Spring is very late this year but one thing I have in abundance are hardy coltsfoot flowers. They are a favourite of mine as, in past times, they were painted on hanging signs and above doorways, to advertise herbalists and apothecaries. Their cheerful appearance in early Spring, before even their leaves appear, is always a welcome sight. Pick the flower heads off the top of the stems on a dry day, enough to fill a 5 litre bucket without pressing them down too firmly.
This makes a very pleasant white wine. Not quite a Coltsfoot Chardonnay but very palatable nonetheless. I personally think that the dry wine is better than the sweeter ones.
5 litres of coltsfoot flower heads
5 litres of water
2 oranges (peel and juice)
1 lemon (peel and juice)
Wine yeast (or 25g baking yeast if not available)
Yeast nutrient (ideal, if not add an extra orange)
For dry wine: 1 kilo white sugar
For medium wine: 1.3 kilos white sugar
For sweet wine: 1.6 kilos white sugar
Bring the water to boil and stir the sugar into it, making sure it is all dissolved. This will take about 5 minutes of gentle boiling. Peel the citrus fruits, without the bitter white pith, and put the peel into a big polythene bucket. Pour the hot syrup over it and cool to 21°C (70°F).
Once at the right temperature, add the flower heads, the fruit juice, the yeast and the yeast nutrient. If you have special wine yeast follow the instructions on the packet. If using baking yeast add 25 g per 5 litres. (Don’t add yeast when the liquid is too hot or you will kill it!)
Cover closely and leave in a warm place for 7 days. Stir every day.
The strain through muslin or a nylon sieve, into a fermenting jar. Fill the jar to the bottom of the neck and add a fermentation lock.
Leave in a warm place for 3 months to gently bubble and do its stuff.
After 3 months there will be quite a bit of sediment (lees) from the dead yeast. Don’t shake it up. Carefully siphon off (rack) the wine into a clean fermentation jar.
Leave for another 3 months. Then rack off the lees again. If it has stopped bubbling you can bottle it. If not (unlikely), it will have to go back to a jar for a little longer. Rack into scrupulously clean bottles.
Cork the bottles with new corks and lie them on their sides until you are ready to drink it.
Ideally, leave the bottles alone to age for six months before drinking. And don’t forget to label them – especially if you are having a winefest this Spring!