Dandelion Wine: Part 3
The golden tide, the essence of this fine fair month ran, then gushed from the spout below, to be crocked, skimmed of ferment, and bottled in clean ketchup shakers, then ranked in sparkling rows in cellar gloom.
~from Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury
For several days after we put it in the crock to ferment, our dandelion wine was bubbling up a storm, smelling all yeasty and good(ish):
Twice a day for about a week we gave it a stir, and after that the fermenting slowed way down. I tasted it probably every day or two, and each day it was obvious that more and more alcohol was being created by the yeast consuming the sugar.
It's still fermenting a bit now — you can still smell it and see the occasional bubble rise to the surface. But it's slowing down, and that means we are ready to get it in the bottles for safekeeping. We probably should have done this sooner, but we have jobs and kids, so we finally got around to it last night. We brought the crock to the kitchen, along with some other supplies:
Since we are doing this in an aggressively un-fancy way, we don't have a food grade siphon to get the wine out of the crock and into bottles. (If we were fancy, we also wouldn't be using our sauerkraut crock and we would have airlocks instead of a linen towel, etc.). The glass above was used for a taste first, though.
How to describe? It's kind of ... fume-y. We cut back on the sugar in our original recipe to go for a more dry wine. As recommended in other recipes here, and the alcohol taste is pretty harsh. Kinda moonshiney. Not sure if this will get better as it finishes fermenting and sits in the cellar for a while, or if this is the result of the half-assed quality of our materials and ingredients (bread yeast, linen towel, etc.). It's not vinegar, and it's not moldy or anything, so it's still potable ... we'll see. It might end up being a mixer if it stays this harsh — maybe a white sangria base?
Anyway, we used a few layers of cheesecloth and a funnel to ladle the wine from the crock into the bottles (remember, we don't have hose for siphoning). I did the ladling pretty slowly to avoid disturbing the lees a the bottom (although the last bottle is probably too full of sediment to be any good). Here's what was left after we filled 10 green 350 ml bottles (those are the little half-size ones):
Blech. That's a lot of dead yeast carcasses in there.
As I was ladling, Kirk covered the bottles. We had two methods by which to do this:
On the left is our balloon method. This is a balloon with some pin holes in it. That will allow gas to escape as it builds up from any additional fermentation, but should keep out any bad yeast or bacteria or whatever that could ruin the wine. On the right is the cotton ball method, which offers a semi-permeable barrier as well. Gas should escape through the cotton, but it will hopefully keep out stuff from around the house. We went with this as our secondary choice because we ran out of balloons.
As you can see in the photo above, the wine is a little cloudy. It might clear up as it ages and more sediment falls out. Or it might just stay cloudy because we used regular yeast instead of a specialized wine yeast. The 10 bottles are in the case upright, waiting in the dark for fermentation to stop completely. I’m giving it until Memorial Day weekend to take another peek at it, I think.