The Wine was Summer Caught and Stoppered

(title a quote from “Dandelion Wine” by Bradbury)

Last night as I prepared to watch the last episode of Doctor Who, Season 5, Jeff said,

I know why you like Doctor Who.

Me: Why?

Jeff: Because you are Doctor Who and this is your Tardis (gesturing to the kitchen and the rest of the house). You have companions and interesting people that have come and gone over the years and yet you stay, piloting your spaceship to the next adventure.

(This probably doesn’t make a lick of sense if you haven’t seen Doctor Who (a problem you should rectify, stat). The Doctor has a spaceship called the Tardis. A blue police box that is much, much bigger on the inside. He travels through time and space with a companion, meeting strange beings and keeping the universe(s) in balance.)

Me: Yeah, but only if you count doing dishes, tripping over blocks and stepping in cat puke as adventures.

Jeff: Actually, I meant the dandelion wine.

Well, true that! Welcome to Dandelion Wine, 2011!

For this adventure, my trusty companion was once again the inimitable Shane. Saturday morning, we sucked down coffee, grabbed our cloth sacks, hitched up the dog and moseyed up to Alamo Square.

And by mosey I mean walked three very frustrating blocks dragging a fuzzy anchor until we decided that it was far easier, albeit ridiculous, if we just carried him the rest of the way.

We hit the tail end of the spring dandelion season at the square. There were half the number as last year, and at first we were worried.

But in actuality there were plenty, and the picking went fast. As we were plucking, an older woman slowed her pace as she passed us and asked what we were doing. She then went on to tell us all about the types of wine she’s been making since she was a little girl…strawberry, blackberry, pomegranate. She entertained us with tales for quite a while and I’m sorry now that I didn’t get her contact information, to swap recipes and taste tests. Her witnessing of our gathering seemed auspicious.

Hands decorated with pollen is auspicious too.

We practically cleaned out one of the hillsides, leaving the daisies for the bees. (A note about that…many many many of the dandelions had already gone to seed, and they are prolific, so I wasn’t too concerned about taking too much. However, if the other hillsides hadn’t been covered, our selection would have been much more sparing. Always leave more than you take when foraging.)

When we arrived back home, we emptied out our sacks and the flower heads tumbled out like a bunch of sleepy kittens.

We gave them a bath and then began the process of de-greening (picking off the petals). What took four hours last year only took 1 1/2 this time. Hooray for experience gained! Then it was time to start the infusion.

Here is the recipe we used this year. And now I must admit to a snafu. I forgot to write down what kind of wine yeast we used! It was just a bunch of numbers, rather than a name, and I threw away the packet. Sorry team! If it helps, Shane wanted the wine to be sweeter this year, so we used a yeast strain that tends towards a middle ground.

8 cups dandelion petals
1 gallon water
1/2 pound golden raisins, chopped
Juice of 4 oranges, plus the zest of 2
Juice of 1 lemon, plus the zest
2 lbs of sugar

Wine yeast
Yeast nutrient

Add all ingredients, minus the yeast and nutrient. Bring to a boil and let steep 24 hours.

Strain infusion (we used a fine strainer plus cheese cloth). Heat back up to a boil and then let cool down to comfy warm. Dissolve the yeast in 2 cups of the infusion. For one gallon of wine I added one packet wine yeast plus 1/5 tsp yeast nutrient (available at brew shops or online). I’m a little worried about using the nutrient, since I’ve read it can produce unwanted flavors. We thought we would try it, to keep yeast from gobbling up all the sugar.

Let sit, partially covered for 1-3 days. Then it’s time for the first bottling.

You know the drill. Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize those containers (boil for 10 minutes or let sit in 1 gallon hot water with 2 TB bleach for 15 minutes).

If available, enlist a good Virgo to do the job.

Use only professional equipment. Like rags made from cut off jeans.

Now we wait. In three weeks we’ll check our jars of promise and then rack them into bottles to age.

This is my second foray into wine making (you can read about last years dandy wine by clicking on the pic in the sidebar), and I keep it pretty simple. I recently found a mead tutorial online that was so full of science and precautions that in comparison I felt like I was about to jump off a cliff with a hanglider made of balsa wood. Indeed, they don’t call it brewcraft for nothin’. Still…last year’s wine was part recipe and research, part luck, part juju and part trust. Otherwise, where’s the adventure?

(Stay tuned this week for more adventures in the foraging realm!)

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11 thoughts on “The Wine was Summer Caught and Stoppered

  1. Dang Girl! Is there anything amazing you don’t do? For a long time now (since reading the book as a young-en even) I’ve been interested in Dandelion Wine, because it seems to so closely resemble a Finnish spring drink Sima and would love to try it. However, I’d need to scout a better dandelion place than what I have now. Perhaps inspired by this wicked awesome post, I could muster riding around the Island slowly gathering enough for this brew. Thank you, thank you, thank you for so gloriously inspiring my day.

