Wine from the Hedgerows

There’s nothing like a walk in the country to refresh your spirit, unless it’s an hour or two weeding in the garden – but did you know these simple pleasures can also provide you with another of life’s little pleasures, like a great glass of home made wine?

Take the humble dandelion, for instance. You may spot it on your walks, or curse it when it covers your lawn, but if you stop to pick a few bunches, you can make a wine that was immortalized in song back in the 70s by the Hollies.

This recipe is adapted from Lady Hackett’s Household Guide, published in 1940. You need to gather two quarts of yellow dandelion blossoms. Wash them under running water and make sure there are no green parts on the flower heads. Put them in a big pot, and cover with half a gallon of water, and bring to the boil. Let the mixture cool, then strain through muslin or a very fine sieve. Add two pounds of white sugar, the juice and grated rind of three lemons and a package of dried yeast dissolved in a quarter cup of lukewarm water.

Let it stand for ten days, covered with a cloth, then pour into bottles, cork and age for six months to a year. This is a very light wine suitable for fish.

Nettles are far from being a gardener’s best friend, and are usually avoided on walks – but if you protect your hands with gloves and pick a big bunch, you can make Nettle Wine. This recipe also comes from the redoubtable Lady Hackett.

You will need about 18 stalks of unblemished nettles, both stalks and leaves, chop and cover with two gallons of water. Add two pounds of sugar, three tablespoons grated ginger and bring all to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool, strain and add one package of dried yeast dissolved in a quarter cup of lukewarm water.

Bottle the Nettle Wine and let it age at least six months.

If you come across a blackberry bush on your walks, don’t hesitate to pick a basket or two. But even if you don’t find wild blackberries, it is worth buying commercially grown fruit to make this delicious blackberry wine. The method is slightly different.

Add 5 pounds white sugar to 2 gallons hot water and simmer on the stove until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Put four quarts ripe blackberries in a large crock or plastic container with lid, and pour over the sugar and water. Cover with muslin tied over the lop of the crock or the container lid and place in a cool dark spot for up to two months to ferment. Stir the wine once a week. Strain the wine at the end of the two month period and bottle. The longer you keep it the better it gets.