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A number of things come to mind when one thinks of wine: a romantic evening, a relaxing day, a great accessory for a bath and a lovely drink for a much needed light buzz after a long day at work. It is the ultimate 'adult drink', the grape-based drink that goes well with virtually anything! Personally, I enjoy a light fruity moscato over red wines because I like sweeter flavours so herbal wine is definitely on the other spectrum of my taste scale. There has to be a logical reason behind the very existence of this subset of wine. And I am nothing if not adventurous so I gave it a chance and did my research (of course), and to make it more fun, I wanted to look into DIY wines. It won't be the easiest process but it is certainly highly rewarding! It isn't everyday you get to serve DIY wine at your cocktail parties, no?

Getting the poor elephant out of that tiny room, herbal wine is definitely far less common than the traditional grape wines and they are simply herb-based wines. Herbal wines are either a dry-herb infusion or a fresh-herb infusion. The former infuses at room temperature and for a longer period of time, while the latter infuses in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

On the archaeological record, the earliest wine-making activities go back to as far back 6,000 years ago across the globe. It has been used as a populist medicine that stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems and offers a strong boost to digestion. All types of herbs are used to achieve these results, as well as offering other health benefits such as improving one's mood, promoting internal movement, cleansing the organs and supporting various bodily system functions. Apart from the numerous health benefits, did I mention it actually tastes fragrant, floral and light? Much like a spring/summer breeze on a nice sunny day by the ocean. You're welcome for that spark in your imaginary dreamscape.

Now, moving on, I will share the process of making DIY wine or home-brewed wine and a recipe for you to kickstart at home. Your resulting wine should taste like a cup of quality tea with a slight alcoholic taste; basically the wine version of herbal fruit tea.

The Fermentation Process

Simply put, the fermentation equation for an aspiring winemaker is as follows:

Sugary liquid + yeast (and the occasional friendly bacteria) + time = delicious fermented beverage (Christensen, 2013)

Fermentation is what turns a regular fruit like grapes into an alcoholic beverage. Yeast is required to transform the sugars in the juice/liquid into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide (a by-product).  The total duration for complete fermentation can take up to 3 weeks. Deliciousness and perfection takes time and cannot be rushed!

What equipment you will need

What ingredients you will need

Lets start brewing!

Note: every recipe follows this basic procedure:

  1. Prepare a sweet liquid
  2. Add yeast and stir the mixture frequently and well
  3. Allow to ferment
  4. Bottle
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Once you have your equipment and ingredients ready, the creative process is relatively fun and easy. When you become more confident in mixing fruits and herbs, you can wean off known recipes and experiment on your own to find your very own creation. Here is a recipe to get you started on your wine-making journey:

Image cred: photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash

Blackberry-Hibiscus Wine

Ingredients
14 cups water
900g granulated sugar
1360g fresh blackberries
113g dried hibiscus
2 Campden tablets
1 packet dry wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
A pinch of tannin
Instructions

  • Sanitize your bucket, lid, airlock and spoon.
  • In a stockpot, boil water and add and stir sugar until it dissolves in the water, then add the dried hibiscus and remove the pot from heat. Let it cool, then pour the mixture through a sterilized strainer into a bucket.
  • Place the fresh blackberries in a mesh bag in the bucket. With clean hands, mash the bag so that the blackberry juice is extracted into the mixture.
  • Crush 1 Campden tablet and stir into the liquid. Place the lid and attach the airlock, and let it sit for a day.
  • Prepare the yeast starter by scooping out one cup of the liquid with a sterilized measuring cup into a canning jar. Add the yeast and cover the jar with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band. Shake it well and let it stand for about three hours.
  • Add yeast starter, tannin, and yeast nutrient and stir vigorously, then replace the lid and airlock. Repeat the stirring for seven days using a sterilized spoon. (you can tell the mixture is fermenting because you will start to see bubbles appear in the airlock. Fun fact: the bubbles are carbon dioxide that are produced by the respiring yeast cells!)
  • In a week, sanitize a gallon jar (and its lid and airlock), cheesecloth or muslin, funnel, and spoon. Line your funnel with the cheesecloth, then slowly pour the mixture from the bucket into the jar. Close the lid tightly.
  • Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark, dry area for at least 4 weeks (you can age it for up to 6 months or more if you like!). If you age it for longer than 4 weeks, you’ll want to occasionally siphon it off from lees, or the sediment that collects at the bottom of the jar. To do this, sanitize a stockpot, racking cane and tip, and hose and siphon the mead from the jar to the pot. Then repeat the funneling step above, transferring the mead back into the jar from the pot.
  • When you’re ready to bottle the mead, crush a Campden tablet into the jar, stir, and let sit for at least 24 hours, then siphon the mead into sanitized bottles and cap (or cork).
  • Tip: Label your bottles with the dates they were made to keep track of the age!