    Oh, and also I wanted to ask if it would be okay to mention you and this blog in an up-coming post on simple living that I’m working on? I feel like there is so much I want to explore in the archives of this blog.

    And one more thing: I was really touched by your beautiful birth-story, the honesty and grace and not trying to gloss over any of it.

    1. there are plenty of things i don’t do! like wash my hair with collected magical rainwater and make beautiful hand tooled leather hair ornaments, for starters! 😉 in the world of amazing, you are a bright star.

      milla, you don’t have to wait for dandelions, you can make wine with any kind of edible flowers! what is in bloom up there? if its a mild scent, without essential oils, you can probably just substitute for my recipe verbatim. if they are strong (like today’s lavender that i used) start with a small amount in an infusion and then add more until you like it!

      and i would be honored if you mentioned my blog in your post.

      i’m happy you liked my birth story. i almost cringe sometimes when i wonder if it is too harsh, the way i wrote it, because its one of the more raw things i’ve put out there. thank you for reading it.

  2. How did last year’s wine come out? I make wine too, and i am probably a little more hung up on the technical stuff…maybe not. it’s been a while – my last wine was raisin. I really want to do elderberry but can’t get fresh around here, so i thought i might do dried. i am pretty such i will put up a wine after my finals this spring. never have made dandelion because i am more into fermenting on the fruit and minimizing the honey i add. i would if possible love to use 100% fruit juice but it is really hard to get the level of sugar you need that way.

    1. it came out great! fairly dry and reminiscent of saki. its so good you are into the finer technical points. …i could use more know-how….the second batch i made that i will post about today is not smelling delicious. its not smelling vinegary or anything, but it did smell like lemonade and now it smells like…dry flat champagne. yuck.

  3. yay for that. olive and i were eating up some dandelion greens yesterday, did i already mention that to you? yeah. my herbalist, brigitte mars, wrote a book on just dandelions. you might look for it….. i want to do this project. i am virgo moon. but the sag sun and leo rising make the virgo in me crazy!! but she has her say a lot of the time. shane looks like fun. what a good friend, to carry your dog so sweetly. i think we will not be dog sitting though for this weekend. i stalled, and he’s got someone else already. but i’m getting closer maybe, having considered it. time to go play some guitar scales i guess. it feels so much like homework i don’t want to do it is ridiculous. i love your post today.

    1. oh, brigitte mars…i admit i only know her name because i appreciated a debate between her and susun weed re: raw food. susun went OFF and brigitte seemed stunned. i bet she’s an amazing sensitive/intuitive herbalist. that book sounds great, i will look for it.

      and i’m virgo moon too, lady! (so is fern). no wonder we like each other. i’m also sag rising, so we’ve got some familiarity there. my poor virgo moon sits atop my chart in the 10th house, looking down on the rest of my planets and trying so desperately to just keep everyone in line. she’s beginning to learn to give it up, thank goodness. 🙂

      seems like there was something, some inkling, that made you hesitate on the dog sitting thing, so perhaps it’s for the best? how do your kids feel about it? are they psyched for a pup? you know, you also have chickens and such that a strange dog might try to chase…your hesitation sounds appropriate to me.

      your “assignment” for the fire belly thing does sound like homework…i get that… once something becomes a “should”, i lose all interest in doing it. its hard to start new habits when they are “shoulds”. that corner you set up with your guitar was inviting. what else would make it inviting? what if you imagined me handing you your guitar and saying, “hey, would you play me a song? i love when you play.” HA! that might be scarey, don’t do that. love you.xoxoxox

      1. ha. it would only be scary to imagine you handing me the guitar like that cuz i’d seize in shyness, well, maybe not with you actually…..but i can’t really even play any of my old songs yet, i’ve got so much relearning and remembering to do. it all goes out the window when i don’t keep up with it.

        yeah, i’ve seen susun weed go off before, i told you that right, about hemp milk, and how it is not milk, so don’t call it that she says. i still love her, but she was mean to that girl. i didn’t agree with her unleashing on her like that. brigitte is beyond magical. i’m still a little high from our meeting and thinking of her every other minute for some reason. i just bought her hemp nut cookbook at the trident used bookstore. looking forward to some hemp nut in my food. but not milk!

        i can keep my chickens locked up in their pen, so i was prepared to do that all weekend but then my mom offered to keep the kids friday night, and david is going skiing friday and saturday, so i though, woah, what if it’s me and a dog by ourselves, with the three cats, on friday night, and what if the dog keeps me up all night, or i wake up to its poop on the floor. i would be so annoyed and not graceful, with my time alone having to deal. the kids are actually really really wanting to take care of a dog. it’s so cute. but…hopefully soon we’ll test it out…… all our dandelions are covered in snow this morning.

  4. That yellow hand picture just makes me want to…to…to…

    AAAAAAAAAAAACHhoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    and PS I loved last year’s wine, can’t wait for this one.

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