Dandelions

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wine Making part 3: Racking and Bottling the Dandelion Wine

The final and best step of my wine making project is the racking and bottling ( and of course tasting)  of the final project. This has really been the most fun thing I have learned in years and I hope that you try it too. If you missed the previous posts her are the links to see the entire process. Dandelion wine, and Wine Making part 2.

At the end of my last wine post we finished mixing the ingredients for making the wine and starting the fermentation process. The wine looked and smell sweet and we were waiting the ten days to taste test and check the alcohol levels.

So this short post starts at the ten-day mark and goes through getting the sediment out of the wine and bottling and ageing the wine. Working with about 3 gallons is the perfect amount of wine if you want to make just one case of wine. A case of 12 bottles is the most cost-effective  way to buy your bottles either mail order or from a local retailer. You get enough wine to drink and share and can keep the box to store the wine in. I like to keep information on the box such as the kind of wine the date made and anything new that you try out on that batch.

case of wine box with information written on it

case of wine box with information written on it

 

As you will see I bought screw cap bottles and there are pros and cons to this.. They do not store as well as bottles that are “corked” and need  stored in a way that the tops do not become damaged. In my case storing them in the box takes care of this problem. I also bought these because I am a beginner and wanted to reuse the bottles and caps if I make a huge batch of dandelion vinegar. If that happens I could just open the tops and pour the vinegar down the drain and start a new batch. I also did not want to by an expensive bottle corking device and a hundred corks at a time. I spent about$ 1.50 more on the case to get the screw tops and can order more of the tops if they get broken or do not seal well.  I got most of my supplies from Northernbrewer.com .

The first step before bottling is to rack the wine to help remove sediment that collects at the bottom of the Primary carboy while the fermentation is going on. Most wines need racking at lest three times, we did our two times and I am sure that in the future I will do all  three racking processes. In our case we placed the carboy on the counter the night before we wanted to bottle so that anything we stirred up with moving the bottle would have time to resettle over the nine hours we slept.

The next morning bright and early I got up and washed all the bottles, lids, siphon hose, two buckets and hydrometer with hot soapy water and rinsed them all in a sanitize water mixture.

washing wine bottles with a large bottle brush

washing wine bottles with a large bottle brush

While letting everything dry, Tom and I got our siphon hose ready to use. The trick to racking the wine is that you do not want the hose to sit on the bottom of the carboy and suck up all the must that is left on the bottom of the bottle. We rigged up a way to keep the hose from moving loosely around the bottle. We attached the hose with zip ties to a piece of washed wood and placed the hose about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the wood molding.The bottom of our bottle has ridges and traps a large amount of the sediment makes racking quite easy.

Wood molding with hose zip tied to side

Wood molding with hose zip tied to side

 

The next step is to siphon the wine from the carboy into a bucket to check the taste, alcohol content and remove the sediment. It does not take long to fill the bucket and do a taste and alcohol test with the hydrometer. The wine was running at about 10.5% alcohol at this point and was still fermenting and smelled yeasty. So Tom and I returned the remainder of the wine with out the sediment back into the carboy for about 4 more days.

carboy with wine, First stage of racking and checking alcohol

carboy with wine, First stage of racking and checking alcohol

At 4 days  we  retested everything. The wine tasted better, smelled less yeasty, and the alcohol content was up to about 11.0% so we were pretty happy. I suggested that we go a head and bottle knowing that the yeast was almost done as the bubbling had all most stopped by day 14. If you plan to bottle at this point I suggest that you add two or three more campdon tablets to the wine to stop the fermentation process and make sure all of your equipment is sterile before bottling. I forgot this step and may regret it in a few months.

Next we took one  bucket and placed it full of wine on the counter and placed one on the floor empty. Inside the empty bucket I placed one of the empty bottles that  we washed and a sanitized. I siphoned a little wine into the hose and began filling the bottles inside the bucket to prevent a huge mess on the floor if I spilled. Pinching off the tube when the bottle was with in an inch of the neck ring. I repeat this process over and over until I had all twelve bottles full. Then I added twist tops and washed the bottles before storage.

finished Dandelion wine

finished Dandelion wine

I put a date on the top of each bottle and at some point will make labels for the wine that I plan to give away as gifts. The bottles will need to rest about 6 months to get the full flavor of all the ingredients blended. So these bottles return to their box case and head down stairs for the summer. I will also know how much more sediment will appear at that point and see what I can do better with the racking process. The wine should retain the cloudy yellow appearance even after aging. So this is one of the few non clear wines I will be making.

For memorial day we did open one of the bottles and share it with my son and his wife. I enjoyed the wine but found it almost to sweet even after using the Hydrometer to help control the dry/sweet mixture. I noticed that when opening the bottle that their was some pressure in the bottle that indicates that my wine was still fermenting in the bottles. This is the mistake I made not adding the campdon tablets. Hopefully in six months,it will taste  less sweet as the yeast finishes up its job in the bottles and finish off with a nice 11.5 alcohol content.

