Monday, April 28, 2008

Dandelion wine

I really like the idea of brewing with things that I grew or harvested myself, but I've only done it once. Two summers ago I made a mead with berries from my yard. Anyway, my apartment has a big yard and no chemicals being sprayed on it, so I thought I'd do something with all of the dandelions that came up. Over the past three days I gathered dandelions, cut off the petals(more on this later), and stored them in the freezer. Today I started a dandelion wine. Here is my recipe, based on one from the Winemaker's recipe handbook:
8 cups dandelion petals
7 oz golden raisins, chopped
4 liters hot water
2 lb sugar
1 T acid blend
1 t yeast nutrient
1 crushed campden tablet
1 packet Montrachet yeast (since its what I have on hand)

I put the petals and the raisins in a grain steeping bag and two improvised bags of cheesecloth, and then into the hot water. Then I added the rest of the ingredients except the yeast and put in the fermenter. The starting gravity was 1.100 at 74 degrees, which adusted for temperature is about 1.101. The yeast will go in tomorrow.

When I looked for recipes in books and on the internet for dandelion wine there was a split of opinion as to whether or not its ok to include any of the green parts of the plant. Most sources say to remove all or at least most of the green sepals as they add bitterness, but a few say that the sepals aren't much of a problem as long as you have absolutely no stem. At first I decided to be conservative and exclude the sepals, but this is a major pain. Then I thought I'd try the sepals. I chewed on a few, and thought they weren't bad, a little bitter like a bitter salad green such as arugula. For contrast I also chewed on some stems. I don't recomend you do this, it was seriously bitter, chewing up a pill that's meant to be swallowed whole bitter. Anyway, I thought I'd try not worrying about the sepals. Instead of pulling out the petals I switched to taking a knife and cutting them off just below where the sepals start (so I still was not getting much green). This went much much faster. However, after the petals sat in the hot water for a while I began to notice an odor somewhat like cooked spinach. I think that I'll wait until fermentation is done and I can check again before gathering anymore dandelions.

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