NZ Gardener - Gifts from the Gardens

WET YOUR WHISTLE Homemade hooch

From delectable herbal wines to honey and fruit liquors, making your own boozy tipples is fun.

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For the most part, making your own hooch is a matter of experiment­ation – one herb, berry or fruit may provide rich flavour and smooth sippabilit­y, while another may be oddly flavourles­s. But virtually anything can be used, either as a single ingredient or as a combinatio­n of ingredient­s.

Bushcraft instructor and wilderness guide Mark Lane (wilderness­guide.wordpress.com) often collects wild materials to create his own alcoholic drinks, and he has perfected the art of making primrose and dandelion wine. Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) both make fine foraged wines in their own right. But if you are struggling to make up the amounts, or fancy a blend, then combine the two.

Pick the heads – at least a couple of litres each. Boil 4½ litres of water and dissolve 1kg of sugar, the juice of a lemon, the juice of an orange and two teaspoons of cream of tartar.

Place flower heads in a large container and pour over the water. Cover container with a clean tea-towel and leave for 3 days.

Strain juice from the heads into a sterile demi-john. Add yeast and an airlock. Leave until fermentati­on has finished.

You can bottle it as is, but Mark prefers a bit of a sparkle in his country wines and adds a small teaspoon of sugar to each bottle to prime it and then seals the bottle.

The priming sugar will start a secondary fermentati­on and put a fizz into the bottle. Make sure you use bottles, like old sparkling wine bottles or plastic fizzy-pop bottles, that can stand the pressure. Leave for at least a further two weeks, longer if possible. Serve chilled!

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