Sunday, July 18, 2010

Backyard Beverages

Call it a hippie cliché, old fashioned, backwater brew or what have you, but we decided to try a batch of dandelion wine.  Of the many stories I've heard about it, I've never known anyone who has actually confessed to making or drinking dandelion wine.

We did our best to follow a "Pennsylvania German" pre-prohibition recipe we found randomly on the web. Warning: this recipe calls for a lot of sugar.

We had a really hard time getting the yeast to start and were about to start over when it quickly fermented the dandelion syrup into something passable as an adult beverage/cleaning product.

Almost ready to bottle. We'll give it another week or so in the secondary fermenter.

This hasn't been the only experimental drink we've been working on. Inspired by a post over on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook we tried a bit of homemade root beer last night.

We took the easy track for the first attempt by making it in the common form as a non-alcoholic soda.

Luckily we have a sassafras tree in our back yard so collecting a bit of root was as simple as pulling up a few of the saplings surrounding the main tree and cutting off the roots.

We made sure to hang on to the leaves in hopes of making filé powder for gumbo. We'll let you know how that goes.

Cutting up the roots before boiling them was a good bit of fun.  It was the first time we've had a need to use our loppers in the kitchen. The pint jar there is full of root beer syrup.

We've also been in the habit lately of using our mixer (with attachment) to make ice cream.  I couldn't resist having a root beer float using a bit of our last batch of vanilla ice cream.

Words can't describe how good it was. I'm tempted to head to the kitchen for another one right now.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

SCHWEET! So happy you a) made my homemade root beer, and b) liked it! Looks exactly like mine, too.

As for the dandelion wine, I've been known to make it, too. A few suggestions that you might have already done, but I am making them anyway based on the pictures.
1. Fill that carboy up WAY farther! You have too much air in there and you risk spoilage. It needs to be filled up to the neck once the primary ferment is done, which only takes 2-5 days. If you don't have enough wine, use a regular white wine to top off.
2. I really hope you pulled off all the green bits from your dandelion heads. They impart a really bitter taste to the wine. I know it's a pain to get them all off, but it's worth it.
3. Finally, did you use yeast nutrient when you fermented? (you can buy it online or at homebrew shops). Dandelion wine is notorious for yeast problems. Adding yeast nutrient really helps.

At any rate, glad you made the root beer! Cheers,


Gardener said...

Hank, thanks for posting your recipe for root beer, it's a definite winner, and thanks for the wine advice.

We were sure to remove all the green dandelion bits but we skipped the nutrient. I'm still finding my way to knowing when and how to use nutrients, energizers, tannin and clarifier... it's a different world than grains and hops.

You noticed the result of primary fermenting and racking from one gallon jug to another, we lose quite a bit. It's looking like we will be picking up a 3 gal carboy for these small experimental batches. Now to choose a white wine to compliment dandelions for topping off this batch hmm...

I have to say I'm looking forward to your game recipes this fall just as much as I'm looking forward to opening day of small game here in Pennsylvania!