Although Shaila D’Mello only recently started her Christmas preparations, there’s one item on which she started working way back in June — her famous ginger wine. After all, she couldn’t disappoint family members who have been waiting all year to try some of it.
The 30-year-old homemaker from Mumbai stumbled upon wine recipes online a few years ago, and there has been no stopping her since. Passionate about cooking, it was her knack for experimentation that made her give winemaking a shot.
“I scoured the internet and found millions of recipes. I finally chose to try my hand at making ginger wine because it goes perfectly with Christmas desserts. Moreover, it is sweet and lightly spiced at the same time, making it different from the usual grape wine,” says Shaila.
Just like Shaila, several others have chosen to deviate from making the common grape wine and trying out unconventional brews. Wine can be made out of practically anything, right from fruits like oranges and mangoes to vegetables such as beetroot and carrot. Even making rice wine (Sake) is fairly simple once you’ve nailed the technique.
“You need to ensure that the fruit, vegetable or grain you pick has a high sugar or starch content. This is essential for fermentation,” says Bharathy Vasudevan, a 40-year-old homemaker hailing from Kerala.
Bharathy’s love affair with wine began a long time ago.“Having grown up in a Christian community, I had always tasted wine at my friends’ houses through my childhood,” she says. A visit to her best friend’s house when she was 13 years old led her to try gooseberry (amla) wine, and that was when she realised she had to make wine herself.
Gooseberry wine is a familiar sight in most Christian households in Kerala, where the drink is prepared during festivals like Christmas and Easter. Apart from being a great accompaniment with strong-flavoured fish or spicy Indian food, it also has immense health benefits.
Full of the good stuff
Who would know the medicinal value of wines better than Dr John Carmo Rodrigues from Goa, a PhD in microbiology, who has made wine out of around 200 kinds of fruits, vegetables and roots so far.
The array of wines in impressive — right from mango spice and jambool (Indian blackberry) to onion-garlic and hibiscus flower — you’ll find every type of wine lined along the window sills of this octogenarian’s house.
“Jambool wine is great for diabetics. A lot of wines also have cancer-killing properties. I recently found out that even cashew wine has medicinal properties. Did you know that?” he chuckles.
Making wine at home is not difficult if you have the time and patience required for it, believes Shireen Sequeira, who created the blog Ruchik Randhap (which means ‘delicious cooking’ in Konkani) fuelled by the desire to preserve some traditional Mangalorean recipes which were slowly vanishing from their kitchens.
Explaining the procedure, she says, “Besides the main ingredient, (like ginger, rice or pineapple) sugar, water, raisins, yeast and sometimes rum are added. You also need traditional ceramic jars (commonly known as bharanis) to hold the wine. Depending on the recipe, you may be required to stew the fruit in water and then add the raisins and wine and allow it to sit in the container, or simply throw all the ingredients together, add the water and wait for the magic to happen.”
Winemaking calls for religious stirring of the mixture every day to aid fermentation. While a wine can be ready to drink in two to three weeks, it is ideal if it can be kept for longer as wine gets better with age.
Although some say wine can be made without adding yeast to the mixture, it’s a risky way to do it. “The fermentation process is not under a vintner’s control, which is why we add yeast to accelerate it. If you don’t add yeast, your wine might end up turning into vinegar,” explains Anoop Negi, a photographer and ironically, a teetotaller, who is partial to making wine of fruits like peaches, oranges and strawberries.
The liquid then needs to be decanted twice or thrice so you end up with a clear, polished brew. Finally, it’s time to bring out the glasses and let the wine flow.
Pineapple peel wine recipe
Peel of 1 medium-sized pineapple (discard the crown)
3 cups sugar
3 cups water (potable/boiled and cooled)
1/8th tsp yeast
1 egg white well beaten
Transfer the peel into a large (approx 2 litres) glass/ceramic jar and add the water, sugar, yeast, egg white and stir well.
Cover with the lid, do not fasten it (alternatively just cover the mouth of the jar with a thick cloth).
Keep undisturbed in a clean, dry place of your kitchen for 3 days.
After 3 days, strain the liquid through a clean muslin cloth into a clean vessel. Discard the peel a
nd transfer the liquid back into the jar and cover. The wine will be ready for consumption after 10 days.
If you wish to keep it longer, fasten the lid of the jar and keep in a cool, dry place till you are ready to serve. Decant before serving.
Do ensure that the pineapple is washed thoroughly before peeling it. It is a waste of precious juices and flavours if you wash the peel afterwards. Egg whites are normally used in winemaking as it is one of the fining agents used for the purpose of clarifying the wine. Egg whites, clay or other compounds help precipitate dead yeast cells or other unwanted solids out of a wine.