Book Review: Easy to Make Wine

January 14, 2011

I was in my local Goodwill the other day, browsing though books, when I came across Easy to Make Wine by “Mrs. Gennery-Taylor.” The book says it was originally published in England as Easymade Wine and Country Drinks, but the American version had it’s name changed when it was published in 1963.

Admittedly, one has to wonder why I bother reviewing a book that one can only find on eBay. Sometimes, I do it because I’m tickled to see how things have changed over the years. For example, in the inside of the dust jacket, it says, “Less than 12¢ a bottle can be the cost of wines made from the recipes in this book.” I could only manage that with free produce, no sugar, recycled bottles, and I would still have paid more than 12¢ a bottle because I can’t find cork that cheap! She is claiming free wild fruits or flowers, cheap sugar, and recycling bottles with existing corks, which I’m not comfortable recycling corks.

There is the first general section in the book discussing how to make wine. Interestingly, she does not mention that air will hurt wine, and barely talks about airlocks but does not stress their use, though she does mention sometimes using bakers yeast and has a basic recipe similar to mine in case “you wish to make wine from some fruit, flower or vegetable not mentioned in this book.”

The section of wines talks about how wine used to be a way of preserving herbs to use as medication. She states, “Here are some wines which are, so I am told, safe and certain cures. Anyway a glass of wine at any time is a great morale lifter and my help on to forget one’s aches and pains. I must however warn those who suffer from rheumatism, they should never touch rhubarb wine.”

Cowslip wine will cure jaundice.
Dandelion is good for indigestion and kidney trouble.
Sloe wine is effective for diarrhoea.
Elderberry taken hot on a cold morning will ward off colds.
Raspberry wine is invaluable for sore throats.
Blackcurrent wine when mulled is excellent for colds and bronchitis.
Barely wine is good for kidney trouble.
And rhubarb wine is bad for rheumatism.

This book is similar to CJJ Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking book in that it has suggested wines to make in certain months, offering up 62 recipes that are alphabetical. The unusual ones to me: clove carnation, coltsfoot, cowslip, damson, unripe grape, greengage, haw, mangel, marigold, marrow, rose hip, sugar beet, and wheat wine. She does sometimes call for demerara sugar, which I guess is what the British call natural brown sugar.

The last section of the book is “Other drinks”, which includes blackberry cordial, ginger beer, mead, cider, beer, and some syrups. The cider “recipe” actually doesn’t fit the format of the book, as all the other pages have a list of ingredients, and this one doesn’t. She talks about getting others to crush and press the apples, stating that a ton of apples makes 150 gallons of cider, “therefor a cwt. Makes approximately 7 ½ gallons.” I’ve found that to be true. She then suggests putting the juice in a wooden cask, preferably an ex-brandy cask, and don’t bung it while fermentation is going on for the sake of the cask. She does add quite a bit of sugar once fermentation is going, suggesting 2-4 lbs per gallon. Looking at her apple wine recipe, she calls for 3 lbs per gallon, so there really isn’t any alcohol difference between the two recipes. She says that the “cider” can get up to 15%!

Interestingly, she states that one has to have a license to brew beer at home in England.

The last section is on children’s drinks, teas, and coffees, of which she talks a little bit about medical teas.

  • Black current tea for colds
  • Coltfoot tea for coughs
  • Caraway seed tea for flatulency, and suggests that “gripe water for babies” is made from caraway sees.
  • Carrot tea for gout
  • Chamomile flower tea for clearing the blood and relieving headaches
  • Celery stalk or seed tea for rheumatism
  • Clove tea for flatulency
  • Hop tea for indigestion, regain a lost appetite, and other things. “No wonder beer is so popular.”
  • Marjoram tea to relieve a headache.
  • Mint tea to relieve a headache and for flatulency.
  • Raspberry leaf tea for sore throats
  • Rosemarry tea to relieve headaches.
  • Sage tea as a gargle or as a hairwash to dark hair and prevent greyness.
  • Strawberry leaf tea to help with diarrhoea.
  • Thyme tea to ease whooping cough and sore throats.

She adds that she has been told that you can roast dandelion roots in the oven slowly, and then grate it very finely and drink like coffee.

Because sanitation and the affects of air on wine are not even mentioned, I would not recommend this book for beginners unless this has been corrected in the most recent 6th edition published in 1996. Therefore, I’m not sure I would completely trust the recipe process, though I might use it as guidelines (interestingly, the apple wine and cider are both made without adding yeast). I find this book amusing, good for historical content, and a potential source of inspiration.

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One Response to “Book Review: Easy to Make Wine”

  1. Gareth Says:

    I have a 1983 copy of easymade wine and country drinks (originally published in 1957) In the ‘Genereal Instructions’ this edition does promote the use of airlocks as the new way of doing things.
    I have tried a few recipes from this book including the afore mentioned apple wine and so far found them very good.


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