The worry with bottling still fermenting wine is two fold. First the wine may continue to ferment and not be able to release the CO2 anywhere and may explode the bottles or caps( what a huge mess) and it is possible that this mixture may not stop at wine and may continue to change into Vinegar, wasting my efforts. I will let you all know what happens in about 6 months!

Thanks for following along on my journey to learn more about how fermentation works and what we can do with it. I have learned so much so far and hope to move on to pickled beets and pickles next if my garden allows. Then maybe around the end of summer a batch of water melon wine for New Years. Something is always cooking here at Mountain Mama so join in.

Categories: country cooking, Dandelions, fermentation, home brewing, Uncategorized, wine | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wine Making part 2: Dandelion Wine the Fermentation.

As all of you should know by now my New Years Resolution  was to learn more about and try to make fermented foods and drinks.   So far, I have learned to make  sauerkraut ( Toms family has made it for years so I had a lot of help on that one)  and now wine. There are several others I want to do like brine pickles, pickled beets ( I love these and have made them before) and maybe if time allows yogurt and farmer cheese. The items I am making are in the order of availability. Dandelions are everywhere so this just made sence to use for my first wine project. I  Have already posted about the equipment needed for this project and you can find them at preparations for Dandelion wine making part 1. In this post I will cover the ingredients and steps to get you through fermentation and the next post will cover racking and bottling and ageing.

After gathering your equipment and washing everything  and sanitizing it (I use a store-bought cleaner that has a chlorine base but does not taste like it) your carboy, funnel and buckets are ready to collect the needed flowers of  Dandelions.

just opening dandelion flower

just opening dandelion flower

 

Christopher picking Dandelions with a plastic kife

Christopher picking Dandelions with a plastic knife

We collected about 4 quarts of flowers that day,enough for my recipe that calls for 1 quart of flower petals to every gallon of wine. I was hoping to make about 3 gallons of wine this time.

After picking you need to remove any of the green that is still attached to the petals. Things like the stem and base of the flower. If you do not remove them they will give the wine a bitter after taste. I sat on the back porch cleaned the flowers for about an hour. This is the hardest part of the process and the most time-consuming. When finished I had Three quarts of very nice petals with very few green leaves mixed in.

Dandelion Petals

Dandelion Petals

I rinsed the flowers and tossed them around to make sure I had no full flowers that Christopher had been playing with on the porch or any bugs or leaves in the batch. I then heated about two gallons of water on the stove until a slow boil. Then poured the hot water over the petals in a five gallon bucket. Letting this mixture sit covered  for 2 or 3 days. Making the tea we will need to make the wine.

3 quarts dandelion petals with 2 gallons hot water. to make the "tea"

3 quarts dandelion petals with 2 gallons hot water. to make the “tea”

After three days I strained the tea throw a fine sieve that you saw in the top post getting almost every petal out. This made a nice yellow tea that is the base for the wine.

Strained Dandelion tea

Strained Dandelion tea

To  this tea, I added my fruit, spices, water, Campden tablets and sugar.

The first thing I added was a half a gallon of water…. I will be adding more later and some apple juice.

The fruit I am using are for flavor more than anything. Citrus fruit does not ferment fast or easy but it does add the acidity that you need for good flavor. My recipe calls for 1 lemon and 3 oranges . I add them and 1 box ( 2  1/2 cups) of white raisins to the tea. The raisins provide a nice flavor and a nutrient base for the yeast to grown on. I Also add 2 cups of 100% apple juice for the same reason as the raisins. At this time I also add spices to the tea. I use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. I love mulled wine so I just thought I would save myself a step an add the spices into the wine, just a personal preference here.

Lemon, Orange and white raisins for a golden wine

Lemon, Orange and white raisins for a golden wine

 

100% apple juice as a nutrient starter for yeast adding more gold color

100% apple juice as a nutrient starter for yeast adding more gold color

Campden tablets get crushed and added to wine mixture

Campden tablets get crushed and added to wine mixture

cinnamon stick for flavore in wine

cinnamon stick for flavor in wine

Now lets talk about the Campden tablets for a second, They stop wild yeast growth and lots of bacteria and sanitize your wine, they help to remove chlorine and other water additives. I used filtered bottled water for my wine but if you use tap water this will help remove the flavor. My easy to fallow rule is one tablet for 1 gallon of wine. I Crushed and added them to the tea and fruit mixture to kill any wild yeast that could be growing on the fruit.Wild yeast loves over ripe fruit so do not use it as it could turn the wine you are working so hard to make into a nice rotten batch of vinegar. Stopping the wild yeast also lets you introduce the type of yeast you want for wine making.  You can certainly use regular old bread yeast to make wine but if you want to make the best tasting wine it is better to use a yeast for your type of wine. Also Campen tablets let you control the length of fermentation better. You know when you add the yeast and how much yeast, rather than letting wild yeast control you.  So adding the tablets now stops any strange bacteria and yeast growth that you may have accidentally added to your brew and you start out with a nice clean fresh product to add the  Montrachet yeast to. You should add the Campden tablets at least 24 hours before adding the yeast.

