Red champagne? Possibly not!

I mentioned that our rather grumpy and unfruiting gooseberry bush suddenly brought forth brave brood – nearly a pound of fruit! We’re now wondering whether to have pie crumble or fool. There aren’t enough goosegogs to do anything else, but I did look up some recipes in Ambrose Heath’s small book ‘Homemade Wines and Liqueurs. There was gooseberry cordial which sounded rather nice, I can imagine it’s very refreshing. However when I looked more closely at the ingredients I find that as well as a pint of fresh gooseberry juice, an inch of cinnamon stick, four cloves and a strip of lemon rind, there is two pints of unsweetened gin. No thanks!! Not for me!!

In the same slim volume is a traditional recipe for gooseberry wine; a friend of ours used to make wine from all sorts of different fruit, flowers and vegetables, and it was very good, but my favourite was his slightly sparkling – pétillant gooseberry wine. Then I came across a most extraordinary recipe, I can’t imagine what it would taste like, ghastly I imagine – but who knows!

Red champagne

  • 5 gallons (yes gallons) of crushed ripe yellow gooseberries
  • 1½ lbs washed but unpeeled beetroot, boiled for 20 mins (yes beetroot) then sliced
  • 15 lbs (yes 15) beet sugar
  • 1 oz bruised ginger
  • thinly pared rind of 2 lemons
  • 1 oz of isinglass
  • 1 pint brandy
  1. put the gooseberries, beetroot, and 5 gallons of cold boiled water in a tub
  2. stir well and leave for 4 days, stirring several times a day
  3. strain the liquor into a cask through a flannel bag (who has flannel bags these days? I see some difficulty in trying this, even if I were tempted to!)
  4. add the ginger, lemon peel and isinglass dissolved in some of the liquor
  5. let it ferment and when fermentation is complete, add the brandy and bung tightly
  6. bottle after twelve months, seal and wire the corks, keep for another six months

This recipe takes over eighteen months! What a quantity of ingredients to use on something you have no idea whether you’re going to like it or not! Does beetroot, gooseberry, ginger, lemon and brandy sound a great combination? Not sure on that one! I think you’d have to be an experienced wine-maker to make something where you have to wire the corks – it sounds dangerous to me! 


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