Get your Dander Up! Dandelion Wine: Part One

18 May

“If you had your way you’d pass a law to abolish all the little jobs, the little things. But then you’d leave yourself nothing to do between the big jobs and you’d have a devil of a time thinking up things to do so you wouldn’t go crazy. Instead of that, why not let nature show you a few things? Cutting grass and pulling weeds can be a way of life, son.” -from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Spring! And haven’t we had a lovely one so far? Whenever the weather starts getting warmer like this, I always think of school days, those last afternoons of the year when it seemed like everyone, students and teachers alike, were all just waiting it out until summer vacation. The hallways smelled different, thicker, and it was harder to concentrate with the sounds and smells of someone mowing the lawn coming in from the open windows. And most of all, I think of the day that came every year, the day I got off of the bus and my whole yard had turned yellow with dandelions.

I always knew that dandelions were good for a heap of things: staining your siblings’ faces and arms with their grubby lemon color, watching their stems curl in a glass of water, making wishes when they went to seed, and the occasional dandelion crown when I went to “watch” my brother’s little league games. But it wasn’t until my hairdresser recommended the book Dandelion Wine by Bradbury, that I found out you can make booze out of this dandy little flower! Now, the book is one of my favorites (seriously, top five) and has inspired me to do some fermentin’.

Another great book, The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan, has a dandelion wine recipe, which is the one my better half and I decided to use. If you haven’t paged through this book already, you really should. It tells you everything about anything you could ever want to grow or raise in your yard. I think my next venture from Homestead might be growing herbal tea leaves, or a raspberry patch, or maybe I’ll dip into some beekeeping…

Anyway, we’ve come this far in the process:

Tasty looking, hmmm? What I couldn’t capture in the picture is that’s it’s hissing and bubbling. Here’s how we got there:

Step 1: Find a field or a yard.

“Every year, said Grandfather, they run amuck; I let them. Pride of lions in the yard… A common flower, a weed no one else sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing, the dandelion.”

It doesn’t have to be your field or yard, but it does have to be full of dandelions and you should be reasonably sure there isn’t any chemical gunk on the grass. The recipe BF and I used calls for 3 quarts of dandelion blossoms. That word is important because it means you have to have 3 quarts of just the yellow part. The green part hinders the fermenting. So we picked two big tupperware dishes (really big, like the kind your mom brings pasta salad in when she goes to church picnics) of dandelion heads and then picked the green parts off.

Pretty, huh? Here’s a closeup:

It took a long time, but I enjoyed it. It was like shucking corn… for an entire summer camp. But with a little ice tea and some good conversation, it’s a better way to spend two hours than back to back Dancing with the Stars.

Step 2: Boil and wait.

“A walk on a spring morning is better than an eighty-mile ride in a hopped up car, you know why? Because it’s full of flavors, full of a lot of things growing. You’ve time to seek and find.”

The same day, we boiled all those pretty blossoms in a gallon of water. Then  poured it into a big bucket and covered it. And had to wait three days.

Step 3: Add some stuff, more boiling and waiting.

“You goin’ to drink that?”

After three days of peeking and sniffing the air around the bucket, we uncovered what was basically dandelion muck. If you’ve ever played in a ditch, and believe me, I’ve sat in some mucky ditches in my day, you have an idea of what this sludge looked like. But just in case you can’t quite conger up the image:

It smelled like a ditch too. At this point, we were thinking, “How much do we really like wine? Enough to forget that it started out like this?”. The answer was, “A lot.” and “Hope so!”.

Next we grated the peel off of two oranges and one lemon and threw it in the bucket, then boiled it all again. Then we strained it, which resulted in some murky pee water:

Blech. But it didn’t smell as bad. Next, we added 3 pounds of sugar (and stirred to dissolve and let cool), the juice of the oranges and lemon, two packets of powdered yeast, and a pound of raisins.

Step 4: MORE waiting.

“Once each year he woke this way and lay waiting for the sound which meant summer had officially begun.”

So here we are a few days, some sweat and tears later , with a hissing, bubbling bucket of yeasty, fruity, sugary, raisin-y flower water (see picture way above) loosely covered on our dining room table. It’s starting to smell good and rumor has it, it’s rather humid in that bucket. Most of our work is done. We just have to wait for the bubbling (AKA fermentin’) to stop so we can strain again and put our tincture into bottles!

Then can we drink it, you may ask? Nope. As Mr. Petty said, The way-yay-ting is the hardest part.

Stay tuned for Part 2. And more gift ideas as soon as I finish unpacking, I promise.


2 Responses to “Get your Dander Up! Dandelion Wine: Part One”

  1. Beth May 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    I think you should take your first taste while in the parking lot of you local ER…ya know…..just in case! We’re missing you here at the TFS!


  1. Summer Fun for a Song (and by song I mean movie title) « Thriftfulness - August 26, 2010

    […] copy of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (definitely not as spooky as the cover […]

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