In the past housewives were expected to have a huge range of skills including the ability to make delicious home brew. One of Mrs Everybody’s easiest, cheapest and most delicious home brews is her nettle beer. In fact making nettle beer has given her the confidence to make real ale, elderberry wine and mead. Mrs Everybody would like to introduce you to home brewing too.
Nettles are rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins and natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and other beneficial compounds. It is my contention that nettle beer is good for people plus you can make about 20 pints for around £3.00. You need very little equipment to get started and soon, very soon you could be proudly supping, this drink which in my opinion is superior to champagne.
Equipment to get started
A large clean saucepan with lid. It does not need sterilizing.
A fermenting bucket, colander or sieve, a whisk or slotted spoon all cleaned all sterilized.
Some soapnuts for cleaning and some sterilizing powder. Actually I prefer to heat sterilize as much as I can, just you can’t heat sterilize plastics!
Equipment needed in 2-3 weeks time
A 3ft length of hose, a little piece clean muslin, a piece of soft string, 22 empty and clean 500ml beer bottles, crown caps, a large spoon – all sterilized and a lever operated beer bottle capper.
100 nettle tops – the first 2-3 pairs of leaves, 11.3 liters of water, 1.75kg sugar, a packet of beer yeast, 50g cream of tartar, 1/2 fresh and washed lemon
Making your Nettle Beer
1/ Select your nettle patch – not under a tree where roosting birds might leave deposits, and not within the reach dog pee. Enjoy your walk along the riverside or the shaded track. Don’t forget you bag or trug and your gloves.
2/ Pick the nettles tops, the first 2-3 pairs of leaves wearing gloves. If you do get stung, spit on the rash and rub it with a piece of alum – much more soothing than dock leaves. When you get the nettles home lay them on the ground outside and the insects will crawl off. This means your nettle brew will be vegetarian!
3/ If you wish to awaken the yeast gently and hour or two before you start cooking the nettles, boil and cool some water to room temperature. Place this water in a sterilized and rinsed bowl. Add the packet of yeast and leave it alone for an hour or so. Add this yeasty liquid to your wort (in step 8).
4/ Wash your equipment in soapnuts and sterilize your fermenting bin and colander, sieve, whisk, yeast bowl. Rinse very well with boiled water to make sure that there are not lingering traces of chemicals. I prefer to heat sterilize my equipment to avoid using chemicals.
5/ Boil the nettles in water for 15 minutes.Then remove the nettles with a slotted spoon.You will now have a greenish ‘wort’. (Ye old Middle English word for the liquid extract which will become beer) in your saucepan.
6/ Add the cream of tartar and sugar to your nettle wort and stir until it has dissolved.
7/ Strain the wort using the sieve or sieve within the colander into the fermenting vessel.
8/ Allow the wort to cool to blood temperature – it should feel neither hot nor cool. Pitch your beer yeast (olde worlde talk for ‘add’ the yeast).
9/ Place the fermenting bucket in a warm room. This time of year the ambient temperature is fine. Put the lid on the fermenting vessel loosely. The yeast likes lots of oxygen to start with.
10/ After a few days secure the lid properly onto the fermenting bin. At this point the yeast likes an oxygen poor environment.
11/ Leave it to ferment for 2-3 weeks (primary fermentation). The nettle beer is ready to bottle when only 1-2 bubbles rise every minute.
Bottling the beer in 2-3 weeks time
1/ Move the fermenting vessel onto a table or counter, trying not to disturb any settled yeast. If in doubt. leave the fermenting vessel in its new position for an hour or two.
2/ Secure the muslin cloth over one end of the hose with a piece string. This all needs to be sterile. This is your siphon.
3/ Place the large saucepan on a lower level than the fermenting bin. Place the cloth covered end of the hose into the fermenting bin without disturbing the sediment. You can tape the hose to the eside of the ferminting bin so that it can’t move. Then siphon the beer into the large saucepan. Leave the sediment and the last few centimeters of beer in the fermenting bin.
4/ Prime the bottles: Dissolve 50g of sugar in 100ml of boiled water. Let it cool a bit, then add this to the beer in the saucepan.
5/ Use a sterilized jug and funnel to pour the beer into the beer bottles. Fill the sterilized beer bottles leaving 2cm headroom.
6/ Cap the bottles. Make the sure the caps are crimped on fully, by checking them all for hissing sounds. Recrimp any hissing caps so that they are air tight.
7/ Place the bottles in a warmish room for a week (not an airing cupboard,), just a warmish location and not on your prized antique carpet or new parquet floor! I place bottles of nettle beer in cardboard boxes to capture any fragments of glass if any should explode.
8/ Move to a cooler location and leave in the bottle for the secondary fermentation for a few weeks.
Testing your homebrew
1/ After 3 weeks you can test a bottle to see if it has generated enough carbonation from the secondary fermentation.
2/ Open the bottle outside and be prepared to capture the contents in a jug. I enlist help for this.
3/ If the beer is a bit flat leave it in the bottle for a few weeks longer before testing it again.
There are many other really simple recipes for making wine, mead and real beer using a minimum of time, equipment, space and effort. Stay signed up on the newsletters and you can look forward to your homemade spiced mead for Christmas.
Even if you do not drink alcohol, high quality health giving fermented vinegars begin life as well made wines or ciders which are allowed a further aerobic fermentation, reducing their alcohol content to negligible amounts but retaining the heath giving properties – but all things in moderation.
To your Good Health!