Make it yourself

Surprise! Mint wine doesn’t taste sweet or syrupy, as you might expect, but light and only slightly minty. Crystal-clear mint wine, ever so slightly effervescent, serves up like vinho verde. (Caution: Don’t use chocolate mint or other strongly flavored mint varieties. Instead, use standard spearmint, or “grandmother’s mint,” as it is called.)

Make mint wine any time of year when the mint isn’t blooming. In late spring, before summer’s heat has removed some of the flavorful essential oils from the leaves, the wine rises to its very best. You will need to start with about double the amount of mint leaves called for in the recipe, because the stalks and any damaged leaves must be discarded.

— DeNiece Guest and Nan Chase 

HOME VINTNERS: Nan Chase, left, and DeNiece Guest, home winemakers and authors of Drink the Harvest, say  the ingredients for a tasty wine could be growing right now in your backyard or garden.
HOME VINTNERS: Nan Chase, left, and DeNiece Guest, home winemakers and authors of Drink the Harvest, say the ingredients for a tasty wine could be growing right in your backyard or garden.

Garden mint wine

From Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders 

Note: Be sure to let this wine age at least 6 months in the bottle so that it mellows.
Yield: Approximately 1 gallon.
Preparation time: 45 minutes to 1 hour, plus additional time for cooling, fermenting, racking and bottling.

1 gallon of filtered water
1/2 cup orange or other sweet juice
2 teaspoons (1 packet) Pasteur Champagne yeast or white wine yeast
4 cups sugar
2 quarts of fresh mint leaves, cleaned and washed (no stems)

Bring 1 gallon of filtered water to a boil in a large pot, for steeping the mint inside a 1-gallon fermentation jug. Add enough filtered water to the orange juice to make 1 cup. Heat the juice and water to lukewarm (approximately 100-105 degrees F) and sprinkle with the yeast. Set the mixture aside to let it “proof.”

Pour the sugar into a sterilized fermentation jug (a large funnel makes this easier). Pour 2 cups of the boiling filtered water into the jug and swirl or shake it until sugar is dissolved. Add the mint leaves, stuffing them into the jug with a long utensil if necessary (a chopstick or long wooden spoon handle works well for this). Add enough additional boiled filtered water to fill the jug to the shoulders, leaving 2-3 inches headroom for expansion of the yeast. Allow mixture in the jug to cool to lukewarm (100-105 degrees F) before adding the yeast mixture.

Add the yeast mixture to the jug. Stopper the jug with a sterilized airlock, and after about an hour check to make sure the airlock is bubbling. Set the jug in a cool, dark place until the bubbling stops and the liquid clears. Yeast prefers darkness; bright light can kill yeast or stunt the growth, which can slow fermentation. This fermentation can take two weeks to several months. Don’t be concerned about how the herbs look after a few weeks, as they will darken during fermentation.

Rack the wine (this may be repeated several times until wine has cleared), bottle the wine, and let it age for at least six months.

 

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About Jonathan Ammons
Native Asheville writer, eater, drinker, bartender and musician. Proprietor of www.dirty-spoon.com Follow me @jonathanammons

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