10 September 1999

TOASTTOVEGWINES

Vegetables are not only for

eating – they can make

jolly good drinks, too, says

Christine Green

VERY pleasant wines can be derived from carrots, parsnip, beetroot, potato or even turnip.

Plus, there is very little waste because once the water, or gravy (its technical name), has been extracted, the vegetables can then be eaten or alternatively frozen and used at a later date.

The wine-making process follows more or less the same pattern as when using fruit, requiring the same pieces of equipment. Any extra ingredients required such as pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient or grape tannin can be obtained from home brew shops.

Naturally it depends on the vegetables you choose as to the type of wine produced but the end result can also reflect the character of the vegetables when picked.

Carrots, for example, have a far sweeter taste when young than at the end of the season yet surprisingly it is the older carrots that produce the better-tasting wine.

However, irrespective of the vegetable you select, the basic method of preparing vegetables for wine-making is the same for them all. Roots should be washed and scrubbed but not peeled, after which they should be cut up and boiled until tender and the gravy drained off. At this point you will no longer require the vegetable and so it can be used or put in the freezer.

Whether you prefer your wine dry, medium or sweet – there is a vegetable to accommodate your taste: carrots or pea pods both proffer a dry white table wine whilst beetroot produces a dry red table wine; the sturdy parsnip yields a dry sherry flavour and if you like a wine with a slightly sweet taste there is nothing more pleasant than the humble potato. Of all the salad vegetables celery is the only one that has been found to impart a palatable light pleasant table wine and it is well worth trying.

POTATO WINE

If you are looking for a sweet dessert wine look no further than the potato. It may take longer to mature than other wines but the wait is well worth it.

2.7kg (6lb) old potatoes

1.1kg-1.36kg (21/2-3lb) Demerara sugar

5g (1 teaspoon) yeast

nutrient

5g (1 teaspoon) citric acid

3g (1/2 teaspoon)

grape tannin

5g (1 teaspoon)

pectic enzyme

5g (1 teaspoon) Amylozyme

Sachet of yeast

Scrub and thinly slice the potatoes but dont peel the skins. Pop them into a large saucepan, cover with unsalted cold water and bring to the boil. Leave them simmering until the potatoes are soft when prodded with a fork.

Once the liquid has cooled, strain it into a clean demijohn.

Dissolve the sugar in some water until it turns to a syrup mixture before adding to the demijohn, then top with cool boiled water until it reaches the shoulder of the jar.

Add the nutrient, acid and enzyme. Secure an airlock and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Add the yeast; refit the airlock, then place it somewhere warm to ferment, giving it a daily shake.

As the wine begins to clear, leave it to settle. Rack as soon as necessary then add a crushed campden tablet before topping up with cooled boiled water. Leave the wine for approximately six months, then rack again.

It will take at least 18-24 months for this wine to fully mature. However, if after tasting you prefer it to be slightly sweeter you can always add some white grape concentrate.

CELERY WINE

1.36kg (3lb) celery

900g (2lb) granulated

white sugar

225g (1/2lb)

chopped sultanas

5g (1 teaspoon) pectic enzyme

5g (1 teaspoon) yeast

nutrient

3g (1/2 teaspoon)

grape tannin

Sachet yeast

Wash and scrub the celery. Chop it into short lengths and pop the pieces into a large saucepan. Cover with unsalted water and slowly bring to the boil. Leave it simmering until the celery is soft when tested with a fork.

Once the water has cooled down, strain it carefully into a clean demijohn. Add the sugar and top up to the shoulder of the jar with cool boiled water. Pop the nutrient, enzyme and acid into the jar, fit an airlock and leave for 24 hours in a warm place. Add the yeast and then refit the airlock. The wine should now be left in a warm place to ferment but make sure it is shaken daily.

Once the wine begins to clear, leave it to settle before racking (you will know when the time is right, sediments will be found lying at the base of the demijohn). After having racked the wine, add a crushed campden tablet to the demijohn and top it up with cooled boiled water.

Leave the wine a further six months before racking again, although if you notice a build up of sediments forming again you may well have to do it sooner.

If the wine has a slightly drier taste than you prefer, sweeten it by adding some white grape concentrate.

And finally, six months later you should have a superb tasting bottle of celery wine.