25 May 2009

Dandelion Wine: out to pasture

There's nothing like a good pasture. The grazers and chickens have all gained a bit of weight and upped the production since the pastures have come up. Penelope, the milking goat, only gets a handful of grain to keep her busy while milking, and the chickens only need about half of their winter ration of grain, to produce twice the eggs. We are able to graze, with no supplement of hay or grain from mid-May to about the end of October here.

The kids are 3 months old now, and have been trained to the electric fence, and introduced into the herd. They are slowly integrating into the herd order, which takes a few weeks, and we had to watch that the does don't bully the kids around too much for the first few days. The two specks on the left of the picture below are the kids, then the two does, and of course Pilgrim, "the big goat", and the movable chicken tractor on the right.
The chickens are also much happier on pasture, they have bugs and greens to peck all day, and I think they are healthier, being moved every day onto clean ground, than they are in the barn with heavy bedding. I even have some extra milk or whey to give them, and the five hens often lay five eggs a day. If you look closely at the hen in the center, you can see some glossy green feather tips. The Rhode Island Red heritage is starting to show on the hens as they mature. Two of them look like straight Barred Rock, and two have green tints, and the white hen has thrown to the Rhode Island White heritage of the original ISA Brown commercial hens.

Roosty shows the most coloring, with red feathers and some long green tail feathers too.

There are some excellent Dandelion patches in the hay fields, it makes great hay too, more nutrition than either the Timothy or Red Clover it was sown to. The Dandelion is in full bloom, which means it's time for Dandelion Wine! Last summer I made some Red Clover and Daisy Blossom Wine. It was good, but I think I will like the Dandelion better. I might make a straight Red Clover wine later this summer, the Daisy added a bitter to the wine.

It didn't take long to gather 6 or so quarts of Dandelion flowers. I followed a simple recipe. Pour 6 quarts boiling water over the flowers. Cover and let steep for 24 hours. Strain the flowers out, pressing the liquid through a muslin cloth. Add 3 lbs organic sugar or honey, the grated rind and juice of a lemon and an orange (I don't have fresh citrus, so I use dried orange and lemon peel, and a dozen cardamom pods), and a pound of Golden Raisins. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Dissolve one package yeast in a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of sugar, add to the liquid mixture. Set crock or jar in a warm spot, away from drafts or direct sunlight. Cover loosely, and stir every day for three weeks. Pour into bottles, corking loosely to let excess gas escape, and store in a dark cool room. When fermentation is complete, cork tightly. Ready to enjoy in 6 months.


Amanda said...

Thank you for posting this recipe for Dandelion wine. I've wanted to try this and it doesn't sound too difficult. What does it taste like?

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Amanda, you are welcome. It really is very simple. I haven't tasted the completed Dandelion wine yet, just my Red Clover and Daisy wine from last year. But from what I can tell so far, I am going to like the Dandelion wine more. It doesn't much taste like traditional wine, closer to hard cider with a floral taste rather than fruity, and not carbonated. It doesn't have the complexity of aged grape wines. But like wine, it changes flavor when it is warmed up, or cooled down. It would be a refreshing wine cooler chilled, but I drank my wine warmed up like a hot-totty over the winter. Make sure you don't miss the blossom harvest! Our dandelions are already gone to seed.

Anonymous said...

The green stuff holding the blossom together, is bitter. Even after you learn the "trick" to removing, it is still time intensive. Sweeter.

Lara said...

I've always wanted to try dandelion wine. I did try a very unique dandelion beer at New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO last month, and it was good (they substituted dandelion for hops due to a hop crop shortage last season)