Many months ago Tea Stew and I were in the queue to pay at Poundland. The check out lady scanned our products, held up a pack of rocket seeds and pronounced, “These are FOUR for a pound??”.
There was a large queue behind us. Tea Stew ran off in a blind panic and came back as fast as he could clutching three other packets. This is how we ended up with sweet williams, coriander and beetroot.
So what to do with this unexpected beetroot? Neither of us is a particular lover of it. As a child I enjoyed mixing pickled beetroot and pickled onions into Smash (a powdered mashed potato product) for my dinner, because it turned it purple, but that’s as far as my experience with beetroot goes. Looking through the esteemed work of C.J.J. Berry (“First Steps in Winemaking”), we came across a throwaway line about vegetable wines, and so the beetroot wine idea was born.
First step was chopping and boiling the beetroot.
Normally to boil beets you keep them whole, to stop any of the purple colour leeching out into the water. To brew it, you want the exact opposite, as you’re going to strain away the solids and just use the water. So we chopped, but thankfully did not have to peel.
We had 1100g of beets. We added 1 gallon of water (8 pints) because that’s the size of a demi john. While its boiling you can prepare the other important ingredient – the sugar. Make sure everything you use is properly sterilised, then simply pour the sugar through a funnel into the demi john. We went for 1100g of sugar to match the quantity of beets we used. This should produce a medium wine.
Once the beets have boiled and cooled a little, you need to pour the water through a sieve and funnel into the demi john. Then take measurements using a hydrometer if you want to be able to work out how strong your wine will be. Ours came out at 1050 the first time (pictured below) but we think this is because it was still too warm. 1050 equals about 6%. When we remeasured the following day it came out at 1115 which could be as much as 15%. Yikes. We also added 3 teaspoons of citric acid as beets have very low acidity, followed by a vitamin B1 tablet and 1g gram of brewer’s yeast (we chose Bordeaux red) at this point.
We stoppered it and wrapped the whole thing in tin foil. the pigments in beetroot are light sensitive, so if you leave beetroot wine exposed to light it loses the lovely purple colour and turns an earthy brown. Chances are it will still happen anyway, but we’re attempting to keep the gorgeous colour. We’ll let it brew for a month, and see how it goes. If it ends up tasting disgusting, we can always mull it!