I racked the 2013 Dandelion wine yesterday. It had done most of its work so it was time for a change. The colour is deep yellow, it left a gummy bright yellow ring around the inside of the white plastic bucket. I assume this was created for the most part by the pollen in the flowers. It took a good scrubbing with hot water and soap to remove it.
The Dandelion wine smells good, musty,(yeasty), “winey” ,and the alcohol content is evident in the aroma. After you have done a few rounds of wildflower wines you will get to know what they should smell like at each stage and be able to tell by the smell whether all is well or not.
Drawing off a half cup full for a taste test, I found it did have a high alcohol content, warming my mouth and tummy as it went “down”.
It is obvious the sugar in the recipe was converted to alcohol, which has left the wine rather dry but potent. I am going to make some adjustments and I will share them here for the sake of showing the other side of recipes, which is that some things are simple, and some more complex. What can we do when things go wrong? Making cookies takes an hour, making wine much longer. Having a recipe is great, but it is only a starting point. With fermentation we are dealing with a process that takes months, influenced along the way by many factors. Lots of things can go wrong and I have seen numerous queries wondering if a wine is salvageable.
For this reason I am going to address some of the questions that have been coming in through the search terms in my stats area, there have been some really good questions indicating difficulties people have had with the process of making Wildflower wine. I will take this opportunity to address some of those questions here, at least for those in the future that may have them, and do a practical demonstration of some options of how to save your wine if it is save-able.
Search queries for dandelion wine.
“How to clean Dandelions for wine”. Yes it is important to remove the stems from the Dandelion flowers however, however it is not necessary to remove the green “crown” of leaf material that sits directly under the yellow petals. Don’t worry about this part. When cleaning the Dandelion flowers for wine, spread them all out after picking, remove all stems, debris, leaf pieces that got mixed in during harvesting but leave the rest.
“Looks like mold on top of my Dandelion wine” There have been a few queries through Google, searching for answers to this question. Sometimes a scum will form as part of the natural fermentation process, especially if one used a coarse filtering material when straining the cooked ingredients. You will find something similar on top of a natural brine when pickling cucumbers for instance. There is nothing wrong with this layer on top of your wildflower wine. When you use a siphon and do your first racking you will collect the liquid between the top scum and the bottom dross and toss the rest. If it really is mold,,? Normally not, but I guess it can happen. If it has added an unpleasant flavour or aroma to the wine then I would toss it and start fresh. I would proceed to check the status of your wine. Has it properly fermented? If so, no worries. If it still has a high sugar content and a low alcohol content a week or two after starting, then something is wrong, the fermentation did not kick in and other organisms may have got the lead in establishing themselves, if this is the case I would probably dump it and start fresh, though if you prefer, you can try to save it. Scrub and sterilize all your tools and vessels well, don’t forget to make sure the sodium Metabisulfite reaches the insides of hoses, siphons and funnels. Siphon the wine back into the pot and repeat the cooking process as described in the recipe. I would look back on the circumstances of the “botched” first attempt and see what I may have done wrong and what could be changed to avoid the problem again, (If it was indeed some kind of mold). Primary fermentation needs to be at a relatively warm temperature, secondary fermentation in a cooler spot like a basement. I don’t know what the exact temperature needed is, but I would say around 18-21 Celsius for primary fermentation, sitting at too cool a temperature could give other organisms a good growth environment and make it harder for our yeasty beasties to establish a healthy colony.- I would also wonder if I had all my tools and vessels thoroughly sterilized before making the wine. Again, this is an opening for other bacteria and organisms to hijack your wine. So make sure the must has boiled a good 20 minutes and make sure all tools and vessels are sterilized properly and thoroughly! If you like you can add a little yeast nutrient with the yeast to help kick start it again, (This is also purchased at the wine making supply store). Cover and put your bucket in a warm place to ferment and check after a day or two to make sure it is “working”, fizzing etc. If this does not get your Dandelion Wine back on track, then you will have to start from scratch.
