Orange wine

Oranges have long been given as Christmas gifts. As expensive imports, these citrus fruits were highly prized in the 18th century. An orange, given as a gift – perhaps in the form of a clove-studded pomander – would not only bring scents of summer and vibrant colour to the home of the recipient, but would also be considered a symbol of prosperity.

Today, the tradition of giving oranges at Christmas is still strong and many children living in the UK will wake up on Christmas morning to find an orange, clementine or tangerine at the toe of their stocking.

If you are short of ideas for Christmas presents, or want a grown-up twist on the traditional ‘orange in a stocking’ idea, why not consider a cask of orange wine? You’ve still just about got time to prepare and tun it before the big day!

A recipe for orange wine from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

A recipe for orange wine from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Orange Wine

Take forty gallons of water, a hundred best Jam[aic]a sugar, the whites of 32 eggs beaten well. Mix all thes together. Pare two hundred and forty oranges very thin. Boil the liquor an hour & skim it while any skim rises, then pour it on the rind of the oranges & when it is neare cold, strain 12 quarts of orange juice into it & barm it rather warmer than you would ale. Stir it twice a day for 3 days, then tun it the third day. When it has done working in the cask, put in seven quarts of brandy. This quantity makes a barrel. There will be some liquor left after tunning, which must be carefully kept to fill your cask while working. If it should not work well in the tubs, tun it sooner than the 3 days. If the oranges be large, you need not pare so many.

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Currant wine

This makes a seriously large amount of currant wine: 86 pounds of sugar to over 100 pints of water and 80 pounds of red or blackcurrants… Wow!

"To make a quarter cask of curran wine": a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

“To make a quarter cask of curran wine”: a recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make a Quarter Cask of Curran Wine

86 pds of the best Jamaica sugar

27 half gallons of fine soft cold water

80 pds of pickid whole carrans full ripe

10 eggs put in to the cask hole.

The liquor is put in the caske & 2 qurts of good brandy

Not to be dranke till 4 years old

Brandy was added to fortify the wine, and the eggs to clarify it. The only yeast included in this recipe is that which is found naturally on the fruit skins. But while the list of ingredients looks reasonable enough, the method is minimalist to say the least. For a better idea of what was involved in brewing this kind of fruit wine, this second recipe is worth a look:

Currant Wine

Take 16 pounds of full ripe currants. Break them small, stalks & all, in an earthen pan. Put to them 16 quarts of pipe water. Let it stand 24 hours, stiring it 3 or 4 times. Strain it throw a hair sieve. Then put [for] every four quarts of liquor 3 pounds of ye best Jamaica sugar. Let it stand 2 or 3 days, to work. Then fill up your cask. Save some of the liquor to keep ye vessel full till it done workeing. When it has done working, stope it close. It will be fit to bottle at Christmass.

It’s worth noting that this recipe calls specifically for pipe water rather than the river water used in our Irish Sack recipe – and consequently requires a lot less time in skimming the liquor for scum!