Spring is upon us, the days are getting longer and the sun is (supposed to be) shining. And what better way to enjoy the warm, brighter evenings and lazy weekends than inviting friends over for a glass of wine or a refreshing cocktail in your garden. But how about having a glass of wine from your garden?
Flowers, fruit, vegetables aren't just pretty additions to your garden, they're also a ready-made larder for your favourite summer drinks. Even leaves and weeds (as long as you know the right ones to pick) can easily and cheaply be turned into a tasty tipple- although they won't neccessarily taste just like your favourite Merlot.
Restrictions on home brewing were lifted in the UK more than fifty years which means that anyone can make their own alcohol–provided they don’t sell it– without ever having to leave the house, or garden. You can also reuse all the bottles you brew in meaning it's good for the environment and will boost your eco-credentials too. And no nasty additives in your drinks as you get to see exactly what goes into it.
With a pint costing £4 in a pub and a glass of wine setting you back at least a fiver, the bygone pastime of home brewing can really help you save the pennies. There's plenty of tasty combinations you can experiment with using just what's in your patch. Just pick your favourite fruits and flavours- and if you're looking to cut the calories, you can create a low-ethanol version too.
How to do it
To start, you’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment which you can buy or recycle from bits around the house. The staple of any homebrewers kit is the demijohn which is basically the container you keep the brew in- you can buy this from many supermarket and kitchenware stores as well as online. But in some cases you can also just use a plastic storage container or even old fizzy pop bottles.
You'll also need an airlock to keep the brew fresh, which you could replace with a deflated balloon with a few holes in. The muslin cloth you typically use for sieving pulp can be swapped for a net curtain too.
Whether you decide to create sweetcorn cider, beetroot beer or watermelon wine – the general rule for making alcohol is the same; soak your chosen produce in hot water and sugar, add yeast and leave. Then, after about a week and depending on what you’re concocting, either transfer to a demijohn for further fermenting or head to your garden, find a comfy seat by the vegetable patch and sit back and enjoy the ‘fruit cider’ of your labour.
And if you don’t have to have a big garden to grow your ingredients, just use hanging baskets to grow herbs, like mint for Mojitos instead. Alternatively, sign up for an allotment – contact your local council to find out how; or give foraging a go. Do be careful though and do your research beforehand as not all wild plants can be eaten!
- The RHS Flower Show Cardiff is featuring an incredible edible garden as part of its ‘Simple Spaces; Amazing Places’ theme, that's both a space for cooking and entertaining complete with bar area, as well a place to grow fruit and vegetables to make your own food and drinks. A great inspiration for any budding home brewers! The show runs from Friday 17 – Sunday 19 April at Bute Park, Cardiff.