Sunday, 22 April 2012

Get the dandelions bubbling.

So, if you followed the last installment, you will now have in your posession a big soaking pile of dandelion petals, a bucket, some yeast, yeast nurient, and some oranges.

First, take an enormous pan, or fill several pans. Drain the soaked dandelion petals out, leaving you with yellow wee looking water that smells odd. If it smells dreadful, and makes you reel away, don't use it. It should smell of dandelions, that is, not especially beautiful, but not vomit inducing. Don't worry, it will smell nicer soon.  Peel the zest from your oranges. I use 5 per gallon. Add the zest to the water (technically, this is a "must" now). Boil the concoction for 10 minutes. It will start to smell orangey. Add the juice from the oranges. Stir. Strain the zest and any little remaining bits from the must into your final bucket, which you will have sterilised. The water will be hot, be careful!

Now add your sugar, 1 kilo per gallon of the final wine amount, (not the amount you have now). It's a lot, I know, but all the sugar turns to alcohol! Stir to dissolve. Now you will need to fill the bucket up with a mixture of water, hot and cold, to your final intended amount of gallons, aiming to get the temperature between 25-30 degrees ( a little warmer than blood heat). Add 1 heaped teaspoon of yeast per gallon, and 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Stir well. Plop on your airlock, and wait. After 8 hours, mine was bubbling ( see picture). Now wait. Wait. Wait for months, listening to a blip of bubbly yeast air. It'll be ready for Xmas. Yes, I know. But it cost you a bag of sugar.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

And then the dandelions became wine......

Traditionally, the day for picking dandelions to tuen them into potent booze is meant to be 23rd April, St Georges' day. But, given the global warming effect and my desperate need for practically free booze, we started early. But you can do it next week. Here's how.

Pick a sunny forecast day. Dandelions need to be picked when they are fully open, and the sap has risen in a suitably Shakespearean and bawdy way, to make you feel all springy. So do it between 12 noon and 2pm, take a long walk with your kids, and the neighbours kids, and use them as slave labour, after carefully showing them the difference between an open, shut, and halfway dandelion head. You need to pick the heads, not more. And although you are going to pour boiling water on them to do away with any dog, or otherwise, wee, I personally felt better about avoiding the dog crap filled walkways of my home town to gather them. So I headed to dog free areas, and got them out of peoples gardens. A particularly rich picking was the old peoples home lawn, and they especially enjoyed me ordering the kids about. You will need FAR MORE than you thought to make a few gallons of wine. I am following the recipe from a friends dad to make 5 gallons, but you can scale down accordingly. To make 5 gallons, you need a gallon of dandelion heads. That is quite a lot.

Take them home. Praise the children, and get them to wash their hands. They will be sappy and sticky. Tell them, now, that dandelions are "pis-en-lit" in France, so that they worry all night.  Then, set to work pulling the petals off. You need the yellow, not the green, although a little bit of green won't kill you, or the wine. You will end up with just short of a gallon of petals. They look very pretty. Discover, too late, that you should have put rubber gloves on, and your hands are now bright yellow.

Sterilise a lidded bucket, or brewing bucket. Basically, you need a clean, lidded bucket to do this bit and if you don't have a brewing bucket, nip out in the next 5 days and get one, while your petals stew in any old (clean) bucket with a lid on. I sterilise with boiling water and a good scrub, but some people like to use Campden tablets. Then pour boiling water all over your petals, to fully cover, and leave it. Discover, too late, that you should not have used a white jug to put the petals in. It's now yellow.  For 2-5 days. That's it, stage one done.

For stage two, you will need 16 oranges, 5 kilos of sugar, yeast nutrient, and wine yeast. And that lidded, brewing bucket. Go get some!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Brew your own and stick two fingers up at Osbourne.

Now, aside from looking like an amorphous mass of Piers Morgan and John Cusack that's popped out of a pod from "The Fly", Mr G.Osbourne is also a very mean man. Not content with giving money to the richest and taking it away from the plebs, he also has to ruin any fun we might behaving in the meantime by pricing a Greggs out of our league and making it nigh on impossible to get a decent bottle of wine for under a fiver. It's not enough to be poor, the poor must be sober, and try to get thinner, while they scrape their barrels and weep at the return of the 1980's.

I like a drink. I like a glass of wine in the garden, lounge or kitchen. I like rose, white and red. I don't believe that having a drink stops me being a parent. I don't overdo it and end up passed out on the floor for school pick up time. I don't have any other vices left, and I'm rather fond of this one. I am naturally weaning myself off the booze by dint of getting older anyway. I fully expect to be practically teetotal and only having an eggnog at Xmas by the time i'm 75. So I do rather resent being told, by a fat champagne sipping Tory that i'm to cough up more money per unit on account of the government telling us off for being drunks, and wanting more money in their greasy little fat paws.

My solution is to brew my own. I can brew 30 bottles for the princely sum of 16 quid. It's not scary, and the wine is quaffable, if not princely vintage. Here's what you need to start. The best way to start and gain confidence is by using a wine kit, which has all the little packets of yeast and finings in.
2 brewing buckets with, airlocks, taps and lids
2 wine kits
6 bags of sugar.
That's it. The buckets cost about a tenner, all in with taps and airlocks, and the wine kits start at about 15 quid, and range up to 30 quid for posh ones. So your first laying out of money might be a bit of an "ow", but once you've got the kit, you've got the makings of wine forever, cheaply. The kit often turns up at carboots, too.
In bucket one, mix up the wine kit, add sugar and yeast, wait 10 days. Rack it off into second bucket. Add finings (in a little packet included in wine kits. It's the stuff that clears the wine and makes it see through rather than cloudy). Mix up other wine kit in now empty bucket, start process again. Wait 5 days for wine kit 1. Drink. It's that easy. All you need is a big ladle to stir, some idea of cleanliness (boiling water sterilise everything before you start), and a small amount of patience. Oh, and place to put a bucket of booze. It works best indoors because it needs a fairly warm and fairly consistent temperature. But that said, both my buckets are in the kitchen, and that fluctuates pretty much, and all the wine has been fine.

The next step is to move onto Country Wines. That is, alcoholic stuff you make from stuff that is free. Like dandelions, blackberries, elderflowers. The season is upon us for dandelions, and so once there are enough upon us to gather sufficient petals, i'll be making it and blogging it. If you'd like to do it alongside, you'll need a demijohn, wine yeast and a bung/airlock. Go to a carboot and rummage for some now. You'll also need patience, since once made, this wine needs 12 -18 months to be clear and drinkable. Although, if memory serves me well, it's lethally intoxicating. My nan used to serve hers in tiny glasses and lay cushions down first. And then, once the dandelions are done, it's elderflower champagne.

I might be impoverished, but I can at least be pished. Seek out a bucket, for next week is dandelion week.