I have a growing collection of old country winemaking books, most of which I’ve picked up very cheaply on Abebooks and ebay. They’re a great source of weird and wonderful recipes, some of which are coming out surprisingly well.
This one, Carrot Whiskey, comes from a fun little book called ‘Home Winemaking Without Failures’ by H. E. Bravery. Bravery once wrote to Noël Whitcomb, a journalist at The Daily Mirror, to suggest a piece on homemade wine. Whitcomb thought it was a bit weird, but since it was a slow news day, published it. The very successful piece turned into a longstanding column on which Bravery and Whitcomb collaborated.
“Little did I realise that, the following morning, readers all over the place would be thumping their breakfast tables with a beaming smile and calling to their wives: ‘Hey – Mabel – cut this bit out of the paper. At last old Whitcomb has hit on a matter of interest.”
(I’m glad that in the years since, the majority of men seem to have figured out how to use scissors.)
Whitcomb himself became a proficient winemaker, and this is his recipe, published in Bravery’s book. Bravery says that it “won praise from all parts of the country. (Its) flavour, body and bouquet put (it) in the class of expensive spirits”. I definitely wanted to give this a go!
Attempting older wine recipes, however, can be a bit of a minefield. At first I got the conversion wrong (a UK Imperial gallon, not a modern American gallon!). I was unsure of how the carrots were weighed and used – did Whitcomb include the tops, for example? (I decided not to). He also includes a tablespoonful of raisins, which was often included in older recipes in an attempt to feed the yeast (this doesn’t work – I added yeast nutrient instead).
The biggest question was, what on earth is this wheat here for? Is it in there for body? For flavour? Both? Should it be cracked? Wheat is used as a fermentable in beer, but in that case it’s cracked and simmered to release the wheat grain’s natural sugars. No such instruction is included here. Another recipe in the same book calls for ‘cracked corn’, which kind of suggests that just calling for ‘wheat’ means un-cracked. So, I have merely rinsed and included raw wheat. Let’s see how it goes. It smelled and tasted fantastic as a must, so I have a good feeling about it.
How to make Carrot ‘Whiskey’. Adapted from H. E. Bravery’s ‘Home Winemaking Without Failures’ (1959)
The original recipe has been posted online by Jack Keller here. My recipe has been adapted for 5L and for modern winemaking methods.
3.25 kg carrots, washed but not peeled, grated (I used a food processor). I weighed these without the tops, so needed around 3400g total.
550g raw wheat grains, rinsed and left whole
Zest and juice of 3 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons, juice of 3 (I’d recommend the zest and juice of 2 lemons only – mine were dry)
1.5 tspn yeast nutrient
1.5 tspn yeast
Bring the carrots to the boil in a stockpot, with as much of the water as you need to cover them. Meanwhile, add the wheat and lemons/oranges to a clean brew bag, and place in a cleaned and sanitised fermenting bucket. Simmer the carrots gently for about half an hour, then strain the hot water over all of this. Stir with a sanitised spoon to dissolve the sugar, and then add the rest of the water. When it is room temperature, add pectic enzyme.
12 hours after adding the enzyme, pitch the yeast and yeast nutrient. I’m using EC-1118, which is a real workhorse, more agressive than what I’d usually prefer. For a wine that needs to go bone dry and employs something as unfermentable as raw wheat, it seems appropriate. I didn’t bother with a starter on this one, as I’ve never known ec-1118 to mind either way.
Ferment within the temperature range recommended for your yeast, stirring twice daily, until the fizz of fermentation begins to slow down. Then, with sanitised gloves (I tend to just clean my hands well and spray them with sanitiser), remove the bag and squeeze. Re-cover your bucket and let it ferment for about another day, to allow most of the sediment to fall to the bottom.
Rack into one 5L jug and one 750ml bottle (you may have extra, this recipe is generous). Stop both up with airlocks, and wait until they have begun to clear. Rack into another 5L jug (or into a bucket and then back into the cleaned original jug), and stop up with a clean airlock. Allow to clear completely and bottle. Store for a year.
I’ve racked this to tertiary at the time of writing, and it’s doing well: a lovely pale orange colour which I imagine will fade to straw, a nice note from the wheat, and a mellow carrot flavour.
Update: the tasting post eighteen months later can be found here.
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A year and a half has gone by since I made my experimental batch of carrot whiskey. Time to taste! The batch took a long, long (long) time to stop fermenting. I don’t really know what these carrots added in terms of fermentables, and the […]