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Dandelion Wine – Step 3

2016 dandelion wine 5Right-oh – we’re three (well four, but it should be three) days after adding the sugar, yeast and yeast nutrient to the dandelion wine liquid, having first strained it. It’s bubbling along nicely, and so today’s task is to rack it into one gallon demijohns for the final fermentation stage. It was easy enough, I bought one of those auto-siphon things, which was a lot easier than puckering and sucking on the end of a hose, waiting for a mouthful of sugar and yeast concoction! A few minutes later and we have five full demijohns sat in the garage alongside the 2016 dandelion wine 4last slow ferment cider. Just a couple of years before we taste the results!

Dandelion Wine – Step 1

Dandelion Wine Recipe

Okay, so we de-head them, we mow them, we curse them (often), we pretend they’re not really there, we dig them up, and generally aim quite a lot of animosity in their direction. But do they deserve it?! Over the last few years we’ve made dandelion root coffee, and it’s been quite nice, in my opinion, but a lot of faff. This year Suz suggested we try dandelion wine – and not one to argue with that train of thought, I dug out the old 1970’s book “Easymade Wine & Country Drinks” by Mrs Gennery-Taylor.

The ingredients needed are:

  • 2 quarts (2.25 litres) dandelion flowers
  • 3lb (1.4kg) granulated sugar
  • G.P. (general purpose) wine yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 1 gallon (4.5 litrs) boiling water

2016 dandelion wine 1Now being of that generation who was brought up in the metric system, yet who had to learn the old imperial system as his father worked in it, I’ve converted the imperial measurement above to metric. However, I’ll be putting it all in 1 gallon demijohns, so I’ll be basing it on that.

So we picked 10 quarts of dandelion flowers – Suz spent a couple of hours of back-bending picking, and I chipped in for the last hour, even stealing some from our grateful neighbour’s lawn! Essentially we just packed the big yellow dandelion heads into a litre jug, and called that one quart.

We washed the dandelion heads, placed them into a sterlised five gallon fermenting bucket, and added 5 gallons of boiling water, five2016 dandelion wine 2 finely sliced oranges and five finely sliced lemons. Gave it a good stir and sealed the lid. We now need to leave it for ten days – no longer! (according to the book).

I must add – it’s important to sterilise everything you use when making home-made wine, beer or cider. Cleanliness is everything!

First Plum Wine Bottled

Well the time passed a week ago for the third and final racking of the plum wine into a demijohn, with the last racking happening just before Christmas, into bottles. However, this week I’d noticed one of the demijohns had stopped bubbling, whilst the other two had slowed down to snail’s pace.

Today was the day to see if the fermentation had indeed stopped – out came the various bits of rubber hose, plastic pipe and sanitising powder. Decanting some off into a sample tube, the hydrometer read just under 1.000, so bottling was on! Five bottles later, we’d racked as much as we dared from the one demijohn, and as I use the ridiculous method of sucking on the hose to get the wine to flow, I’m sure I drank a fair amount – enough to get me out of school pick up! I really do need to work out a better system – young wine isn’t that bad from this experience, but then it isn’t that good either! Hopefully, if we can manage, it’ll stay in the bottle to mature for a year, although I suspect that bottle on the left, with the big air gap, will need drinking fairly sharpish!

Plum Wine Stage 2

2015 Plum Wine 1

Plum juice after adding sugar, lemon juice and yeast

So here we are, four days after first adding our plums to the plastic barrel and adding water to what will become our plum wine. We’ve stirred them twice a day (well  stirred in the morning and given the barrel a good shake in the evening), and today it’s time for these steps:

6. Add the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve.
7. Add lemon juice and the packet of wine yeast and put the lid on.
8. Store somewhere warm. After a few hours you’ll notice something starting to happen… there’ll be a froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
Yeast close-up

Yeast close-up

 

Four kilos of demerara sugar went into this barrel, three teaspoons of lemon juice, and the sachet of wine yeast. Firstly I stirred the sugar in like crazy – demerara being a bit chunky. Then the lemon juice and yeast – it says don’t bother stirring these in, but as we have so many lumpy plums still floating on top, I decided to stir gently. The floating lumpy bits are the plums that were still slightly unripe I’m guessing – there weren’t many, but enough to coat the surface in a layer of plum.

Place somewhere warm

Place somewhere warm

Once the lid’s back on tight, the whole thing was lifted on to the work surface above the boiler (somewhere warm) to start its business. It’ll stay there, much to the chagrin of Suz, in the middle of the kitchen, for five days, until it’s ready to siphon off into demijohns.

