The last time I took time to write and reflect I talked about why I need my summer break. I thought it might be time to discuss some of the details of what I have been doing, besides sleeping in.
This spring the rain seemed to fall at just the right time to produce a large crop of dandelions. Okay, so not a crop, but my lawn was full of them. I have always wanted to try dandelion wine and jelly and I don’t spray any fertilizer or herbicide, so I decided to take some time and try my hand this year. Picking them didn’t take too much time and I did get my two year old daughter to help a little. (The five year old was of no value in this endeavor, but he lacks anything resembling focus.) For the jelly I tediously cut the yellow petals away from green sepals, but for the wine I left them. I chose to do this because I had found a blog that said the sepals will provide tannin for the wine. The other recipes called for adding raisins or other fruit to get the tanins, but I wanted to keep the ingredients as few as possible. I ended up with about ten cups of blossoms for a gallon of wine, four pounds of sugar, and yeast.
After letting the blossoms steep for far too long, I found that the blossoms I was going to use for jelly had molded. It’s not that the process itself is so time consuming, it was that I was trying to do this during the school year. This unfortunately is nothing new for me, as I have written before how all consuming school is for me during the year. On the plus side, I had used the time blossom cutting to binge watch episodes of Star Trek Voyager, so at least it wasn’t a complete waste. Luckily the blossoms steeped for wine were salvageable.
I decided to boil them before adding the yeast. First, it would kill any bacteria, mold, or wild yeast involved. Secondly, it would make dissolving the sugar much easier. Before I began the boil I was prepared for the smell. I had read that steeping the blossoms would cause an odor that would resemble overcooked spinach, boiled grass, or even fresh compost. However, mine had that unique fragrance that occurs with stepping in fresh dog poop. It was bad. All the windows were open. I used airfreshner. My son came to the kitchen and accused me of making poop juice. Needless to say, my wife was not happy. She enjoys the fruits of my labor from making wine, but not the smell, especially this time.
Beer smells much more pleasant, almost like a bakery, but since I had children it is just difficult to find the unobstructed time that beer requires. To me, wine is much more forgiving.
Anyway, the poop juice I was cooking in the kitchen convinced me to make it a spice wine, adding whole cloves and allspice. Only time will tell if I will regret that. The first racking of the wine turned out well, giving me hope for the subsequent ones. (Coincidentally, my son who couldn’t focus to pick dandelions likes to help siphon during the racking process. I am worried that I will catch him siphoning gas in about 10 years.) I am really glad that I got that gallon made and had four gallons going from last year as I had a non-existence cherry harvest this year. Last year was a good year and I do have another batch of cherries sitting in the freezer ready to be squeezed and pressed for juice. I also found that freezing does seem to limit the cloudiness that comes from pectin from the cherries. I have begun bottling last year’s wine, but unfortunately now I have to let it age in the bottle for a couple months. I also am four empty bottles short.
While looking for my bottling equipment I stumbled upon six bottles of beer from the last time I made it, September of 2010. I am so glad I don’t have the pasteurization and filtering because living yeast acts as a great preservative. Sure the flavor matured, but it was still good.
Just after writing that I wonder if it is a good metaphor for much of what we do in life. We start something, throw some ingredients together, and just let it sit, only to find that it has become something wonderful. Even if it isn’t exactly what we expected.