Seville orange wine – or the best thing to drink with chocolate cake

“Did you know that the ‘orange’, as known in Europe until the early modern era, was the bitter fruit we now call the Seville orange? The Spanish word for it – laranja – derives from the Persian narang, and it was Portuguese traders who brought the sweet orange from China via their trading post in Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where it became known by the local Arabs as ‘al-portokal’ (the Portuguese fruit). So the modern Arabic word for the colour ‘orange’ and the sweet fruit is still ‘portokal’”.

Richard Ashton, wine grower in Portugal

On the whole I am sceptical about home-made drinks… or rather I used to be. But these days barmen are conjuring up all kinds of fabulous concoctions; and I am too, I have personal experience of great success making damson gin and bergamot vodka.

This Seville orange wine is another great success – it’s great as an aperitif; it’s also good with any recipe involving fennel; and it’s perfect with any sort of chocolate pudding – especially a magnificent chocolate birthday cake. Serve over ice.

This keeps in the fridge for months (up to a year), but the season for Seville oranges is the end of December to mid-February, so now is the time to get cracking making it (although you can freeze Seville oranges whole).

What’s so special about Seville oranges? Well – they aren’t great for eating because they are bitter and tangy. But they are great for making marmalade (which needs to be bitter-sweet)… and also, because of the tanginess, excellent for this sweetened, strengthened wine.

These oranges are a yellowy-orange colour with a knobbly, bumpy rind which should be plump and firm on purchase.

Use them immediately because they aren’t usually waxed, so they will go off within a week.

NB: this orange wine is not the same as the orange wine (which is ‘real’ wine which happens to be orange) described in Slightly Eccentric Beginners’ Guide to Slovenian Wine.

orange wine how to make orange wine

Recipe for Seville orange wine

Makes about 3 litres – or a bit more

Ingredients

  • 4 small Seville oranges – unwaxed
  • 1 lemon
  • 450g/2 cups golden caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 litres of rosé
  • 400 ml/1⅔ cups eau de vie – this is a fruit spirit – quince, raspberry (himbeergeist), or peach are all good. The Whisky Exchange sells a good selection.
  • 120 ml/½ cup white rum

Method

  1. Wash the fruit and slice it, peel and all, roughly.
  2. Put it into a couple of big sterilised jars (follow this link for how to sterilise) together with everything else except the rum. Stir. Seal the jars (buy jars with lids!) and put them in the fridge for six weeks. Joggle every now and then to help the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Add the rum, filter through a coffee filter, and pour into sterilised bottles (with caps or corks). Keep in the fridge, and serve, over ice.
how to make orange wine
Oranges ripening on a tree in Seville.
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