Quite a few people think of rhubarb as strictly a springtime treat but if you grow it yourself you'll know that you can be pulling stalks of it far into the summer. It's also likely you'll have the experience of there being only so many rhubarb crumbles you can make before friends and family begin to feel ill at the sight of them. However rhubarb is much more versatile than most think and it can be made into delicious tarts, pastries, preserves, chutneys and even incorporated into savoury dishes. But in my opinion the best way to have that second flush of tart goodness is in a sweet homemade wine.
I only made a single batch of this recipe last year and it turned out to be a real tragedy that I didn't make more. I'm planning on rectifying the situation this year so you can bet that every spare stalk of rhubarb is going to be saved for these bottles of boozy deliciousness. The wine tastes sweet, crisp and with the full-bodied taste of rhubarb in every sip. It's absolutely divine and has impressed everyone who has tried it. Especially the skeptics!
Makes 6 bottles of wine
2.3 kg [5 lb] Rhubarb
1.4 kg [3 lb] Sugar
285 ml [1/2 UK Pint / 1-1/4 cups US] Black tea, cooled (make it quite strong)
2.8 Litres Water [5 UK pints / 6 US Pints]
2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1x 5g Sachet of White wine Yeast
Well sterilised bucket, bowl and utensils
For AFTER fermenation: 1 Campden Tablet
1. Wash the rhubarb sticks and cut them into 1-cm (or thinner) slices. Place these pieces in a clean, sterilised tub and pour in the sugar. Stir it well, and then cover the bucket with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave for at least 24 hours but up to three days.
2. After this time the sugar will have pulled the moisture out of the rhubarb creating a rich pink coloured syrup. Strain this syrup from the rhubarb pieces and place it in another clean tub. Make sure to get as much of the syrup from the rhubarb as you can before you discard it.
***Note***I now change the way I do this step. Instead of straining the sugar syrup straight, I first add the 2.8 litres of water from step 3 to help dissolve any sugar that's collected at the bottom of the tub.
3. Boil your 2.8 litres of water and pour into the syrup, stirring well. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature and then add the tea, yeast and yeast nutrient. Cover the tub with a clean towel and allow it to sit undisturbed for five days.
4. At the end of the five days, have your demi-john sterilised and ready. Mine are glass so I'll first wash the demi-john with soapy water, rinse it well and then put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 130°C [275°F]. Allow to cool before pouring your wine in.
5. Rack the liquid through a sterilised hose from the tub into your clean demi-john, making sure to leave the mucky residue of initial fermentation at the bottom of the tub. If a little gets in that's fine, but the less you get in the better. If the liquid doesn't come up to the top of the demi-john's neck then fill it up with water that's been boiled and cooled.
6. Once the liquid is in, fit your drilled cork into the demi-john and then pour a little boiled but cooled water into the airlock's chambers before fitting it into the cork. The temperatures that the wine should be at during its fermentation vary depending on the type of wine yeast you're using so have a look at the sachet for this information.
7. Fermentation in the demi-john will take about a month, more or less.
8. Once fermentation is complete, you'll rack the wine out into a clean tub and add a crushed Campden tablet to it - this inhibits bacterial contamination during the aging process. Then siphon the wine into another clean and sterilised demi-john, fit a cork and then allow to age for about six months. After six months you can then rack the wine into bottles. You can technically drink it at this time but it's best to allow the wine to age at least a further month before opening.