Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dandelion Wine

I've been making wine at home for a few years now. I got started thanks to my husband's gardening book that had 'instructions' for making dandelion wine. I think it was "Jerry Baker's Old Time Gardening Wisdom" by Jerry Baker and Kim Gasior. I found out later, the hard way, that it wasn't really instructions, more like a loosely defined outline for what to do! Or perhaps a wine makers notes written up by a non-wine maker. In any case I followed the instructions.

Dandelion flowers, while you will see some as long as it's warm enough, really come on full tilt only in early spring. That first flush of flowers is the best time to gather them. My instructions said that I could freeze the flowers packed into a milk carton. Yes, the old waxed cardboard kind that you rarely find in the gallon size these days. I substituted a gallon plastic freezer bag with good results.

Have you ever tried to pick gallons and gallons of dandelion flowers? I hadn't, and as I looked around me at all those lovely golden yellow suns shining up at me, and the very few I'd managed to gather, it came to me. Children! Yes, children are the key. Ha! In I went, bag in hand, to call my boys. Would they pick enough dandelion flowers to fill a gallon freezer bag if I paid them $1.00 per bag? Yes! And back out we went.

Over the course of the next few days we all picked dandelion flowers. They must be picked or cut carefully, so as not to get any of the stem, which is bitter. Just the flowers.

I'll have to check the instructions, but we needed something like 4 or 5 gallons of flowers to make the 5 gallons of wine. That's a lot of flowers!

The instructions said that it is best to take the green outer part off the actual flower petals, but I just wanted to get this going, not spend a million years taking apart flowers, so I took the other option and just put them in. I used our VitaMix on the lemons & oranges instead of squeezing them for juice. I don't think I'll do this another time, but it was fast and that's what I wanted.

I had never made any wines before this. The instructions said to put everything in a 5-gallon carboy and fill it up to within a couple inches of the bung. So I did. Anyone who has ever brewed or made wine before will probaby be cringing about now.

I put the yeast in per the instructions, put on the airlock, covered the whole thing with the box the carboy came in to keep the light out, and went off to a meeting.

About 4 hours later I returned. My husband said that it had been making sounds while I was gone. I took the box off, and it was clearly bubbling like mad. I briefly went into the other room and almost immediately we heard a *Bam!!!* Back I come to find lemony-orangy-dandelion flower moosh that had exploded out of the carboy, blowing the bung and airlock off. There was mooshy wine bits going up the newly painted wall, on the ceiling, splattered in every and all direction for up to 20 feet! Walls, ceiling, cabinets, computer, windows, you name it, there were bits on it.

My husband, bless his heart, just looked at me and said "Please don't let this happen again" then helped clean it all up.

Since that day I have learned to use a bucket for primary fermentation.

No comments: