If you are lucky enough to have wild strawberries growing in your back garden or you to live close to a place where you can collect them, you have to give this delicious wild strawberry jam a try!
The wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), also known as an Alpine or Woodland strawberry, is a delicious if not quite small version of their cultivated cousin. They’re normally just a few millimeters in length, rarely growing to anything near a standard strawberry from your local supermarket. But what they lack in size, they definitely make up for in taste, packing a really strong, concentrated flavour. You’ll typically find alpine strawberries at the edge of woods and mountains (hence the name Alpine, which refers to the mountain range the Alps) where they like to grow in shady and slightly damp conditions.
This year has been excellent for crab apples with many trees loaded with the small, sharp fruit, most likely due to the amount of rain that we’ve been getting over the past few weeks. Summer seems to have been and gone in a flash, and the cold, blowy Autumn nights seem to be upon us already, so what better way to cheer yourself up by having a go at making a batch of crab apple wine to enjoy another year.
Its worth noting that it can take over a year, preferably 2, for the crab apple wine to ferment and become ready to consume, so its not really something that can be enjoyed quickly. The actual process of going out and searching for and collecting crab apples, as well as preparing the wine, are actually really good fun harmless fun in it self, so it could be a great way to spend a dull, rainy Sunday. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll put a lot of effort into collecting the crab apples and preparing the wine, only to leave it fermenting in your garage and completely forget about it until 3 or 4 years later… in which time it inevitably ends up tasting like a sherry…
Anyway if you haven’t been put off yet then you should give this recipe a go. A good crab apple wine can actually be a very potent drink, a little like a very strong cider, so go wary when you’re finally ready to consume it as it can pack a surprisingly strong punch. Refreshing, yet very potent. Its definitely well worth giving the recipe a go, head down to any nearby forests and you should find an abundance of crab apples already fallen to the floor – these ones should be fine to use, you’ll only be crushing them yourself anyway so it doesn’t matter if you use fallers plus by leaving plenty in the trees you’ll be providing food for any wild animals to enjoy – horses and pigs love to feast on them even if humans don’t (they leave a very bitter taste – coming from a first hand experience).
Crab Apple Wine Ingredients
4 kilograms / 8.5 lb’s of Crab Apples
1 Campden tablet
Teaspoon of Pectozyme
1 kilogram / 2.5 lb’s of sugar
300 grams / 8.5 lb’s of raisins
Teaspoon of yeast nutrient
Sachet of Champagne yeast
Crab Apple Wine Recipe
Gather up around 4kg of crab apples and then give them a wash and de-stalk them with a knife. You then need to crush them – this is the fun part. An apple crusher or press is ideal, but obviously not everyone is this fortunate… everyone else can use a strong plastic bag, perhaps 2 black (unused!) binbags would be suffice – place the apples inside and then use a mallet or plank of wood. If using a mallet be careful as you don’t want to puncture the bag and spill apple juice everywhere…
Get 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of cold water and drop in your Campden tablet. A Campden tablet is a sulfur based product which is used to kill bacteria which grow during the fermentation process, preventing many other wild yeasts from growing which would affect the flavour of your crab apple wine. The tablet should dissolve in the water, allowing you to add the contents of your bag – the crushed crab apples. Next, you need to add a teaspoon of Pectozyme. This is a pectic enzyme, which helps to break down the pectin found in the apples – pectin is found in the cell walls of plants. By breaking the pectin down it helps to speed up the extraction of the juice present in the apples.
Place the concoction in a cool, dry place and cover it with some kind of lid. You will need to stir it every day for 4 days. Don’t worry what it looks or smells like at this stage, its early days yet. You will next need to strain out the mixture into another suitable container. Then you can add the 1kg of sugar followed by the 300g of raisins. Give it a quick mix and follow this up by adding the final ingredients – a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and a sachet of champagne yeast. The sugar helps with the fermentation process and also helps sweeten the wine, and the raisins also help to impart a deep, fruity flavour. The yeasts are obviously required to help with the fermentation of the wine.
This mixture will need to ferment for a week in similar conditions before straining for a final time, pressing the raisins in the process to extract their juices into the wine mix. And here it is, ready (well, not quite)… you’ll need to avoid temptation and leave the wine to ferment for around 18 months, ideally longer. But remember, the longer you leave it the stronger it will get, so we recommend that you consume it between 18 and 24 months. When the mixture has fermented for long enough you can start to bottle it up. Remember to follow the routine of sterilising the wine bottles and equipment used in order to prevent your hard work going to waste.
I’d love to hear your own crab apple wine recipe suggestions, and would equally love to find out if you gave this recipe a go!
With Summer now well under way it is the perfect time to go foraging for some Elderflower heads to use in a very special Elderflower champagne recipe.
By following this recipe you will be able to produce a clear, sparkling drink which is not too strong yet which is still alcoholic.
From start to finish you should have your Elderflower champagne ready to drink within about 14 days, not bad going considering some alcoholic drinks will take several months before they are ready.
The white flowers of the Elder tree should be very distinctive and will have a very recognisable smell (hopefully you have tasted Elderflower before, as some sort of drink).
Elderflower Champagne Recipe
This recipe will produce around 6 litres of Elderflower Champagne
16 Elderflower heads (roughly)
4 litres of hot water
Juice and zest of 4 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
A pinch of dried yeast (not essential)
Instructions For Making Elderflower Champagne:
1. Pour the hot water into a clean bucket and add in the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 litres of cold water to the mixture.
2. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juize and zest, and then add the Elderflower heads. Stir the mix gently to combine the ingredients.
3. Place a section of muslin over the bucket and move to a cool and airy place to allow it to ferment for a couple of days. Check the bucket to see if fermentation has taken place (the liquid will become foamy and a little frothy). If no fermentation has begun to take place then add a pinch of dry yeast to the mixture.
4. Check the mixture again in 4 days when it should have fermented as much as possible. It should now be ready to bottle. To do this, strain the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin and into a sterilised container. It is best to use something strong as the build up of Carbon Dioxide can cause the bottles to explode. It is also recommended that you use champagne stoppers, or sterilised screw-top plastic bottles, to keep the container sealed throughout the extra fermentation period.
5. Make sure the bottles are properly sealed and leave them for at least 7days before drinking. Elderflower champagne is best served chilled after this length of time, and should be kept in a cool and dry place. It should keep in the bottles for about 5 months. Enjoy!