We’ve been a bit dandelion crazy around here, and working on a couple posts celebrating the willful golden “weeds.” For starters, I’d like to share the process of making t’ej, an Ethiopian honey wine that is so simple to make and such a delightful way to celebrate your in-season herbs, soon your countertops will be as cluttered with bottles and jugs as mine are!
This is the process as I was taught by Suzanna Stone, a wonderful guest teacher at Sacred Plant Traditions, with my own notes added in.
2 quart jar
2 quart jug with airlock (or balloon)
Long wooden spoon
Cheesecloth / fine mesh sieve / coffee filters
Distilled or boiled water (to ensure no chlorine or other contaminants
1 1/2 c. raw local honey
Several handfuls fresh herb(s)
- If using tap water, bring 2 quarts of it to a rolling boil, then allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Collect fresh herbs. Wash gently or brush off dirt etc. Chop and place several handfuls in the 2-quart jar (most recently we made a batch each—dandelion blossoms and violet blossoms).
- Pour honey into the jar.
- Add water (room temperature) to fill the jar the rest of the way, leaving an inch or two of space at the top for easy stirring.
- Stir this mixture well with a wooden spoon until the honey is dissolved, and then some more. Traditionally, an Ethiopian household has their own tej spoon which is not washed between uses so it accumulates it’s own “good” fermenting bacteria and particular flavor. Between stirrings, the spoon is laid across the top of the jar or crock.
- Cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth and allow to sit on the counter, out of direct sunlight, stirring 2 or 3 times daily until a froth starts to appear on the top of the liquid. Generally this will take a week or so, but my dandelion batch was frothing abundantly after only three days.
- Using a funnel with cheesecloth, sieve, or coffee filters, strain the herb out of the t’ej, pouring the remaining liquid into the jug—seal the jug with the airlock. Airlocks can be purchased for 1 or 2 dollars at specialty kitchen or brewing stores, and make sure to follow the directions and use the requisite amount of brandy or vodka in the airlock. If you opt to use a balloon instead of an airlock, remember to “burp” the balloon occasionally.
- Allow the t’ej to continue fermenting in the jug until the airlock stops bubbling—this means that the naturally-occurring yeasts are no longer consuming sugars and producing gases. At this point, your tej is ready—bottle it, label it, and enjoy!
Note: These are the proportions I used, but if you want to make a larger amount, just be sure to keep the proportions the same. Doubling all the portions would make a gallon batch.