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Requested Recipe:

SASSAFRAS WINE


"I was wondering if it was possible to make wine from sassafras root...." one of three recent requests




SASSAFRAS


The sassafras tree (Sassafras albidium) is a common native in the United States from Texas and Oklahoma eastward to Florida, north to Maine, and westward to Iowa. It has been transplanted outside this area and escaped its ornamental locations. It grows to 90 feet in height with a fairly flat and oblong crown. Sassafras generates an extremely sweet-spicy smoke, useful in smoking meats. A spice called filé, essential for gumbo and good as a thickener for stews, is made from the dried leaves. A volatile oil from the roots has medicinal uses and is antiseptic. Tea made from the root bark is claimed to be a preventative for sore throat and curative for many ailments. American Indians smoked the dried root bark in their pipes, which is highly aromatic and inebriating. The substance that is inebriating is safrole, a psychoactive MDMA precursor that is itself psychoactive.

But the most recognizable attribute of sassafras is the aroma and flavor derived from cooking the root, for extracts from sassafras root are the main ingredients of root beer. Sassafras tea smells and tastes very similar to root beer, or vice versa.


Sassafras Root Infusion

I have only made sassafras wine once and that was from an infusion of sassafras root prepared for me by Luke Clark of Leesville, Louisiana. The roots have to be dug by hand in the early springtime when the flavor-filled sap is still in the sassafras root. Prepare the infusion by boiling a gallon plus a pint of water into which you have placed the bark from about 20-25 five-inch pieces of sassafras root. The bark from a 1/2-inch diameter root is more flavorful than the bark from a 2-inch diameter root. The water will turn reddish-brown and cloudy. Reduce to a simmer and hold for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool. The root bark can be reused, I am told, to make a slightly weaker infusion. Strain the liquid through muslin cloth into a gallon jug for future use (tea or wine) or use it immediately to make 3 gallons of sassafras wine.


Sassafras Wine (3 gallons)

Combine all ingredients except yeast in primary. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Cover and set aside 10-12 hours. Add yeast, recover, and stir daily until S.G. drops to 1.020 or below. Siphon off sediments into secondary, top up if required, fit airlock, and set in dark, cool (60-65 degrees F.) place. In 3 weeks, rack, top up and refit airlock. Rack again in 3 months, adding another 3 crushed and dissolved Campden tablets. Rack again 3 months later and bottle when clear and stable. Store in dark place to preserve color. Age at least three months. [Author's own recipe]

My thanks to those who requested this recipe.

This page was updated February 1st, 2005

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