Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Dandelion Tale, The End

So...where were we?

Ah, yes...that's right...the Great Dandelion Experiment Gone Wrong continues.

If memory serves, we'd just had the big mess, hadn't we? And our fearless (or crazy, however you want to look at it) novice winemaker had just purchased a book and settled in to read it from cover to cover.

After much discussion with the professionals at a local winery and a thorough reading of my new book, I went back to the...uh, kitchen drawing board.

Remember? I picked, washed and, once again, followed directions--using a new recipe. I measured, tied the petals in cheesecloth and at various intervals added yeast, sugar and other assorted ingredients. I assure you I did not add "this and that" or dump the whole concoction in a garbage can in our basement, as some suggested. No, I precisely adhered to the recipe.

Between us? I was so strict about following the directions because I didn't want to clean up any more wine and glass. The first "mishap" took three hours--in the dead of night--to deal with. I was determined not to do that again!

After I added winemaking yeast, the mixture began to bubble.

The gases released pushed up the plastic wrap.

See the bubbles? Looks kind of weird, doesn't it?

The bucket stayed on the kitchen counter for four days, its contents blurping away. I eyeballed it a few times each day. At first, it was from a distance. As time wore on, I got braver and took a closer view of the little in-home science experiment. Very interesting, the way yeast gobbles up sugar!

See this? It's a fermentation airlock. Its sole purpose is to allow the fermentation gases to escape without--you guessed it--causing an explosion.

Nifty piece of equipment, isn't it? If the first recipe I used had called for one we would never have had our middle-of-the-night disaster. There would have been no flying glass, no splattered wine mess.

We were lucky no one was injured in the first attempt at dandelion wine-making. It is really fortunate that I'm so fussy I couldn't stand to see the gallon jug on the kitchen counter. I'd moved it to the corner of our living room, to an out-of-the-way spot where I figured it'd just sit and do its thing.

The corner walls took the brunt of the explosion--and I do mean explosion when I say it. There was a loud crash, and the tinkling of shattering glass, as well as the random sounds the glass pieces made when they hit various items in the room. We found glass shards more than twenty feet from the corner where I'd put the wine bottle. It makes me sick to imagine what could have happened so I'm not even going there.

What I do want to share is this: If you find yourself tempted to make wine, find a good recipe, one from a reputable source. Talk to people who have done it before, not just friends and neighbors with boot-legging grannies. And the most important bit of advice I can give is that if you contemplate using a recipe that doesn't mention the necessity for an fermentation lock throw the recipe away.

Let me repeat: Throw the recipe away!

Fermenting wine releases gases. When the gases are trapped, they can cause an explosion. It's not pretty. It may even be...well, let's not go there. You get the idea. Someone can get hurt.

A bottle that holds fermenting wine needs to have a cap that releases the pressure. When the fermentation action stops, after a few months, the wine can be safely racked into bottles for storage. Until then? A fermentation lock.

So here it is, my second attempt. It's been fermenting for almost two weeks now and there hasn't been any sign of imminent disaster. The escaping air blurps along at a steady rate, and the aroma of the fermenting dandelion juice is sweet and pleasant. We're hoping to sample the wine in six months or so.

Until then, I'm just going to watch it. Very carefully.


Dru said...

This is so cool. I don't see the fermenting lock? Is it still in place?

Oh cool, your wine will be ready just in time for the holidays.

Marianne Arkins said...

I'm so excited!!! You'll have to tell us how it turns out so I can try it next spring :-)

And, yeah... the potential for disaster is scary. In MY house, Dakota would most likely have been standing, staring at it. Yikes.

Melissa McClone said...

Very cool! So glad this is working out better than the first attempt!!!! I didn't realize wine making could be so dangerous.

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