May 20, 2013: Honeysuckle

Yesterday, while we were out planting muscadine vines, my kids noticed we had honeysuckle growing in the yard. They promptly took to tasting the liquid in the blossom, and then started picking way more of the blossoms than they could possibly eat. The flowers are quite fragrant, and the small amount of liquid in each is super sweet.

And it dawned on me. I bet I could flavor a wine with that.

And I’m not the first person to have this epiphany, apparently. I began searching online, and found a number of different recipes with a lot of variation between them. Anywhere from 2 to 3.5 pounds of honey or other sugar. Steeping 4 to 6 cups of the blossoms in somewhere between 1 and 2 quarts of water for somewhere between 1 and 4 hours. Some recipes call for orange, some for lemon, some for an acid blend. One I saw added raisins to the must, reducing the sugar.

My oldest daughter was nice enough to suggest to the other children that they ought to give me a large amount of what they had collected, assuring them they would be able to collect more. So it looks like I am going to make a Honeysuckle Wine (or mead, rather)! Terry Garey makes only a passing reference to honeysuckle as she describes and lists some of the herbs and flowers that can be used as flavor components to make wine. But my familiarity with Garey’s book The Joy of Home Winemaking makes me lean towards the “Basic Flower or Herb Recipe” for this batch. I am modifying it slightly, based on some of the ideas elsewhere in that book, and the recipes I saw online.

So this afternoon, I started the process. I placed 6 cups of loosely packed honeysuckle blossoms in a pan, and covered them with one quart of water. I brought that to a simmer, and then took it off the heat and covered it tightly. I left it to steep for 3 hours. I went and did my normal Monday night routine.

Once the steep was complete, I strained the blossoms out and put the remaining liquid in a fermentation bucket. I added enough water to make up the quart (about a half cup or so). I then poured out two other measures of water – 2 quarts of cold water which I set aside, and 1 quart which I put in another pot, and that on the stove to heat. To this pot I added about 3.5 pounds of honey. I then heated it up, and used some of the liquid to clean out the honey jars entirely. I then took the honey-water and added it to the fermentation bucket. I added the juice of one medium orange and one large lemon, rather than do an acid blend. To the building must I added the remaining 2 quarts of water, an 1/8 tsp of tannin, a tsp of yeast nutrient, and a half tsp of yeast energizer.

1 Smidgen = 1/20 tsp

1 Smidgen = 1/20 tsp

Unfortunately, the water I set aside was not quite cool enough to bring the temperature of the must down enough to immediately add potassium metabisulfite. But that did give me time to do some experimentation. The normal directions state to use 1/4 tsp for 5 gallons. That means 1/20 of a tsp for 1 gallon, I suppose. I myself have never seen a measuring spoon labeled 1/20 tsp. But I do have some clever little scoops labeled things like “pinch” and “smidgen”. And It appears that the smidgen is a perfect match – 1/5 of 1/4 tsp (tested by measuring out 5 smidgens into a 1/4 tsp measure)!

Still not cooled enough, I went away to type up this post. I just now checked, about an hour later, and it has gone down from 104°F to about 90. I’ll let it go down a little more before adding my smidgen of sulphite, and before taking a good gravity reading.

The intention is to use a half-packet of Pasteur Champagne yeast (24 hours after adding the potassium metabisulfite, of course). But that probably won’t actually be added until Wednesday morning, since it’s already so late this evening!

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