Thursday, May 6, 2021

The dandelion wine chronicles

Inspired by the weeds in my yard and some encouragement from a friend, I decided to try making wild-fermented dandelion ginger wine, following this blogger's guide:

Let's see how it went.

Sunday, April 18 - picked and washed dandelion blossoms, separated petals, put petals in gallon glass jug with raisins, ginger, sugar and water. Covered with layered cheesecloth to allow air but not bugs.

I swirled the jug once or twice a day to stir and better see whether any bubbles were bubbling, which really hide among the petals floating at the top, and also got hard to see as the water clouded golden.

For extra credit, I started reading Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine.

Wednesday, April 21 - It was the third day, so I gave the jug one more swirl in the morning, confirmed bubbles. Boiled water to sanitize another gallon glass jug and our siphoning equipment, but first kept aside some extra boiled water to cool for topping up the brew later. (Boiling not only "cleans" the water, it also helps evaporate the chlorine from the tap water, which, as a disinfectant, could potentially hamper the active yeasties.) 

Later in the afternoon, filtered the brew through a cheesecloth and transferred it to the new jug for the second ferment. I smelled a very light fermentation odor, but mostly I smelled ginger. It tasted like sugar water at this stage.

Interestingly, Bradbury describes the dandelion flowers going into a wine press, golden liquid flowing out. The recipes/instructions I find online all just have this sort of soak approach, no pressing unless you count the ones that have you squeeze the petals in a cheesecloth to extract all possible liquid when it's transferring into the second jug.

By Friday, I could tell that fermentation was indeed underway, albeit slowly. There were tiny bubbles forming on the surface, like a gentle carbonation, and the balloon on top of the jug (my makeshift airlock) was starting to inflate, ever so little by little, from the gas produced by the fermentation. We were on our way!

OK, the next Friday, April 30 - Oh no.

Fermentation was still happening. If I held a flashlight to the jug, I could see the little bubbles inside rising to the top, again, like watching a light carbonation -- more so than I could that first week. But, I also saw something on the surface of the liquid that was not a cluster of bubbles. Mold.

Mold! In denial, I waited a few days. Maybe it's not what I fear it is.

Monday, May 3 - It's definitely mold. Most likely, my brew was fermenting too slowly, giving bad things a chance to get a foothold before the good things (wild yeast) to make the environment inhospitable for the bad things. My guess is that the kitchen was too cold for the first ferment, so it took too long to really get going.

I knew I was going to have to dump the whole things, so I took a chance sip (a wine-taster's swirl and spit). It tasted like slightly sour sugar water. Not great. Fermenting, but not on its way to something potable.

Sigh. Dump. 

I guess I won't return to the taste of spring later this year, but maybe, maybe I'll try again another time.

I will keep reading Dandelion Wine to the end. It's lovely.

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