According toWild Winemaking (Storey Publishing, 2018) making wine at home just got more fun, and easier, with Richard Bender’s experiments. Whether you’re new to winemaking or a seasoned pro, you’ll find this innovative manual accessible, thanks to its focus on small batches that require minimal equipment and use an unexpected range of readily available fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The ingredient list is irresistibly curious. How about banana wine or dark chocolate peach? Plum champagne or sweet potato saké? Chamomile, sweet basil, blood orange Thai dragon, kumquat cayenne, and even cannabis rhubarb wines have earned a place in Bender’s flavor collection. Go ahead, give it a try.
I have one of those refrigerator magnets with a favorite quote: “I always cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the recipe!” Many of the wines in this book make excellent cooking wines, but my favorite are the citrus–hot pepper blends. You may even want to make some of the herb wines specifically to use for cooking. A particularly spectacular cooking wine is Double Lemon–Lime-Basil, made with lemons, limes, lemon basil, and lime basil. This wine tastes like a citrus explosion in the mouth and works very well when cooking fish, chicken, or other fowl.
Wines, particularly herb wines, work well for basting fowl. I prefer to roast turkeys in one of those nylon oven bags, which keeps the turkey moist and tender and makes it easy to add basting liquid. You can also cook chicken and other whole fowl in oven bags.
To baste the bird, put your chosen wine in the bag with the bird: 1 cup of wine for a small bird and 2 to 3 cups for a large turkey. As the bird roasts, the steaming wine will infuse flavor into your bird. Rosemary wine is a classic choice for turkey, although any herb wine would work. I also like to use citrus–hot pepper wines for basting. For crispy, browned skin on your bird, just before the end of the cooking time, open the bag over the breast, and perhaps baste it with butter.
If you use a roasting pan, keep a lid on it to prevent the wine steam from escaping. Baste as often as you like. You can remove the lid near the end of the cooking time to brown the bird, if desired.
Almost anything you sauté in a pan can be improved by adding a little wine. Why use a store-bought “cooking wine” — a beverage that would taste terrible in a glass — when you can use your own great-tasting natural wines? Many of the wines described in this book, particularly the herb and citrus–hot pepper wines, will add unique flavor to any dish.
Red meats like beef, bison, or venison can benefit from a more robust red wine — perhaps the same wine you plan to drink with dinner. Blackberry, Black Currant, Blueberry, and Mulberry are excellent choices for this. Stir-fry dishes benefit from citrus–hot pepper wines. Rosemary and Thyme wines work especially well with chicken or other fowl, unless you prefer to add a little heat with a hot pepper wine. Fish will benefit from adding Sweet Basil, French Tarragon, or Double Lemon–Lime–Basil wines. A vegetarian dish can be improved by adding almost any herb, hot pepper, or plain citrus wine. Use your imagination and try something different each time you cook.
Many of the wines described in this book make great marinades that will add unique flavors to create standout dishes. I suggest using herb or citrus–hot pepper wines, although reds like Blackberry or Chokecherry would go well with beef or bison. Pork loin goes especially well with fruit wines, and tomato wines also make great marinades. You can always add additional spices, garlic, or fresh herbs to the marinade, if desired.
Some of these wines make a great addition to mixed drinks. Add a shot of strong Peppermint wine to mojitos or mint juleps. Add Lavender or Sweet Basil wine to a martini or a gin and tonic. Any of the citrus–hot pepper wines can create a unique margarita. Throw a splash of Tomato-Cayenne wine into a Bloody Mary. Add fruit wines to fruit daiquiris. A Manhattan garnished with a cherry could use a shot of Cherry wine. A piña colada could benefit from a shot of Pineapple wine. A vodka or tequila sunrise could get a shot of a citrus wine — either plain citrus or a citrus–hot pepper. Fire up your mimosa with a shot of Orange Ghost wine. Any mixed drink that calls for citrus juice can be made with the appropriate citrus wine. Use your imagination and create your own unique mixed cocktails.
Once you see how your wines enhance your cooking, your concept of wine could change dramatically. You might start thinking about making a wine specifically for cooking purposes that you might never drink by itself: garlic, for example, or ginger and turmeric, or rosemary and onion. A culinary herb wine, perhaps in a half bottle (375 milliliters), would make a spectacular gift for a chef or foodie friend. The possibilities are endless.
Dealing With Sediments In Bottles
Wines can develop sediment, especially if they are bottled too soon, continue to ferment after bottling, or are aged for several years before opening. While sediment is unlikely to hurt you, it may not taste good, and it certainly will not look good when poured into a glass. You can resolve this problem by opening any bottle that looks to have gathered sediment on the bottom and filtering the wine before serving it. I simply place a coffee filter inside a funnel and place this on top of an empty wine bottle, then I pour the wine through the filter into the bottle. This takes only a couple of minutes, unlike filtering lees. When I conduct a wine-tasting event, I inspect the chosen wines and filter any with sediment before my guests arrive.
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Excerpted from Wild Winemaking © by Richard W. Bender. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.