Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cherry Blossom Drift & Petal Wine

Earlier this week at the Ronkonkoma train station on Long Island I noticed that the cherry blossoms on the sidewalk had blown around and formed drifts. A concentration of petals like this could be a bonus for anyone wanting to experiment with making cherry blossom wine.
Dandelion wine is made with the yellow-white petals of the mature flower. One of the tasks in making dandelion wine is to pull all of the petals free of the bitter green parts. One difficulty is that though dandelions do grow like weeds the places where they most abundantly grow, and are most easily gathered are on public lawns... like at the local park. Then the question is if they are clean of herbicides, goose shit, and fertilizer or not. Dandelions gathered from near to highways, or in city environments may also contain traces of lead which is a toss up if the alcohol or lead will dumb you down first.

I use a champagne yeast when I make dandelion wine as it kicks up the alcohol content to the max for a wine. Percentage of alcohol in a natural wine is determined by when the concentration of alcohol is enough to kill the yeast that has produced the alcohol. A champagne yeast can handle alcohol better than most yeasts. I do not post-ferment in the bottles, so the bottles are not the exploding kind that you would knock the tops off with a sword. As an aside, when I proudly gave a mason jar of it to my Canadian Scot stonemason friend he immediately asked if I was handing him a jar of my best pee.

My home-brand is labeled Hobos Last Choice.

I have been collecting and drying rose petals for several years now with an idea that someday I will make rose petal wine. We only own one rose bush and so it is taking me a long time to collect enough petals to take the project to a next stage of development. We will accept contributions.

Wine making with non-grape materials is something that I have been involved with off and on since a very early age and one of my earliest memories is the excitement around my stepfather's rootbeer bottles when they exploded at night in the kitchen. Though it was not wine that he was making the mess did spray sticky syrup over everything. In my child's imagination I always wondered if that was why we eventually moved to another house. I also, as a young adult first out on my own remember accidentally dumping 5-gallons of elderberry mash in a kitchen of a group house where I was squatting in the swallow barn. The paying tenants were not very happy about that. I was not happy for losing all the elderberries that I had collected. (Note: Avoid confusing elderberries with water hemlock.)

Though wine is most often made with grapes, and vineyards and wineries are certainly an industry on Long Island (and where I come from is not far from the wine country of Hammandsport, NY), I enjoy making wine with unusual materials like elderberries, cantelope, grapefruit and plums. If I want wine made with grapes I can go buy it at the store.

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