(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.
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
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!)