Plum Wine Recipe – Stage 1

2015 PlumsAnyone would think we drink a lot. The irony is we don’t! Having said that, when nature throws a surplus at you in the form of plums, there is only so much you can humanly eat before you turn to preserving the plumly bounty. Suz has made a few litres of gorgeous plum jam – I know because not all of it made it to the jars 😉 But it’s been such an amazing year that the little Victoria plum tree we planted 7 years ago is so full that some of the branches are reaching the ground! We planted it alongside a Bountiful apple tree, both on dwarfing rootstock so they wouldn’t grow past 9 feet each, as we thought at the time that was all we would have space for and they’d be enough for us. Having seen what they can do, it makes me realise that we need a plan of action for the fruit from the orchard in the near future! At this rate maybe we need to start thinking of applying for a license!

So with the jam jars full, it occured to us to follow the same route as our neighbours and make some plum wine. My only foray into wine-making territory was as  a student, when I attempted rhubarb wine. With a taste and smell akin to dry-on-the-nose vomit, it turned me away from wine-making and towards cheap wine from the local off-license. I’m older now – I’ve overcome my fear and, regardless, we have an awful lot of plums to find a use for. The plum wine recipe I’m going to use is as below, with alterations made to fit our kit. I have ‘borrowed’ it from this site – the chap seems very helpful with his comments and I like the ‘no fuss’ approach. I’m not looking for something quick to drink – I don’t mind waiting, and I’m keen on the less-is-more approach when it comes to additives.

Equipment needed
One 5 gallon plastic fermentation barrel with lid
Something for stirring the contents (we use a long plastic spoon made for the purpose)
Something to sterlise the equipment with (I use Young’s Steriliser & Cleaner powder)
Long clear plastic tubing (available from DIY stores)
Funnel
3 x 1 gallon demijohns
3 x Demijohn bungs and airlocks (I use rubber and cork, no preference yet)
18 wine bottles (ideally clear glass)
18 corks (we’re using reuseable wax corks)
Ingredients needed
15lbs (6.75 kilos) of healthy plums
9lbs (4 kilos) of sugar
3 gallons of water
3 teaspoons of lemon juice
Wine yeast (1 x 5g pack of dried wine yeast)
Method
1. Sterilise the fermentation barrel and lid using the Sterliser & Cleaner powder (instructions on the tub)
2. Wash the plums, cut in half to check for maggots. I’m using the stones, some remove them.
3. Place in fermentation barrel.
4. Bring water to boil and pour in fermentation barrel.
5. Put the lid on and leave for four days, stirring twice daily.
6. Add the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve.
7. Add lemon juice and the packet of wine yeast and put the lid on.
8. Store somewhere warm. After a few hours you’ll notice something starting to happen… there’ll be a froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
9. After five days transfer the liquid to the demijohns using the plastic tubing and funnel. Make sure all the equipment has been sterilised.
10. Avoiding disturbing any sediment, place the fermentation barrel at a higher level than a demijohn (e.g. put the barrel on a table and a demijohn on the floor), put one end of the plastic tubing in the barrel, and having placed the funnel in the neck of a demijohn give the other end of the tubing a strong suck to pull some of the wine in the tube up and over the edge of the barrel. Quickly remove your mouth and put the tube end into the funnel. The wine should start to drain.
11. Stop removing liquid when you get close to the bottom so you transfer as little of the sediment as possible. Once all the liquid is in a demijohn top up with water to bring to a gallon if you need to – but don’t try and make a gallon from 3/4 of a gallon of plum juice! Seal with a bung and airlock. Some people add something like Milton to the airlock, but I tend not to incase there’s a reverse pull on the liquid and it taints the wine. I prefer to replace the airlock regularly with a sterlised one.
12. You can now store the wine for months somewhere cool and frost free. At first the fermentation may start up again and you’ll see bubbles going through the airlock. Gradually the wine will clear.
13. Once fully clear repeat the draining process, this time from the demijohn to sterilised wine bottles. Put a stopper in each bottle and store.
14. The wine will be ready to drink after twelve months.

I’m at stage 5,  stirring twice daily, and already thinking about the next batch! I’ve read that if you can leave it for three years then that’s ideal, but I just know that won’t happen, so if you make plenty then some will be bound to remain on a shelf somewhere until then. I think the secret is to make more than you think you need to ensure a glut 🙂
In case it’s helpful, we use two brewing suppliers. Our local shop is very helpful and also has an online presence, at http://www.creativewinemaking.co.uk/
For our cider kit we use http://www.lovebrewing.co.uk