Yorkshire Recipes

Drinks

Cleat Wine

Cleat’ is a regional name for the herb, Coltsfoot, often found growing on waste land. It is a small, bright yellow flower, often confused with a Dandelion. The difference, however, between Coltsfoot and a Dandelion is that the flowers of Coltsfoot appear early in the Spring before the leaves appear.

Coltsfoot (or its botanical name, Tussilago farfara) has been used by herbalists for centuries as a remedy for all types of bronchial problems, including coughs and asthma. The bright yellow flowers were often painted on boards by herbalists and used as shop signs in pre-literate days to advertise their services.

Coltsfoot flower heads makes a pleasant wine too, and one that has been made in the Yorkshire region for centuries.  Just use the flower-heads, not the stems. Pick the flower heads on a dry day and don’t pick flowers from land that may have been contaminated by pollution or spraying in the past.

Here’s a regional recipe that dates from the mid 19th century. The method shown here is the traditional one – that worked fine for our ancestors – but it can be adapted to suit modern-wine making methods and practices, including using wine yeast.  The recipe below can be halved if you don’t want to make so much, or can’t find enough Cleat flower heads!

Ingredients

  • Pick enough Cleat flower heads, pressed lightly down, to fill a pint jug
  • Gallon (8 pints) of boiling water
  • 3 lbs (48 oz/1,035g) of brown sugar
  • Two oranges, unpeeled, cut into quarters
  • Rind and juice of two lemons
  • 16 oz (1lb/450g) large stoneless raisins, chopped finely
  • Two ounces (55g) fresh yeast

Method

  1. In a large and clean bowl, pour the boiling water over the Cleat heads; leave it to cool
  2. When the liquid has cooled, strain off the liquid, ideally through a muslin cloth, into a large cooking pot (or two smaller) and boil for 20 minutes with the brown sugar
  3. In another large, clean bowl, put the unpeeled orange quarters, lemon rind, and stoneless, chopped raisins, and pour the boiling liquid over these
  4. When it has cooled, add the juice of two lemons
  5. Finally, spread the fresh yeast on a piece of toast and add this to the liquid – but make sure it has cooled first
  6. Cover the bowl and leave the liquid in a warm place to work for three days – it will bubble and fizz as the yeast gets going and does its job
  7. Strain off the liquid, leaving the sediment behind.
  8. Put the liquid into glass bottles.  If you use screw tops, just lightly secure them.  Ideally though, loosely inserted  wooden corks are best to avoid bottle explosions
  9. The fermentation will continue in the bottles. Check wooden corks regularly and replace them asap if they pop out
  10. As fermentation ceases, the bottles can be more tightly corked, or screw tops more tightly secured. Leave the wine to mature for six months – if you can!

If you want to look at a more modern method of making this wine, and an alternative recipe, check out the website of Monica Wilde, Forager

 

Source: Victoria Wright. A Haworth Kitchen. Recipes from the Home of the Brontes (1981) published by Watmoughs Ltd.

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