We’ve been had.
We’re in the process of making dandelion wine, using Euell Gibbons’ recipe. It’s a simple procedure:
1. Pour one gallon of boiling water over one gallon of dandelion flowers. Steep for three days.
2. Strain out the flowers, and add a small piece of chopped ginger, the zest and juice of three oranges and a lemon, and three pounds of sugar to the liquid.
3. Boil the mixture for twenty minutes. Let it cool to lukewarm, and add a package of yeast. Cover loosely, and leave in a warm place for a week.
4. Strain into a gallon jug, cap loosely, and keep in a dark place for three weeks. Then decant and cork tightly. Wait at least six months. Drink.
Now think about it. This isn’t a recipe for dandelion wine at all. It’s a recipe for stone soup.
Remember the story? It’s a Brothers Grimm tale about a man who swans into town with a pot and a stone, promising soup. He boils up the stone and then muses that the soup might taste even better with an onion. And some carrots. And maybe a chicken. He cons all the ingredients out of the townspeople, who then marvel at what delicious soup a stone makes.
It’s always seemed unlikely to me that you could make wine out of dandelions, and now I know that you probably can’t. It’s ginger and oranges and sugar that you can make wine out of. That first step – the one involving weeds – is completely extraneous. You might as well use grass clippings, or pine needles. Or stones, for that matter.
I must be a little slow on the uptake, because I didn’t realize this until yesterday.
Yesterday was Step 4, straining out the bits of orange, lemon, and ginger and putting the wine in jugs. To prepare for step four, we had to acquire two one-gallon glass jugs (we doubled the recipe). An empty one-gallon jug costs somewhere between three and five dollars, plus shipping and handling. A one-gallon jug full of lousy wine costs twelve dollars, no shipping, no handling.
That is why we ended up with two gallons of Carlo Rossi Chablis, which isn’t nearly as bad as you’d think. A little seltzer, a little ice, and it’s absolutely drinkable. Kevin actively likes it.
We bought the wine three days before we needed the jugs, and, over the course of those three days drank and cooked with an embarrassing quantity of it. Still, there was some left and we transferred it to used wine bottles. We washed the jugs, removed the incriminating labels, and poured in the “dandelion” wine.
Ideally, at this stage, you rig the jugs with a fermentation trap, a gizmo that allows the carbon dioxide produced by what fermentation is still going on to escape without letting any air in. A bona fide fermentation trap is a glass or plastic tube with a big bend and three bulbs, and you can buy it from people who sell winemaking supplies. Alternatively, you can rig a tube through a cork and run it into a water bath.
Or you can just use a balloon. Guess which method we chose.
There was a little left over, though, which of course we had to drink. It tasted – surprise! – of orange and lemon and ginger. It had a faint effervescence and a distinct alcoholic edge. But I have to admit that it also had a pleasant note of green weediness. I guess that’s what stones taste like.