Category Archives: Experimental

For anything that I’m trying for the first time – including variations on known recipes.

Flavours of Mead

Anyone who has read this blog will know that I’m a big fan of mead. A very big fan of mead.

Last year we made five gallons of elderberry melomel, expecting that with that many bottles it would last a year comfortably. We’ve found ourselves half way through the year and due to wastage (drinking at home), handing out to friends and taking along to events to share around the fire we’re down to the last six bottles. I’m sure that there must be some creature eating the bottles, because I don’t remember drinking the other 19 of them.

So this year we’re going a little more ambitious, with the aim of having a variety of different flavours for people to try (and me, of course) next year. The actual amount is still under discussion, but I’m hoping for around 20 gallons. So here comes the big question. With 20 gallons of mead even I’m going to get bored if it’s the same flavour. I have a few ideas for different flavours, of course, but no idea which ones will be popular with other people. That brings me to the poll.

I’ve been doing some research over the last few days to get a big long list of flavours. Now most of you won’t get to try these (though anyone who wants to, and lives locally, is welcome to give me a shout in private to arrange a tasting once it’s done) but I’m hoping you’ll be interested enough to share your views anyway. I’m not sure how many of these flavours we’ll actually be able to make, but I’d guess we’ll have at least five varieties come the new year. Please vote, comment, share your views and suggestions and help us work out what’ll be popular. You can vote once a day if you want to, and vote on as many flavours as you’re interested in. All feedback and suggestions are hugely appreciated.

Also I made a comment on twitter a while ago about dreaming of one day having a meadery. I doubt this’ll actually bring us any closer, but as there are bees of our own coming in next year you never know.


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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Blending, Experimental


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Redcurrant Shrub

Redcurrant shrub

  • Servings: 1 litre
  • Difficulty: easy
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* 300 ml strained redcurrant juice (see here for how to do the straining)
* 600 ml brandy or rum
* zest of 1 orange
* 1 tsp grated nutmeg
* 300 g granulated sugar
First stage of infusion with rum

First stage of infusion with rum

Mix together the juice, rum (or brandy), orange zest and nutmeg all together and pour into a wide-necked vessel. You’ll get a sort of jelly, which is why you’ll want the wide-necked jar. Leave it in a cool, dark place for seven to ten days to infuse the flavour.

After you’ve left it to infuse pour the mix into a pan, add the sugar and heat gently to about 60 degrees until the sugar is dissolved. Then strain through a jelly bag or muslin before pouring the resulting liquid into a sterilised bottle and sealing. Leave for a few months to mature, and make sure you drink within two years. We’ve not tried it yet but have a strong suspicion it’ll be a perfect winter drink.

The name shrub describes several things, but in this case it describes the fruit liquer that results. Apparently it was particularly popular during the 17th and 18th Century in England so there’s definitely precedence there. It also describes a cocktail which was popular during the Colonial era in America, made with some form of vinegared syrup and spirits or water.

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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Blending, Experimental, Recipe


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Flower Wines: Basic Recipe

Basic Flower Wine

  • Servings: 1 gallon
  • Difficulty: simple
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* 1 large carrier bag of edible flowers
* 1/2 kg castor sugar
* 300g honey
* 1 tsp citric acid
* 1 tsp wine yeast

As has been mentioned everything seems to be in bloom at the moment and we’ve been making quite a few flower wines. The recipes for these are all pretty much the same, with varying flowers but everything else pretty similar. You can also mix flowers if you choose, so an elderflower and rose wine would use the same basic method.

They’re also very easy, simple, ancient country wine recipes (well, except for the rather modern castor sugar of course).

Essentially the method is:

  1. Remove the flowers from their stems/stalks as these will cause a woody taste to enter your wine
  2. Drop the flowers into a bucket
  3. Add honey (if you’re using it), sugar and citric acid
  4. Add boiling water to just over a gallon (you’ll lose some when you strain the flowers out, but you can always top up with cold)
  5. Leave to steep for a couple of days
  6. Strain through a muslin-lined funnel into a demijon
  7. Add yeast and stopper the demijon with a waterlock, then leave to ferment – racking as appropriate

As you can see, all very simple an easy. Mix and match whichever (edible) flowers you want for different flavours. Some (hawthorn) may be edible but rather unpleasant, while others will be gorgeous, but the best way to find out what you’ll like is to try different flowers and different mixes until you hit upon the perfect one for you. On top of that the foraging itself can be very rewarding, and a great way to get out and about.

