May 20, 2016

New Brew: Making Honeysuckle Wine

Rita and I have gotten very excited about wine-making since our foray into Dandelion Wine (I'll be posting an update on that project soon - the bubbles are slowing down and it's clearing up so I'll be siphoning it over into a new carboy as my next step).  So, I've been researching other wines we can make from foraged or garden plants.  The one we decided to try next comes from this plant we have growing everywhere in our yards...


It's invasive and we actively cut it back every year, but it's still everywhere.  The boys love to stop and suck on the flowers when we are out for dog walks.  They are just starting to get sweet so it's time to pick.

Rita and I spent an hour or so yesterday evening strolling around from tree to tree filling our baskets with the soft white flowers.

The recipe I found to get us started says to cut the green part at the base of the flower (sepal) off when you get inside but I tried to just pick them off as I went so I wasn't faced with a bowl full of flowers to de-stem.  It made it seem less tedious.

It was a beautiful evening for picking flowers.  It's been raining so much lately.  A clear evening with a lovely pink sunset and time to be outside with a friend is truly something to appreciate.

When we each had about six cups, we came in to measure them and look at the instructions together.

We decided we needed a consult with our local wine-maker, a woman who lives up the street from Rita and used to have a vineyard in her back yard.  We rang her up and she was home, so we strolled over to her house to chat.  

She gave us some more supplies for when our dandelion wine is ready to siphon and explained the procedure for bottling and a little more about the science of wine making and fermentation.  How wonderful to have this resource to tap into so nearby!  We were both grateful for Joan's willingness to share her knowledge and materials.  

Feeling more confident, I went home to make my mash.  

I gathered supplies: 1/2 cup of raisins, my six cups of flowers, 4 cups of sugar, and 2/3 gallon of water (about 10-2/3 cups), and yeast.

The recipe doesn't say what to do with the raisins, but Joan told us they should go into the initial mash with the flowers.  They add some of the properties of grapes to the wine.  So I put my flowers and raisins in a large pot.

Meanwhile, I put my water in another pot and set it to boil.  

When it reached a rolling boil, I turned off the heat and added the sugar.  Do you think I have enough sugar??

This is what the syrup looked like after the sugar was all dissolved.

I poured the sugar syrup over the flowers and raisins to make my mash.  Then I covered this and let it sit until it had cooled significantly.  At that point, I added a pinch of yeast and covered it with a moist towel.

That's where I'm at now.  The recipe I had said to immediately strain it, when cooled, into a carboy, but Rita and I decided we are going to let ours sit three days first like we did with the dandelion wine.  Then we will strain it into the sterilized carboy and top with an airlock.  I'll show you what that looks like in a few days.

The next wines on my list to try are Mint, Watermelon, and Strawberry.  Rita suggested maybe Elderberry if we get a good harvest because they are so rich in nutrients.  I'm also interested in trying to make some kombucha.  

I've caught the fermentation itch!

Happy brewing!

Honeysuckle Wine
(adapted from

10-2/3 c. (2/3 gallon) water
4 c. sugar
6 c. honeysuckle flowers
1/2 c. golden raisins
pinch of yeast

Pick your flowers, removing the sepals (green tips) as you go.  Inside, place flowers into a large pot or crock (unwashed), along with the raisins.  In another large pot, boil your water.  When it comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add your sugar.  Stir until it is thoroughly mixed.  Pour syrup over flower mixture.  Cover with a moist towel and leave it sit until it cools to about room temperature.  Toss in your pinch of yeast (I just used bread yeast), stir and cover again.  Leave it sit three days, stirring daily.  On the third day, strain out the solids and pour your liquid into a sterilized one-gallon carboy.  Fill to the top with water.  Seal with airlock and let it do it's thing.  When the bubbling stops completely and the liquid has turned clear, it's ready to siphon into another carboy to remove the sediment.  We'll get to that step later... check back!

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