- “My dandelion wine tastes like vinegar”. Well,,, this does happen, and often it is because tools were not properly sterilized or contaminants were introduced to the wine must during the fermentation process. Rumor has it that fruit flies sneaking in for a drink can lead to this problem, so make sure your fermenting wine is covered tightly with a cloth that lets in air needed for primary fermentation and keeps out the bugs. If it really has produced vinegar instead of alcohol, I would either try to make a unique salad vinegar from it or pour it in the garden. I have heard that there might be ways to save a batch of wine like this if it hasn’t been allowed to go too far. But I would just let it go and start fresh. Dandelions are abundant and the rest of the materials relatively inexpensive, one could spend many hours trying to save it and it usually is not worth the time, stress and effort
- “Can I add sugar to my Dandelion Wine after fermentation?” Another very good question! Yes! I have tried this on occasion with success. Adjustments can be made during primary fermentation. You can stretch out the primary fermentation for weeks if you like, you could double the quantity of your wine by adding more distilled or room temperature boiled water,sugar and flavourings, (or boiled flower heads), adjust it, baby it, fine tune it, nurture and nourish it for weeks. You can feed it regularly with sugar or other fermentable materials, raising the alcohol content of your wine until it won’t process any more sugar into alcohol and leaves the excess sugar unfermented. Each type of yeast has a ceiling as far as how much alcohol it can tolerate in its environment before it stops “working”. Reaching that point would usually be the indicator it is time to start your secondary fermentation and work on maturing your wine. Some specialty yeasts that can be purchased at wine making supply stores are designed specifically for flower wines, and some have a higher threshold or tolerance of alcohol in their growing environment. This is where you can do some improvising if you are not happy with your wine or if you think it has “gone bad”.
- So, for the sake of illustrating this option of how to “Save” ones wine by working with it during primary fermentation, and for those that have had various questions about mishaps with dandelion or wild flower wine I hope what follows will present a bit of a practical demonstration of flexibility in the process. The original Dandelion Wine recipe makes 12-15 liters of wine, I only have a 20 liter glass carboy available at the moment, so instead of using 3 or 4 one gallon jugs for the secondary fermentation, I will increase the quantity of wine I am making to accommodate a 20 liter glass carboy. And I still hope to end up with a stellar homemade wild dandelion flower wine.
Since i used 3 kilograms of flower heads in my original recipe, It produced a very rich dandelion flower base, and I can afford to thin it out. I called for 3 kg. in the recipe but even 2 kg would have worked well, it would have just produced a “lighter ” wine. I am going to put my racked wine back in the re-sterilized plastic bucket after adding water and sugar to it and bringing the total volume to 20 liters. I have added 1 gallon, or 4 liters of distilled water and then 1 Kilogram of white sugar, it started working again immediately, (Note the ring of bubbles around the top of the liquid after adding sugar). I will check it in a few days to see if the sugar has been processed into alcohol, and may add more sugar at that time. If your wine shows no reaction to the addition of sugar you can add a little yeast nutrient, if that does not get it going and the fermentation still does not start, add a fresh package or tablespoon of yeast,(as per the recipe). This is the point in your wine making endeavor where you can get creative. When setting up this “re-fermentation” you can adjust and play with the flavour and fragrance of your wine by adding spices and other ingredients. The only cautions I would include are, go easy, better a little less of a flavour than too much, and make sure everything that goes into your fermenting wine must is sterile, which usually means boiling things and adding them after they are room temperature. Keep it in a warm place and check on it regularly to make sure it is working properly.
So, we have taken a 14 liter recipe for wild dandelion wine and are extending it so it will fill a 20 liter carboy, opening the door to adjusting the quantity and the qualities of our wine beyond our original recipe. We have made a pit stop in the process.This should provide an idea of where, when and how you can improvise with a recipe to save or improve a homemade, or wildflower wine that has gone awry, (or one you are just not happy with). Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing, and learning through our mistakes.
Remember, always keep (clear) notes, especially when improvising. Your future self will thank you.
- May 20 – Fermentation (abigslice.typepad.com)