Nettles are a super food. Not only rich in nutrients they make an excellent cooked vegetable or added to a potage or soup. They are a great, cleansing tea. The sting is an old gardeners remedy for rheumatism. The boiled leaves can make a wonderful green dye, although you still have to ‘fix’ the colour with a mordant. It also makes some of the finest cordage (and given half a chance textiles too). It also makes THE BEST foraged beer.
This recipe makes 1 gallon (just multiply for larger quantities – if you have larger pans then I would go for 2, 3 or more gallons because the extra effort is minimal over and above 1 gallon):
- 1 kilo of young nettle tops
- zest & juice of 2 lemons
- 25 g of cream of tartar
- 500g of demerara sugar or honey
- 1 gallon of water (or birch or sycamore sap)
- Some yeast
- Pick young nettles (before flowering or they contain cystoliths that can irritate the kidneys of some people) – to avoid this you can p[ick young or continually ‘mow’ an area of nettles and keep harvesting them and cutting them back to prevent flowering/seeding.
- Wash the nettle tops
- Boil them in the water (or birch or sycamore sap) and simmer for 15 minutes (it can be done in two batches if you have small pans)
- Meanwhile – juice and zest the lemons and mix in the cream of tartar and the sugar (or honey)
- Strain the boiled nettles to separate the broth into a clean (sterilised) fermenting bin.
- Dissolve in the sugar/juice/tartar mix
- Leave to cool to room temp
- Then add yeast (if you have taken a small cup of the broth and mixed in the yeast to get it started) – then mix it in and give it a good stir. Use a clean stirrer.
- Cover with cloth and leave in moderately warm (ie not cold) place for 4-6/7 days.
- Clean (sterilise) bottles and tops.
- Place a half level teaspoon of sugar into each bottle (will help give the nettle beer that fizz due to secondary fermentation). Fill bottle to within an a couple of inches of the top. But leave a little space for the build-up of Co2.
- Cap and leave in a dark, warm (ie not cold) place for a week.
- The longer you leave it (2+ weeks to a month or so) then better it will taste and the more compacted the sediment will be.
- Chill well before opening. Decant carefully to leave sediment behind.