If made right, this home brewed wine should taste almost like an herbal fruit tea and you'll be the talk of the party no doubt! Watch out wine stores, DIY wine just might be the next big thing.

Kick start your day with a smoothie to increase fruit and vegetable intake in your diet. Smoothies are nutritional powerhouses that provide you with essential minerals and vitamins. Great as a nutritious breakfast or an energising afternoon snack, smoothies are fun to make and do not have to be as complicated as you think. However, smoothies come with caveats too. Store-bought smoothies may expand your waistline with artificial ingredients and excess sugar. But fret not, I’ve some healthful smoothie recipes to share. Fresh and fuss-free, each recipe packs a ton of flavour and allows you to whip up your delicious concoction in a flash. Here are five basic yet fabulous smoothie recipes to try at home.

 

1. Apple Avocado Smoothie

My favourite smoothie recipe is a somewhat-strange mishmash of apple, pear, avocado and spinach but when combined together, these ingredients create a luscious blend of flavours. The use of avocado in a smoothie may sound bizarre but be reminded that avocados will give your smoothie a dreamy creamy texture and a boost of heart-healthy fat, so nourish yourself and blend away without fear.

Image cred: pixabay

Makes 1 large glass

Ingredients

Juice the apples and pear first then add the fruit juice, avocado and spinach into your blender. Blend until smooth then add a drizzle of Manuka honey. To keep myself satisfied for longer, a teaspoon of chia seeds and some protein powder are my favourite smoothie add-ins. But of course, feel free to leave any of these extra ingredients out.

 

2. Berry Banana Oat Smoothie

Image cred: pixabay

With a medley of berries, half a ripe banana for natural sweetness and some oats for fullness, the Berry Banana Oat Smoothie is the perfect power-packed breakfast to sip on the go. Why, you may ask? Berries are loaded with antioxidants, bananas are a great source of potassium and oats provide soluble fibre – vital nutrients for your digestive tract. It’s easy to prep and berry easy to drink so there’s no excuse for you to skip breakfast anymore!

Makes 1 large glass

Ingredients

For a creamier and frostier smoothie, I use frozen whole fruit to achieve a quick and thick effect. Blend all ingredients until smooth then pour, drink and love. Lactose-intolerant friends may substitute milk with almond, coconut or soy milk for a dairy-free alternative. Oh, and here’s a sneaky tip… Omit the oats to turn your smoothie into a healthier version of a banana split dessert.

 

3. Peach Perfect Smoothie

Image cred: pixabay

Reinvent the old berry-banana routine and make a fresh, juicy Peach Perfect when peaches are in season. If you tend to get in a rut with the addictive berry-banana smoothie combination (like me), I’d recommend you to give this a go.

Makes 1 large glass

Ingredients

Blend all ingredients until smooth and spark it up with some ground cinnamon for a pinch of yum.

 

4. Tropical Mint Smoothie

Image cred: pixabay

Beat the heat with a refreshing Tropical Mint Smoothie. Fruity with a fresh finish of mint, this glass of green goodness will have you forget about the weather in a minute. If the green colour scares you, imagine you’re on a beach under a tropical palm tree and let your worries be washed away with the sound of waves. I promise you won’t even be able to taste the kale.

Makes 1 large glass

Ingredients

Blend all ingredients until smooth. I garnish mine with a wedge of pineapple and some coconut flakes to create a virgin green Piña Colada. It’s a definite winner for alcohol replacement. Enjoy!

 

5. Rooibos Tofu Smoothie

Image cred: Natalia Dworniak on Unsplash

Stave off colds with Rooibos Tofu, a powerful immune-booster with unconventional smoothie ingredients. It works when you’re tired of bananas or want to cut back on carbs. Red rooibos tea is an excellent base for a smoothie as it produces a herbaceous sweetness, without the caffeine. Protein-rich tofu creates a lovely thick texture whilst frozen grapes and raspberries deliver a deep flavour of additional antioxidants.

Makes 1 large glass

Ingredients

Steep tea for 8 to 10 minutes, discard teabag and chill in refrigerator. Once cool, blend the tea with all other ingredients until smooth and serve cold. Add an optional scoop of protein powder for a tea-rrific workout drink.

You can get your fix of rooibos tea here!

Smoothies are incredibly easy and convenient to make. At the same time, they hold a wealth of rich essential nutrients. If you are lacking time to make a wholesome meal, make a smoothie. It's the next best thing.

 

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