Well I was going to encourage you all into the countryside to collect hawthorn blossom, or may blossom as it is properly called, to make a floral wine. Unfortunately, this May seems to be under the impression that it is October and blossom collecting is out of the question. Something warming is more in order, so I am going with ginger wine.
The Zingiberaceae is a large family with well over a thousand species, though only a few are cultivated, and I have long wondered if there is a native British equivalent to the familiar root. According to the experts, galingale, Cyperus longus, a sedge found in marshy areas in the southern half of England, is the nearest thing that this country has to offer. It is not closely related to ginger, excepting that it is a monocot.
I uprooted a couple of plants in Dorset a few years ago, scratched, sniffed and nibbled. It is aromatic but lacks the punchy nature of root ginger which is packed with those lovely, spicy gingerols. As it is the root that is used, there is another problem with this plant in the dread form of the Wildlife and Countryside Act which forbids the uprooting of plants without the landowner's permission. I am going to stick with good old root ginger.
Ginger wine is a rather old-fashioned drink and my grandmother, born in the 1880s, enjoyed a long affection for the stuff. The history of ginger wine predates even her, with an Elizabethan reference to it costing a penny-farthing a bottle and recipes appearing at the beginning of the 18th century. It might cost a bit more to make now, but not much. I made a batch in December so it is not really ready yet, but nevertheless it tastes good, if still a little cloudy. And the flavour? No surprises here; it's gingery.
About 5 inches / 12cm root ginger5 litres of water1.4kg sugarZest and juice of 4 lemons500g raisins, chopped or squashed by putting in a carrier bag and pounding, or a 200ml can of white grape juice concentrate 1 sachet of white wine yeastYeast nutrient
Peel and finely slice the ginger, place in a plastic fermenting bucket, add the lemon zest and the raisins, then pour over 2½ litres of boiling water. Cover and leave for 24 hours.
Add 2½ litres of boiled and cooled water, the lemon juice, yeast nutrient and the yeast (follow the instructions on the packet). Cover and leave to ferment for three or four days then transfer into a demijohn using a sterilised sieve and funnel. Fit a bubble trap and allow to ferment for a couple of months. Rack-off into a fresh demijohn and leave until clear, then bottle.
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