It's hard to believe that we're half way through May already and that Summer is nearly upon us, especially when looking out my window most mornings all I see is wind and rain and grey skies, but one thing we promised ourselves when we finally decided to move back West (knowing how much worse the weather is here) was not to let the weather deter us from life as much as possible.
So with that spirit in mind, this bleak, grey Sunday morning I got my stomping boots on and headed out in search of nettles.
Sadly the nettles are already nearing the end of their edible season. The leaves are getting coarse and more than a bit rough around the edges and it is tricky enough to find any tender young stems at this stage. That being said, there is still just about time to go out and fill up a bag for making into a beautiful green country wine if the fancy should take you!
Remember when picking nettles to use a heavy pair of gardening gloves, and preferably a herb snips to minimise damage to the parent plant. Just take the tips of younger looking stems that have yet to form any seed heads.
Remember as with any home preservation craft, sterility and maintaining a clean working environment and equipment is of utmost importance. Make sure every thing you use is sterilized using either heat (scalding with boiling water) or Campden tablets.
* A big shopping bag of nettles, or enough to fill a 1 gallon jug, this bit doesn't need to be too accurate. Country wine making is a crude art and there is plenty of room for error as a rule.
* 4 litres of water
* 1 cup of black tea
*1.5 kg of plain white granulated sugar
* Juice and rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange
* 1 tsp yeast nutrient
* White wine yeast (check the packet to see how much to add for 1 gallon of brew)
* Wash your nettles in cold water before adding to a pot large enough to hold at least 5 litres of water.
* Add 4 litres of water and cover the pot.
* Bring to the boil before reducing the heat right down to a gentle simmer for 20 mins.
* Allow to cool slightly before pouring the tea into a sterile fermenting bucket (a large bucket with a small air vent in the lid).
* Add the lemon and orange juices, rinds, sugar, yeast nutrient and tea, stirring until dissolved.
* Replace the lid on the fermenting bucket and leave the brew to sit for 4-5 days in a room with a consistent room temperature.
*After about 5 days, remove most of the nettles using a hand held strainer before transferring the rest of the tea into a sterile demijohn using a straining cloth and funnel.
*Fill your air lock with water and attach to the bung, put the bung onto the neck of the demijohn.
*Leave to ferment for 3 months before racking off into clean wine bottles using a siphoning tube.
*There is no need to leave nettle wine mellow after bottling, you can enjoy it right away, yipee!!
Please let me know if you have a go at this, I would love to hear how you get on! You can order home brew equipment very cheaply from any number of online stores, and you can also easily find a lot of the things you need in your local pound shop. Best of luck with it!