The next and most messy is adding the sugar that the yeast will have to convert into alcohol. The general rule is 4 cups sugar  per gallon of wine. In my case I added twelve cups of sugar to the tea and then took a measurement with a tool for wine making called a hydrometer.This is a way to measure the sugar content in the wine and  project alcohol level of the wine after fermentation. They are a complex tool and you may want to learn more about how to use all the things they can do. The tool is also used in beer and liquor making.

Hydrometer flouting in the tea mixture

Hydrometer flouting in the tea mixture

Thermometer and Hydrometer

Thermometer and Hydrometer

After taking the reading off the hydrometer I went to the included chart and 1.09 specific gravity = dry wine and we wanted something a little sweeter so I needed a specific gravity around 1.11 to 1.14, sweet wine runs 1.15 to 1.17. I measured in at 1.10 so with 12 cups of sugar I was low for the sweetness I was looking for.My projected alcohol count was to low also  at about 8%. We need more sugar to make a product that was med-sweet and had an alcohol content of 12%. So I added 4 more cups of sugar, mixing them in two at a time and taking a measurement each time.My final product was 1.130 specific gravity and projected alcohol content a little high at 14%. I will adjust the alcohol content later at bottling by adding water to the mixture to reach the exact amount of alcohol in the batch if that is a concern. Since this is a home-made batch it will not matter too much as I am not selling this in the retail market.

Organges, Lemons, spices and raisins are added to the tea

Oranges, Lemons, spices and raisins added to the tea

Now that we have added all of our flavorings to the tea, the half gallon of water, the campden tablets, and almost ten pounds of sugar to the tea, we are ready to let this mixture sit for about 48 hours.This steeps the raisins and spices flavor into the tea/sugar mixture. This also gives the campden tablets time to kill any wild yeast  before adding in the my wine yeast.

So two to three days later I open up my bucket and see this.

soaked raisins oranges and lemons floating in tea

soaked raisins oranges and lemons floating in tea

The mixture is ready for yeast and getting the fermentation started.

To get the yeast ready I placed 2 cups warm water in a measuring cup with a thermometer and looked for a temperature between 100 degrees and 105 degrees. I opened the package of yeast and dumped it into the water, mixed and waited for the yeast to get frothy, around ten minutes. I then add it to my bucket of fruit and tea and mixed well. The tea will start to bubble very shortly after adding the yeast.  

warm water with thermometer and yeast

warm water with thermometer and yeast

I got my yeast off the internet from northernbrewer.com a nice med to dry wine yeast that can handle higher amounts of alcohol. Yeast will eventually die from too much alcohol.This one is good up to 13 % alcohol per volume, table wine is usually 12% and home-brew is usually about 14% if you like a sweeter wine higher if you like a dryer wine. We are hoping for an alcohol percent about 12%. I also bought my campen tablets, air lock, bottles and other supplies at this website.

This bubbly frothy mixture we now need to strain out of the “primary” ferment container into the “Secondary” or Carboy bottle. I just took a slotted spoon and pulled out the larger pieces of fruit and spices then strained the remaining tea mixture through a muslin fruit straining bag over my funnel. Get a large one if you hope to make other fruit wines or jelly this one is a med size and would have worked better if it was just a little bigger.

straining the fruit must from the new wine

straining the fruit must from the new wine

Now remove the funnel and add a universal bunghole with an hole and the air lock itself.

bunghole and airlock in place

bunghole and airlock in place

Fill the airlock half way with water to allow for the Co2 to escape and to prevent air from entering the bottle.  Again you do not want any wild yeast or germs or bugs into the wine.With in just minutes of moving this bottle to its hiding place it began to move the water in the air lock into one side of the tubes and was bubbling out Co2 out the top.Within hours our home was about 72 degrees and the bubbling was constant.

 

carboy with airlock hidden away under my kitchen counter

carboy with airlock hidden away under my kitchen counter

I placed the “secondary”  carboy under my kitchen counter. It is out of the families way and in the shade from the sun. Ten days from now I can taste a nip and do another check with my hydrometer to see if all the sugar is gone and to see what % of alcohol we have. If I hit 14% we know that we are at the end of fermentation.

The next post at the end of the ten days will be about racking the wine and bottling it. This is the final steps in the process and then ageing the wine about 6 months to a year in recommended.

 

 

Here is my recipe for Dandelion wine

 

16 cups of sugar ( about ten pounds)

2 1/2 gallons filtered water, two cups warm water for yeast

3 quarts dandelion petals. We picked about 4 to get this

3 oranges

1 lemon

2 1/2 cup golden raisins… or one box

2 cups apple juice

2 cinnamon sticks

20 whole cloves

1 packet powered wine yeast

3 campden tablets

and fallow the above directions…

Thank you for stopping by this  is my most exciting project of the year.Hope you enjoy it as much as I have making it!

 

Categories: Dandelions, fermentation, Foraging, home brewing, organic drinks, wild food, wine | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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