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Requested Recipe:

ORANGE BLOSSOM WINE


"I was on one website and it was talking about orange and lemon blossom wines,
I have looked/searched your site and can not find any such listing. Do
you have such a recipe?"
James Boeder, Central Florida




ORANGE BLOSSOMS


Orange refers to the citrus tree (Citrus vulgaris) and its fruit. The orange is a hybrid of ancient cultivated origin, possibly between pomelo (Citrus maxima) and tangerine (Citrus reticulata). It is a small tree, growing to about 10 meters in height, with thorny shoots and evergreen leaves 4-10 cm long. The word "orange" derived from the Sanskrit nagaranga through the Arabic naranj. Trees from orange seed revert to the wild ancestors, sporting thorns and small, bitter fruit -- a berry really but properly called a hesperidium.

Oranges originated in Asia, in either India or southern China. Cultivation of the orange led to the selection of hybrids that were thornless and either sweet (Citrus sinensis) or bitter Citrus aurantium), varied in size, shape, pulp color, and thickness of peel. Sweet oranges are believed to have originated in the region known as Cochin China (Vietnam). The first sweet orange tree was brought to Europe in the early 16th century by Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama, who brought a root of one of these trees to Portugal from China. It is from that single tree, which is still preserved in the courtyard of the Lisbon home of the Count of Saint-Laurent, that almost all sweet oranges of Portugal, Spain, France and the Middle East are descended.

Ultimately, the tree found its way to colonial America, both North and South. Around 1820, in a garden at a monastery in Bahia, Brazil, a sweet orange tree developed a bud-sport, a mutation that developed into a branch with essentially infertile flowers. These flowers did not need pollination to set the hesperidia, but no seeds developed and the ovary became a second, rudimentary berry within the orange at the apical end where the blossom was attached -- the "navel" of the orange. That, of course, was the first navel orange.

orange blossoms
Orange blossoms

Regardless of the other characteristics of the tree or fruit, the fragrance of the orange blossoms remains fairly constant. Orange blossoms yield by distillation an essential oil known as Neroli, which is one of the chief constituents of Eau-de-Cologne. A pomade and an oil are also obtained from them by maceration. The oil of orange blossoms is soluble in alcohol and displays a violet fluorescence and a neutral reaction to litmus paper. When agitated with a concentrated solution of sodium bisulfate it takes on a permanent purple-red color. For these reasons, making Orange Blossom Wine requires a certain attention so as to not extract too much oil.

Picking the flowers can be most enjoyable, as their fragrance is wonderful. But I have but three small trees, so I have to pick them, dry them, and wait until I have enough to make the wine. If you have many large trees available, you can pick enough at one time to make a batch. The problem is that I have not done it this way, so cannot say how many flowers are required or if there will arise any problems from the oils extracted. However, I would guess 2 ounces by weight of fresh flowers would be sufficient for one gallon of wine. If not, then you will have to adjust the recipe accordingly.

The wine itself is light, delicate, and best served chilled. It can also be incorporated into glaze-toppings for pastries, cakes and other baked delicacies as a substitute for the water required. The recipe below is for 12% alcohol, which I consider to be the upper limits of what the wine can tolerate. I have made this as low as 9.9% alcohol and found it most enjoyable. Making it with orange blossom honey, of course, adds considerable complexity to the drink and makes it a mead, which ferments and matures slower. Should you make the latter, allow a full year for it to develop.

Orange Blossom Wine

Put the dried blossoms in a jelly bag and lay in the primary. Bring the water to the boil dissolve the sugar, then pour over the blossoms in primary. When cooled to room temperature, add all ingredients except yeast. Cover primary and set aside. In 6 hours, hydrate yeast in 1/2 cup of slightly sweetened water containing a pinch of yeast nutrient. Cover yeast starter with paper towel held with rubber band. After additional 6 hours, pour yeast starter into primary. Stir twice daily but otherwise keep covered. After four days, remove the bagged blossoms (drain the blossoms, but do not squeeze). When fermentation slows transfer to secondary and affix airlock. After 30 days, rack into a clean secondary and set aside until clear. Rack, top up and set aside. Rack every 60 days for at least four months. Stabilize and sweeten slightly (to 1.004) if desired, wait 30 days, then bottle. Allow 2-3 months to develop bottle bouquet. This wine should be served chilled as an aperitif. It is a dry (or semi-sweet) wine with a wonderful bouquet and delicious flavor. [Author's own recipe.]


My thanks to James Boeder for requesting this recipe.

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This page was updated April 29th, 2006

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