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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Experimental, Foraging, Recipe, Wine


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Nettle Beer

Nettle beer

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: painful
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* a whole lot of nettle tips (about 0.8-1kg)
* up to 2 gallons boiling water
* 600 g golden caster sugar
* 1 lemon
* brewer’s yeast
Nettle beer

20 bottles of nettle beer for bottle conditioning

I need to emphasize how experimental this recipe is, as it hasn’t yet been tested and won’t be until the weekend. Then I’ll be able to give a better idea of what it produces, whether it’s drinkable, and whether it’s worth doing. Until then a few notes:

  • gloves are vital, long gloves, sturdy trousers, preferably armour if you can get it
  • unlike harvesting dandelions, getting enough nettles takes a long time
  • the nettles can be frozen quite happily

I think that covers the important points. Now for the recipe itself. All we did was gather the nettles, bring them home and rinse them quickly (cursing a little at stings), then throw them in boiling water. Added the sugar, juice of one lemon (and the two lemon halves as well) and allowed to simmer for about half an hour. After that the whole mess was poured into our 2 gallon must bucket and allowed to cool overnight.

The next day we skimmed out the nettles and lemon halves (giving a good squeeze to get the liquid out) and a little sugar and yeast was combined with water to activate it, then poured in. Again it was left overnight (this is the experimental bit – normally I’d bottle straight away but since I’m trying to avoid explosions, and have the bottles last for a few days outside refrigeration, I’m trying to let most of the fermentation get out of the way before bottling, in the hopes that the next couple of days won’t cause enough pressure to build up for detonation but will allow enough for a nice fizz).

I will say that the result does look quite good at least, a nice clear golden colour with a touch of green to it. Whether it lives up to my hopes or not I’ll be able to report back on Tuesday.


Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Beer, Experimental, Foraging, Nettles, Recipe


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Dandelion Clock

Dandelion wine

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
* 1 kg dandelion flowers
* up to 2 gallons boiling water
* 1 kg golden castor sugar
* 1 jar honey
* 1 lemon
* 1 orange
* wine yeast
1 kg of dandelions

About 30 minutes worth of collecting

A simple, cheap and very traditional one here. Can be made pretty much all year round, with the possible exception of winter. Just collect dandelion flowers. As many as you can. It works out about 1/2 a kilo per gallon, so the more the merrier (if you have somewhere to store everything of course).

Simply collect the flower heads. Some people will recommend to take just the petals, as it takes some of the bitterness/dryness out of the wine, but I’m rather lazy and not about to strip off that many petals.

Then, add the juice from your lemon, the juice from your orange, your jar of honey, your castor sugar, and boil the water. When the water is boiling nice and hot, pour it in and leave it for a couple of nights.

Finally once everything’s cooled add the yeast and stir, then leave few a few hours. After this you can rack the liquid into demijons and put into storage, racking when the sediment gets too much and otherwise just waiting to enjoy your wine.

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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Experimental, Preparation, Recipe, Wine


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Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot label

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

Beguilingly Brewed Beetroot

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
* 2 kg cooked but not pickled beetroot
* 2 kg sugar
* water to 1 gallon
* some grated ginger
* wine yeast
* yeast nutrient

I’m getting fond of colourful wines recently – something other than the usual red or yellow colours. I feel it makes them stand out a little, and gives a little variety to the (now full) wine rack, and the stacks of more wine beside it. So when I discovered that beetroot is supposed to make a lovely pink wine (although turning brown if left in a clear bottle in sunlight – so dark bottles in a dark place it is) I had to add it to the list. I’ve not actually made this one yet, but when I do this’ll be the recipe.

Slice the beetroots into itty bitty bits (or largish slices, it doesn’t really matter) and throw them into a big pot to simmer with the water. Adding the sugar and ginger at this point won’t hurt either, as the ginger will add a bit of warmth and the sugar will dissolve. Leave to simmer for an hour or so, then take off the heat and allow to soak overnight.

The next day add the yeast nutrient and yeast. Cover, and leave overnight again. Finally rack into demijohns (with a siphon, or through a cloth to avoid bringing across too much sediment) and allow to bubble away quietly for a while, racking regularly and keeping in a nice dark place. When ready, bottle it up and enjoy.

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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Experimental, Recipe, Wine


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Mushroom Wine – An Acquired Taste

Mushroom wine

Gorgeous color, questionable flavour

Sometimes you taste a wine, particularly a home-made one, and just think ‘dear god, what is this toxic waste’.

This one wasn’t, and isn’t, that bad but is definitely an acquired taste. I won’t be trying to taste it again for at least a year or so, in the hopes that a bit of aging will mellow it (I suspect it will).

It’s not that the wine’s unpleasant, though my assistant was most assuredly not a fan, it’s just…mushroomy. And mushroomy-ness is not necessarily something you expect in a wine. Despite this I hold out high hopes for the aging killing some of the mushroom soup flavour. If the flavour’s softened a little I can see this turning out extremely pleasant. If not…maybe salad dressing or something?

I will be attempting mushroom wine again but will be trying it with different mushrooms, and maybe some other juices to add a few extra layers. It won’t be high on my priority list (still got the beetroot to make after all), but it’s up there. Next to be bottled is the parsnip, the pineapple rum experiment, and the experimental mead-spirit mixing. Wish me luck.

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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Bottling, Experimental, Tasting


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