If you read many blogs, you’ll know that people are very fond of posting photos of their beautifully presented food. I am going to follow suit. This very photogenic rhubarb came from our back yard, where it is grown expressly for the purpose of becoming wine. Every couple of years I might make a rhubarb strawberry pie. (I did once.) I get dreamy eyed and envious when I read an entertaining blog like this – a woman in a quaint home in Wales, who gardens, preserves, makes things, and even writes about it with such fun. I’m sure she does rhubarb too, but I couldn’t find anything on it.
Rhubarb wine is not for the faint of heart, but we enjoy it, particularly mixed with orange or grapefruit juice and some club soda. You should keep it for a year before drinking – otherwise it is quite harsh. 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.
Step 1 – In April or May, pick the rhubarb, chop off the leaves and the base. Usually I do this at the end of a long day gardening, when my body does NOT want an evening of messy wine-making. So, Step 2 is a very important tip.
Step 2 – Rinse off the rhubarb and cut stalks into 3-5″ lengths. You need 3-5 pounds of rhubarb per gallon (4 L) of wine. Conveniently, that is a 4-L ice-cream bucket almost full of aforementioned 3-5″ pieces. Put 4 L in a plastic bag or plastic bucket 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 tonight.
Step 3 – Take the rhubarb out of the freezer and dump it 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. Leave the frozen rhubarb alone for a few hours or a day, until thawed. Then pour 1 cup of boiling water over the rhubarb and mash around with a potato masher. Add 14 cups more of cold water to make a total of 15 cups of water, 5 cups of regular sugar, and stir until dissolved. Toss in half an envelope of wine yeast, and stir some more. 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. Do not be bothered if it looks like a bunch of rhubarb logs floating in dishwater. Cover the pot.
Step 4 – Each day, stir the mixture. After 5 or 6 days (when convenient), scoop the rhubarb remains out of the pot and squeeze the liquid out. Discard the rhubarb. (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.
Pour the liquid into a gallon jug, place an airlock on it, put the jug into 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 5– After you are confident that the fermentation is under control, put the jug in the basement or somewhere for 10-12 months. (Maybe leave it in the bucket for the same reason as before.) You can check it every few months to see if the water needs to be topped up in the airlock.
Step 6 – Decant the wine or pour it carefully out of the jug into wine bottles, use screw tops, and enjoy.
If you don’t really like it that much (and you wouldn’t be the first I’ve encountered) try mixing with grapefruit or orange juice, club soda and on ice. Then you might consider trying my blackberry wine instructions, which I’ll post when blackberry season is well underway.