Rhubarb revisited

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Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 19, 2018 13:31

Some years ago I planted 4 rhubarb plants. One died, one kept producing seeds and few stalks and the other 2 gave me enough to make a gallon of very good wine before one died and the other became under productive. Part of the problem was that they were planted too closely but there was also competition from persistent weeds. So this year I made a fresh start, digging out all the weeds, digging in lots of compost and chicken manure, then covering with weed control fabric topped with bark chips. I put in 6 plants, 1 metre apart and kept them watered. Months later, I now have 6 really big healthy plants. Some say not to harvest the first year and that end of season rhubarb is no good.
I ignored all that and took 3.5 kilos. I sliced the stalks and put them through my fruit crusher. They were tough and crushing produced very little juice so I covered them with a kilo of sugar along with rohavin and pectolytic enzymes and left for 24 hours. Next day I put the whole lot through the fruit press twice and got 2.5 litres of juice with excellent flavour and aroma. With a pH of 4.4, the acidity was surprisingly low, so I added tartaric acid to adjust this to 3.7 plus 200 ml of white grape juice concentrate, yeast, nutrient and water to 5 litres, with sg 1090. So far so good.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby Rolfster » Fri Oct 19, 2018 14:23

Sounds like another cracker Tony!
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 19, 2018 17:54

Apparently the reason for not using end of season rhubarb is that the wine may turn to jelly. We shall see.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby Rolfster » Fri Oct 19, 2018 18:15

Alcoholic rhubarb jelly? Sounds great!!
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 20, 2018 13:04

Jellification happened to batch of my apple wine during fermentation, which halted, so the alcohol level was rather low. Flavour wasn't affected but lumpy wine isn't very appealing!
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby HTH1975 » Sat Oct 20, 2018 14:44

Do you have any tips on distilling with rhubarb?

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 20, 2018 15:41

No doubt this has been done. Rhubarb has a rather delicate flavour and like apple, gives it up to stronger flavours. I have a recipe which combines rosehips, which have a delicate flavour, with rhubarb.
Personally, I wouldn't bother. There is an amount of oxalic acid in rhubarb, mostly in the leaves but some in the stalks. Any process which concentrates this noxious substance can only be bad. Inexpert distillation of alcohol concentrates lethal methyl alcohol and to combine this with oxalic acid seems somewhat suicidal.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby HTH1975 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:22

tonyhibbett wrote:No doubt this has been done. Rhubarb has a rather delicate flavour and like apple, gives it up to stronger flavours. I have a recipe which combines rosehips, which have a delicate flavour, with rhubarb.
Personally, I wouldn't bother. There is an amount of oxalic acid in rhubarb, mostly in the leaves but some in the stalks. Any process which concentrates this noxious substance can only be bad. Inexpert distillation of alcohol concentrates lethal methyl alcohol and to combine this with oxalic acid seems somewhat suicidal.


Thanks for the reply. I work as a distiller, so I’m not a novice, but have little experience distilling with rhubarb. So far, the flavour isn’t carrying via a normal masceration. I think adding right before turning on the heat might be the way to go.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Oct 23, 2018 13:11

Actually I don't think oxalic acid would be a problem, since acids tend to get excluded from the distillate. As I said, rhubarb, like apple, becomes a background flavour when combined with other ingredients, which may explain why the flavour is not coming through. The main acid in rhubarb is malic, as with apples, and plays an important part in the flavour. I don't macerate the pulp but use cold extracted juice.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby HTH1975 » Thu Oct 25, 2018 20:51

tonyhibbett wrote:Actually I don't think oxalic acid would be a problem, since acids tend to get excluded from the distillate. As I said, rhubarb, like apple, becomes a background flavour when combined with other ingredients, which may explain why the flavour is not coming through. The main acid in rhubarb is malic, as with apples, and plays an important part in the flavour. I don't macerate the pulp but use cold extracted juice.


Thanks for that. Looking at the marketplace, nobody is distilling with rhubarb - that should say it all really.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 26, 2018 13:35

However I have just noticed a rhubarb and ginger flavouring for gin as a liqueur.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby HTH1975 » Sat Oct 27, 2018 08:04

tonyhibbett wrote:However I have just noticed a rhubarb and ginger flavouring for gin as a liqueur.


Thanks for that - it’s how most people are doing rhubarb gins. I was wanting to distil it, but it’s not really happening in terms of taste.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:51

I had the same result with apples - no flavour. But that's not such a bad thing, like vodka, for a mixer base, and after a year in oak it tasted quite nice.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby HTH1975 » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:33

tonyhibbett wrote:I had the same result with apples - no flavour. But that's not such a bad thing, like vodka, for a mixer base, and after a year in oak it tasted quite nice.


Fresh apples are better, but also add the apples when you start your distillation - don’t mascerate.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
Drinking: Landlord clone
Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Nov 03, 2018 11:30

Meanwhile the rhubarb has finished fermenting but showing no sign of clearing. Adding finings had no effect. It's unlikely to be a pectin haze since pectolase was used at the outset. It is possible that a malolactic fermentation is occurring, since no sulphite was used.
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Re: Rhubarb revisited

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:17

Outside, with a 10 c drop in temperature, the wine is now translucent. The aroma has gone but the flavour is still definitely rhubarb. I'll leave it to mature in the jar for a year. Still plenty of rhubarb to pick, despite light frost. Might try another batch using ginger instead of grape juice concentrate as I have none of that left and it is so expensive.
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