Rhubarb grows in our garden, mainly for the purpose of becoming wine, although occasionally it is paired with strawberries in a dessert. Blackberries grow many places nearby and every year I like to pick them for pies and wine.
Rhubarb wine is not for the faint of heart, but we enjoy it, particularly mixed with orange or grapefruit juice and some club soda.
Most recipes seem complicated for a beginner (or lazy person like me), but mine isn’t. I will give my recipe for 1 gallon of wine, although I typically make 2 gallons at a time as that fits nicely into my stock pot. For 1 gallon, use:
- 4 L fresh or frozen berries (or mixture of different berries and rhubarb)
- 1 cup (250 mL) hot water to soften the fruit
- 5 cups (1.25 L) sugar
- 14 cups water
- 1/2 envelope wine yeast
Step 1 – In April or May or whenever the stalks are thick, pick the rhubarb by pulling up on the stalk, chop off the leaves and discard them. Or use about 4 L (a gallon ice cream bucket full) of blueberries, blackberries or black currants. Or a combination. Do not try this with raspberries, cherries or strawberries! Awful!
Step 2 – Rinse and drain the berries, or chop off the rhubarb leaves (and discard them) and chop the stalks into 1″ chunks. For berries, you can skip the freezing step if you want. For rhubarb, put the chopped chunks into a plastic bag or container and FREEZE IT! That accomplishes 2 things: (a) reduces the crisp rhubarb to mush when thawed, which is exactly what you want for Step 3; and (b) more importantly, it postpones the need to embark on Step 3, if you are not ready that day.
Step 3 – Take the rhubarb out of the freezer and dump it (or the berries) into a large stainless steel stock pot. I use one that is about 15 litres – maybe 12 inches diameter and same height – so I can make 2 gallons quite comfortably in it. Let the frozen rhubarb or berries thaw. Then pour 1 cup of boiling water over the it and mash around with a potato masher. Add 14 cups (i.e. 3.5 L) more of cold water to make a total of 15 cups of water, 5 cups of regular sugar, and stir until dissolved. If you have a hydrometer, you’ll find that the specific gravity is about 1.080-1.090. If you don’t have a hydrometer, just trust me. If you used the proportions of 1 volume sugar to 3 volumes of total added water, you will be close enough. Cover the pot.
Toss in half an envelope of wine yeast (which you can buy at a wine making supply store) and stir a few times.
Step 4 – Each day, stir and mash the mixture. After 5 or 6 days (when convenient), scoop the rhubarb/berry remains out of the pot and squeeze the liquid out. Discard the fruit. (I put it out in the compost pile, which probably pleases the local raccoons immensely.) The specific gravity will have started to come down, and everything will be nice and bubbly when you stir it.
Step 5 – Pour the liquid into a gallon jug.
Place an airlock on the jug (also purchased at the local wine making supply store), stand the whole jug in an ice cream bucket, and leave it on the counter for a few days. (Putting it in the bucket is to make sure that it is not fermenting too wildly, such that it overflows and makes a huge mess. Conversely if it isn’t fermenting, you might need to add some more yeast.)
Step 6 – Once you are confident that the bubbling is stable, put the jug in a convenient location where it can continue fermenting for a month or three, If you check, the specific gravity will be just under 1.0. Blackberry wine is drinkable after 3 months, but rhubarb wine really needs the better part of a year or else it will be very harsh.
Step 7 – When you are ready to drink the wine, decant it or pour carefully out of the jug into wine bottles, use screw tops, and enjoy.
If you don’t much like the rhubarb wine (and you wouldn’t be the first I’ve encountered) try mixing with grapefruit or orange juice, club soda and ice.