Jumping into the Deep End

I suppose I have a confession right off the bat: I have a somewhat embarrassing number of plastic bags in my freezer containing pureed fruit. A second confession: I had five bottles of wine explode in my guest bedroom, resulting in what was, up until that point, an unexplained fruit fly infestation. More on this later….

I guess I sort of like to think of myself as someone who likes to roll the hard six. That doesn’t really mean I’m impulsive or that I simply careen from one idea to another. On the contrary, I’m pretty dedicated to doing research, making a plan. And, if anything, I spend too much time thinking and planning, rather than doing. Usually, it is because I know what I’m about to do is hard…..harder than it should be. And I should get ready to roll the hard six.

Which I suppose it why I started with flower wines. Actually, no, I started with flower wines because I am hardly living in “wine country” these days. Those wineries I have been to, really don’t produce wine that I really want to drink. Since making your own wine is all about tailoring recipes……why bother trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear? That sounds super judgemental. I’m sure that those wines are excellent for what they are and the grape varietals from which they are made. Still doesn’t mean I want to drink it….

So, I looked out my window and saw fields of spring time wild flowers. After a long winter, it sounded sort of magical and wonderful to put all that sunshine in a bottle. Of course, I only really found out later, after additional research, flower wines aren’t…..easy. Whoops.¬† Into the deep end we go! (Some of this also had to do with my reticence regarding fruit wines, which I have completely abandoned. More anon.)

I started with three wild flower wines: dandelion (and ginger), wild violet, and honeysuckle. For the record, I make one gallon batches of wine, which comes out to about five bottles of wine. If you decide to make your own, multiple everything by the number of gallons (and bottles) you want to make.

Dandelion and Ginger Wine Recipe:

1 gallon water (boiled)

7 cups dandelion petals

3 cups sugar

4 inches of ginger root, sliced

1/2 cup light raisins, chopped

Method:

Be sure to remove as much of the green bits of the dandelion flowers are you can, they will make everything bitter. No need to skin ginger. Dissolve sugar in boiling water, let cool slightly. Pour over the rest of the ingredients in a food grade bucket. Wait 24 hours. Add Premier Blanc Active Dry Yeast, leave to ferment. Stir vigorously twice a day for the next 3-5 days. Transfer/strain into carboy. Let sit for 30 days. Rack. Repeat until clear and ready to bottle.

I based this recipe and the method primarily on the Pixie’s Pocket: https://www.pixiespocket.com/2015/04/dandelion-ginger-wine.html

I changed some of the ingredient amounts based on research on other recipes.

 

Wild Violet Wine Recipe:

1 gallon water (boiled)

2 3/4 cups wild violets

2 juiced lemons, keep rinds

1 juiced orange, keep rind

3 cups white sugar

Method:

Gather wild violets, do not tarry! These things bloom for about a week and then they are GONE! Hurry! Hurry! Remove all green parts of flowers. Place in bucket and juice the two lemons and oranges over them. Toss in the rinds. Dissolve sugar in boiling water and let cool slightly. Pour over contents of bucket, let sit for 24 hours. Add Primier Blanc Dry Active Yeast the following day. Stir twice, daily, for the next 3-5 days. Transfer/strain into carboy. Let sit for 30 days. Rack. Rinse and repeat until ready to bottle.

I got this recipe by tootling around Pinterest, though the image doesn’t take you to a real webpage. But here’s the caption that you will find if you do your own tootling: “The Recipe for Violet wine: 2 cups of wild violets. Pour a gallon of boiling water over them. Mix in 3 lbs. of sugar. Add the rinds of 2 lemons and 1 orange, and the juices of 1 orange and 1 lemon.Let cooled to 72 degrees, add 1 gram of wine yeast. Cover w/ lid. Stir daily for 10 days, then strain into a jug and water seal. When fermentation has ceased, bottle. Age for about one year. ( I will not be waiting this long and will be enjoying it right after bottling.”

Honeysuckle Wine Recipe:

1 gallon water (boiled)

16 cups honeysuckle flowers

4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup light raisins

1 mug strongly brewed tea

Method:

Remove all the green parts from the flowers. Dissolve sugar in boiling water, let cool slightly. Dump over raisins and flowers. Let sit for three hours. Strain everything into a carboy. Let completely cool to room temperature, pitch yeast directly IN carboy. Let sit 30 days. Rack. Rinse and repeat until ready to bottle.

This recipe really is a mish-mash from a whole bunch of sources. If you want to see someone else’s, look at Pixie’s Pocket again. But I clearly added a WHOLE bunch of honeysuckle, for better or worse.

