With that in mind, I decided to take a step beyond just enjoying the sea of yellow that my yard was sporting. I would make dandelion wine. With great resolve, I got my basket and set out to gather the blossoms, early in the morning, as most recipes suggested, while the dew was still on the flowers.
There seemed to be little dew; maybe thanks to three weeks with no rain?
It was not long before my back asked me, “What were you thinking?” So I got on my hands and knees. It didn’t take long for my knees to ask the same thing.
But with great determination, I carried on and gathered approximately four quarts of this versatile, world-famous weed with the assurance that my chiropractor daughter could set my back straight the following afternoon. She helped, but reminded me — should I continue to pursue this hobby — that she was only a doctor and miracles were the domain of a higher power.
With the web, you no longer need a library of books to research the various methods used to make old-style concoctions. Dandelion wine is no exception. My first mistaken query was for homemade wine; there were 177,000,000 references. I defined it further with dandelion wine making; this narrowed the field to 314,000 references.
Checking with several slightly different recipes, I decided to create a combination of several. Heading to the market to purchase the required oranges, lemons, limes, yeast and enough sugar to put a diabetic in a coma, I began to ponder the wisdom of this venture. I decided maybe I should inquire of folks who had imbibed this elixir and get their opinion. Few shoppers under age 40 knew what I was talking about and figured I was an eccentric looking for conversation. (But then I am not a great judge of age, maybe because I still think of myself as a youngster.) Those over 60 or so knew what it was and shared their stories about mothers, grandmothers and uncles who made it a springtime event. All who had tried it gave it great reviews. With bolstered resolve, I headed home to add a new adventure to my resume.
Boiling the water to start the process, I dumped in all the buds I had gathered. This was to sit at room temperature for three days. Most of the recipes called to place this mixture in a crock, but all my crocks are in the yard planted with flowers. I was hoping that a new-age pot might be acceptable substitute. It was not. I had to start all over again with a crock, a garage-sale find. Covering it with the required cheese cloth, I set it aside and hoped for the best.
The next morning I was greeted with a swarm of fruit flies. They came either from the potion or the bags of fresh fruit I’d purchased for the next step. Not to be put off, I moved the mixture into the laundry room, only to discover that fruit flies are smarter than one might suspect. They followed the aroma. I decided to put a lid on the pot and hoped that I was not breaking any cardinal rule that might taint my endeavor.
The next step was to chop up the fruit, skin, seeds and all, boil it for 30 minutes, cool it and add the yeast, you then let that brew for two or three weeks, until the bubbling stops.
There are several men in the Saugerties Fish and Game Club who make wine (from grapes). They have real wine bottles and their own personal labels. The result is good enough for them to donate for raffles and door prizes. Will my endeavors qualify me to be part of this small group of elite enologists? Or will I be the butt of their jokes, laughed out of the club? (No, they can’t do that, I am the newsletter editor.) Maybe the worst-case scenario is that no one will consider the result a true wine and totally ignore my undertaking.
My wine adventure is brewing as I write this, bubbling with zest. So, much like a soap opera, you have to watch the next episode to see what ensues.
Barbara Buono’s column appears monthly.