Now I have to say right off, that I have never made wine – I have made various fruit infusions such as sloe gin (which reminds me, I have a bottle under the stairs which needs straining – sloes from last year!) marmalade whisky (rather a waste of whisky and marmalade) and wild fruit gin (hips, haws and sloes, and horrid to the point of being poured down the drain!) However, I really like the idea of wines and spirits made at home with ingredients picked from the garden or hedgerows, and i have had some brilliant wines especially made by our friend Trevor. His rhubarb wine was just wonderful but I am pretty sure he didn’t use golden syrup!
I came across notes on rhubarb wine made with golden syrup in the little book’Homemade Wines and Liqueurs, How to Make Them’ by Ambrose Heath published in 1953. This is what he wrote about it:
The man who is used to drinking home-made wine is not likely to be deterred by such small difficulties as a shortage of sugar and he ahs found that golden syrup will do the job very well for him instead.
Sugar was rationed during the war from January 1940, and did not come off ration until September 1953, the year the book was published
I had often been asked about this, and having never tried it, was doubtful about its success, but a recent trip to Rusper (which I believe has some local reputation for wine-making) laid my doubts to rest.
Rusper is a village in West Sussex between Horsham and Crawley, and the Star pub which Ambrose goes on to mention is still there, although closed at the moment, as are all pubs. “Rusper has a couple of good pubs and the Star Inn is one. Originally built in 1486, always a pub, it has now expanded into neighbouring cottages. There is a priest hole [a small passage for Catholic priests to hide during the reign of Elizabeth I] in one corner of the pub that leads on to the roof, a large inglenook fireplace, and a wishing well.”
In the old village inn, the Star, I met a man who had this golden syrup business at his fingers’ ends, and had indeed been making his wine this way for some years, and a taste of his latest rhubarb wine, although it was only three months old, showed me that it had all the makings of a good wine. He was kind enough to give me the recipe for making it in this way and here it is:
Rhubarb and golden syrup wine (I’ve written it out as a recipe, Ambrose just wrote it as part of the text)
- 7 lbs rhubarb cut into pieces and bruised
- 1 gallon boiling water
- 3 lbs warmed golden syrup
- pour the boiling water over the rhubarb and leave for a fortnight
- strain off the liquor and add the warmed golden syrup
- stir to mix well, and let it ferment in a crock for a fortnight
- strain into a jar and cork it well down
Simples, eh? I might try it with a pound of rhubarb, but it seems a bit risky to try with a whole seven pounds!
There seems to be no reason why any other wines should not be made with this substitute for sugar, and indeed my informant has made others himself, using the same proportions of syrup in place of sugar.
I have heard that wine made with golden syrup does not keep, but this man said that not only did it keep as well as wine made with sugar (and he instanced a three-year-old elderberry wine of his) but in his opinion the syrup wine kept better.
I cannot write of this kind of wine-making from my own experience but I am sure that from what I heard and tasted, experiments are well worth while by those who find sugar is their difficulty.
Next time we’re down that way – we have relatives and friends nearby, I might suggest we deviate and have a look at the Star, but I doubt they will have any home-made rhubarb wine, made with or without golden syrup!
My featured image isn’t of rhubarb wine, but that’s the colour of the wine our old friend made!