With this all being stated, on to my learning curve. Notice I didn’t take original gravity readings? Oh yeah, you should do that. I just sort of figured that, by following recipes, it wasn’t important. I’ve decided it is, take an original gravity reading, so you know how how much booze is in your wine. Also, looking at all of my experiences since this point, it sort of seems like this amount of sugar is low. Maybe it isn’t. Since I didn’t pull out my hydrometer, I can’t tell you for certain. But, looking at other recipes, I have suspicions. This is not inherently bad. But it does mean that these wines may be lower alcohol content. (And who wants low alcohol wine…..I mean….really……)

I’ve also decided that next spring, I am going to try all three of these recipes again, but using the method described in the honeysuckle wine recipe. My dandelion, specifically, was very hazy looking. The wild violet a little less so, but mostly because the blooms seemed to disintegrate entirely! Regardless, I suspect these types of wine may take forever to clarify. I think that sending the mixture all through a coffee filter after it has all steeped for a good 24 hours would do little to change the final taste, as in no additional flavors are imparted to any significant degree after this time period. And sending it all through a coffee filter may produce a much nicer looking wine. This means I will be pitching the yeast directly into the carboy for all three of them, in the future. Alternatively, there may be something of a two-step process, where I make the flower tea and strain it through a filter, and soak the raisins separately while adding them to the carboy as well……

The exception to the straining-through-a-coffee-filter would be with the the lemon and orange rinds. After doing some more reading, I sort of suspect it would be better to zest the rinds before juicing them. Then, get rid of the pith and all that. From what I’ve read, pith is something of a problem. I’m on the fence about whether or not to add the zested rind to the carboy or to steep it with the rest of the flower tea and strain it through the coffee filter. I suspect I will add it to the carboy and let it sit for the 30 days before racking it all.

Super fun science info about wild violets. The purple color in the petals is from anthocyanin. Yes! The same as in blueberries. Which results in a beautiful violet-colored tea! It is awesome. But, here’s the exciting chemistry part of things. If you add an acid (ex. lemon and orange juice), the tea will turn magenta. If you add a base (ex. cleaning agent), it will turn green. You will notice the green color when you are cleaning your siphon and other equipment, though it will be much more apparent if you make blueberry wine. So, while my wine started off as a pretty purple, it quickly turned pink after I added my fruit juices, but by the time I bottled it, it was a pretty, glowing, buttery yellow. I’m not sure how I feel about the product and its color, or if I could have any control over it in the future. It may need to age in not-clear glass? It is somewhat difficult to see what is going on though through green glass, which is something of a problem. But I’m willing to give it a shot. We’ll see.

Which brings me to the honeysuckle. First of all, before I bottled it, I think I got it too sweet for my taste. But I suspect it may need to be a sweet wine? Honeysuckle tea recipes tend to be sweet teas, so making it a dry wine may be sort of not-appropriate? And, if I’m sitting next to a pool and it is hot as heck, a sweet honeysuckle wine might be nice! However, I will not find out this year. Because all five bottles exploded in my guest bedroom.

Which means……..I didn’t manage to kill off all the yeast cells before I bottled it. Whoops. I can’t remember if I didn’t add, or I forgot, or I didn’t think it was important to officially kill of the yeast? Well, it is important. Be sure to kill off your yeast before you bottle or else all those gases may build up…..and you get honeysuckle wine carpet.

In retrospect, I expect I was thinking it wasn’t necessary to add anything to kill off the yeast. The airlock wasn’t bubbling, it didn’t matter anymore, right? I did try a bottle of my wild violet and it is ever-so-slightly carbonated. I’m really hoping they don’t pop their corks, though. They haven’t at this point, which makes me think they won’t. I do like carbonation.

Sadly, my dandelion and ginger ended up dumped today, too. But not on my carpet. Down the sink. I ended up letting the wine sit on the dead yeast cells too long before racking. I thought I was demonstrating self-restraint and being really good about not fooling around with it. Instead, letting it sit like that just made the wine develop “off” yeasty tastes.

In sum, I made some wines. They were, in fact, alcoholic. I got through the process. Two of the three were lost. The last wine standing is the wild violet. I have tried it, though it is “young.” It has this amazing scent. The color is pretty, but not purple. I think it will turn into a perfectly drinkable wine through time, though I may need to wait the full 12 months…..or more like 24 months. One of the additional facts I’ve turned up while poking around on the internet: flower wines take forever to age properly. At least a year, minimum, and more like two. We’ll see if I’m patient enough before I start foisting it off on people. I won’t be able to do any additional experiments until at least next year on these recipes. But they will be revisited. And hopefully, a new post will be issued.

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