pot of boiling water and boil gently, uncovered, for 5–10 minutes. The longer the ginger cooks, the more pronounced the flavor.
5. Add the herbs to the boiling ginger-and-water mixture, remove from the heat, cover, and steep for at least 10 minutes but no more than 1 hour, to make a strong tea.
6. Pour the sugar into a sterilized 1-gallon fermentation jug.
7. Pour the 2 cups of boiling water into the jug, and swirl or shake it until the sugar is dissolved.
8. Put the chopped orange, raisins, and lemon slice into the jug.
9. Strain the herb tea into the jug, leaving enough room to add the yeast mixture.
10. Allow the mixture to cool; when it is lukewarm (100–105 degrees F), add the proofed yeast mixture.
11. Stopper the jug with a sterilized airlock, and check in 1 hour to make sure the airlock is bubbling.
12. Set the jug in a cool, dark place until the bubbling stops and the liquid clears. This fermentation can take 2 weeks to several months. Don’t be concerned about how the mixture looks, as it may darken during fermentation. If the bubbling stops unexpectedly, see the Troubleshooting Guide for Fermentation (available in Drink the Harvest).
13. Rack the wine. (This may be repeated several times until the wine has cleared.)
14. Bottle the wine, and let it age for 6 months to 1 year.
Cook’s Tip: Don’t be afraid to use different herb combinations or even add fruit or spices to the mix. These combinations can make excellent beverages.
More from Drink the Harvest
Make It Sparkle! (Optional)
• To create an effervescent wine, rack the wine into a clean jug.
• Dissolve 2 heaping tablespoons of priming sugar in a small amount of warm water, and add to the jug.
• Swirl the wine to distribute the dissolved sugar and bottle immediately.
Excerpted from Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas and Ciders © by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, photography © by Johnny Autry, used with permission from Storey Publishing.