Honeysuckle is an invasive plant with some of the most lovely, ephemeral flowers - their heavenly aroma lends itself nicely to this wine.
Honeysuckle has been one of my favorite flower friends since I was but a wee pixie. There was a special bush, an old-growth clump of honeysuckle that grew tall and then draped over towards the ground like a willow or a weeping cherry. It was a magical place in the corner of my grandparents’ suburban yard where I could go and hide from the bright sun, gaze up at the blue sky through the green and white haze of leaves and flowers, and listen to the low, slow buzzing of the other species who supped from flowers as I did.
Sticky-fingered and sunburned, I’d retreat indoors later in the afternoon like a besotted bee drowsing back to the hive at the end of the day.
Now that I have my own lawn to tend, I am somewhat concerned about the amount of honeysuckle that I see. This lovely plant is one that grows very quickly and overtakes everything it touches, rather like kudzu. Therefore, I am unashamed at how many honeysuckle flowers I harvest. Whenever I have anger bubbling up inside, I’ll take it out on the ever-encroaching wave of green vines that surround my little yard, cutting the young trees free from its grasping clutches.
Honeysuckle Wine – 1 Gallon Recipe
- one gallon of water (filtered is best)
- 4 cups of sugar
- 6 cups of flowers with the green tips removed
- 1/4 cup of raisins (golden are best)
- 1/2 packet of yeast (I like Lalvin D-47)
Harvest honeysuckle flowers! This is the fun part. You’ll need six cups of flowers for this recipe. Watch for buggies, don’t forget to wear sunscreen, and expect the neighbors to slow down and look at you quizzically as you forage.
As the sweet pollen nestled into the white velvet flower cones is so delicate, I prefer to go without rinsing the flowers before using them. Before you get grossed out by the idea of dirt or buggies, don’t worry – we’ll make sure the end result is bug-free.
Process the flowers by chopping off the green bits (sepal) and putting the flowers in a gallon pot. Add the raisins to the same pot.
Grab another large stockpot and add about 2/3 of a gallon of water. Allow it to come to a boil.
When the water is at a steady, rolling boil, remove it from heat and add the sugar. Stir it carefully until it is all dissolved.
Pour the hot syrup water over the flowers and raisins in the other pot, put a lid on, and let it steep for at least an hour.
While it is steeping, sanitize your gallon carboy, airlocks, bungs, and funnel with a store-bought sanitizer.
Once the honeysuckle must has steeped and cooled down a bit, set the funnel in the neck of the carboy and set a strainer inside the funnel to catch the flowers (and bugs!). Pour your delicious honeysuckle nectar into the carboy. Add more clean, filtered water until the must is up to the neck of the carboy. Add in the bung and the airlock to keep everything clean.
Allow the must to cool down to body temperature before you pitch your yeast – since it is a gallon batch, I tend to add just a pinch or two of bread yeast (or whatever brewing yeast I have on hand).
Racking, Backsweetening, Bottling
After a month or two, the fermentation will slow down to one wee bubble every 30 seconds or so. At that point, I often choose to taste the brew to see how it suits me. If it needs more sweetness, I’ll rack the brew over to a new carboy and add some sugar or honey syrup to get it where I want it. If you add sugar, let the wine sit for another day or two until you’re sure it hasn’t restarted fermentation. Next, bottle!
Everyone who tried my honeysuckle wine thought that it was mead! The delicate flavor and aroma of honeysuckle remain present and pleasing to the palate, even after a bit of aging. I hope that you try and enjoy this wine…well worth the sunny day spent harvesting flowers!
Need more help, tips, and a free guide to brewing one-gallon batches of wine and mead? Here you go! You can also pick up a copy of my book: