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Welcome to our section on making Beer, Wine & Cider

Beer Making
Wine Making

Wine Making

Wine making is one of those satisfying activities but we have always allowed it to drift away.  We gather hedgerow fruits, make jam and pies but we always seem to fizzle out when it comes to the wine.

Now in our experience, you can make wine from anything just about, but there are lots of equipment, bits and pieces you can buy to improve the quality of your tipple.  We do not believe in using anything more than you absolutely have to.  So in this gooseberry wine we used just gooseberries, sugar, water and yeast.

3lbs Gooseberries

2Ĺ lbs Sugar

7 Pints Water

2 tsp Yeast
Now many recipes call for those extras like Pectic enzyme to help clear.  But we didnít use it and as you can see crystal clear wine.  The yeast we used was the same as we make our bread with.  So we feel as though we have done a minimalist wine, and perhaps better wine makers than us will say itís not the best, but it feels wholesome and natural, and we like that.

Making you r own

Birch Sap Wine

This is wine made from the sap of the Silver Birch tree.  To extract the sap, you have to drill a small hole in the trunk and allow the sap to drip over several days.  It does not harm the tree if done correctly.

Birch Sap extraction technique

Key points to keep in mind:-

Start in early Spring when the sap is rising.
Make sure tree is at least 150 mm wide in the trunk.

Drill the hole into the tree in an upwards direction
Seal round the pipe or you will loose your sap
Tape round the trunk to hold the pipe in place
Tape the bottle to the tree to stop it falling over
Bung the top of the demijohn to stop bugs getting in, a plastic bag will keep rain out.
Depending on the size of the tree, pipe and weather it can take from a day or two to a week to collect a full jar.

Birch Sap Wine Recipe

This is our own version of recipes kicking around and you have to adjust the ingredients pro rata depending on the quantity of sap you extract.  We ended up with 5.5 pints (3.1 litres) of Birch Sap.

Boil the sap for 10 minutes  to sterilise and then add:-

1ĺ lbs (793 g) Sugar

6 oz (170 g) Raisins

Ĺ squeezed lemon

When cooled add two teaspoons yeast (previously activated with a little sugar and warm water).  Put in demijohn to ferment for 5 days, then strain and continue fermentation.

Tea Wine


Trying this for the first time.  Recipe found on the net.  Ever so simple to make and if it tastes good then it would be a great quick one to help keep stocks up.

1 gallon tea (use 16 tea bags per gallon)

0.5lb raisins

3lb sugar

2 lemons


Make the tea, add the sugar and raisins.  Put in the Lemon juice.  Leave to cool to room temperature then add yeast.  Sieve into demijohn to remove raisins and ferment.  Should be drinkable after 2 months.

Dandelion Wine

We have always heard that this makes a fine country wine.  We also heard that it is labour intensive.  Researching it on the net, there are many recipes, some involve picking the petals off the stem, others leaving them on.  Not looking for more work than necessary we went for one that left the petals on the flower head.  This can make it slightly more bitter, but weíll see.  It is still labour intensive picking the flowers, then you have to get all of the beetles out of it.  Even if this turns out great, I will think twice before doing another batch.  This recipes (American) forms the basis of our wine.  We didnít use the Orange, because we hadnít got any!  The dandelions were about a carrier bag full.

3 qts dandelion flowers

1 lb white raisins

1 gallon water

3 lbs granulated sugar

2 lemons

1 orange
yeast and nutrients.

This recipe has been kindly sent to us by Andrew Weston, based on the one by C. J. Berry but with some modifications.  Most importantly, with buying the yeast, lemon and sugar, Andrew estimates the cost at around 28-30p per bottle.

Elderberry Wine

Youíll need....

  • Some elderberries
  • Some water
  • Some yeast
  • A lemon (or yeast nutrient)
  • Some sugar
  • ...and wine-making equipment, obviously!

Firstly, cut the elderberry-bearing stems/branches off the bushes.  Youíll take forever if you try to pick the elderberries directly, so donít.

Having picked them, put aside a couple of hours (doing it last thing before bed is good) and strim the berries from the branches.  Put on an apron, and run a fork along the branches, causing the elderberries to fall into a waiting bucket.  Discard branches.  Weigh the elderberries.

Leave the berries overnight so that beetles and things will have the chance to crawl away!

Crush all the berries up using first your bare hands and then a potato masher.  You wonít be able to get them all so just keep going until what you have is largely liquid.

At a ratio of 3:1 in favour of the water, add boiling water.  For instance, 2 kilo of elderberries should have 6 litres of water added.

Let the mixture cool.  If youíre making a lot, this may need to be overnight or youíll need to busy Ė basically, donít hang a round Ė put a lid on the bucket and go and do something else!

Add to the cool mixture a teaspoon of yeast per 1 kilo of elderberries, and the juice of half a lemon OR a yeast nutrient tablet to each 1 kilo of elderberries.  Stir this in and then cover the mixture and leave.

Most of the recipes for Elderberry wine (including that of C.J.J.Berry, on whom this is based) recommend leaving the mixture for 3 days, stirring daily.  However, I have found that a more intense flavour can be had by extending this to 4, 5 or even 6 days.  On this sixth day, though, there is likely to be the beginnings of mould on the elderberries at the top.  These are a long way from the mixture so provided you remove them and donít pour the mixture through the mould, you should be OK Ė but basically the rule of thumb is to do something as soon as mould appears or as soon as you reach 5 days.

Straining through a cloth, pour the mixture onto the same amount of sugar as you had elderberries.  Stir rigorously (and stand back or wear an apron Ė elderberries stain!) until all the sugar is dissolved.  Cover it and after a couple of hours, stir again just in case.

Next is to put the wine into demijohns, but Ė and this is IMPORTANT Ė you should not fill a demijohn more than half-way with elderberry wine.  Elderberry fermentation is insanely active and if fitted with a normal airlock, to the normal level, it will shoot out of the top, or blow the airlock, possibly ruining the wine and giving you an infestation of fruit flies (which you canít make wine out of, despite the name.)  Plug the top of the bottle with cotton wool (not an airlock!) and keep the demijohns indoors.

After a week indoors the most violent part of the fermentation ought to be over.  Cautiously begin, over a period of a few days, combining the half-filled demijohns and then move the whole lot out to ferment.  Sometimes it takes about six months, sometimes eight, sometimes a year, but your wine ought to be ready at the same time that youíre going out to pick the elderberries the following year!

More information in our section on making Beer, Wine & Cider

Beer Making
Wine Making