Byzantium, I come not from,
But from another time and place
Whose race was simple, tried and true;
I dropped me forth in Illinois.
A name with neither love nor grace
Was Waukegan, there I came from
And not, good friends, Byzantium.
And yet in looking back I see
From topmost part of farthest tree
A land as bright, beloved and blue
As any Yeats found to be true.
So it is that Mr. Ray Bradbury describes life in his hometown. I purchased the book “Dandelion Wine” a few years ago seeking out a master story teller, (hoping for a teacher) and expecting an adventure. I’m happy to say that I found all of these things as well as an unusual amount of nostalgia.
My hometown is far more colorful and aromatic than Waukegan though I doubt I’ll ever present it as artfully as Mr. Bradburry. In reading “Dandelion Wine” I realized how blessed I was as a child.
I’ll not let this blessing go unsung. (Even if the song isn’t a pleasant one) I’ll write.
In the meantime; while visiting my parents this Easter weekend, my sister and I spent about an hour harvesting the ingredients required to make a batch of Dandelion wine. It takes three, maybe four weeks to cure and so I’ll have to wait until then to say if this recipe was successful or not. It seems to have gained a more pleasant smell over the past few days.
Here is the recipe we used to make our Dandelion Wine; (and though the recipe doesn’t explicitly call for it, I suggest a reading of Mr. Bradburry’s book just prior to mixing the ingredients):
INGREDIENTS: (For 1 gallon of Dandelion Wine)
1 package dried yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 quarts (half gallon) of Dandelion blossoms
4 quarts water
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped orange peel
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped lemon peel
6 cups of sugar
Dissolve the yeast into the 1/4 cup of warm water and set it aside.
Wash the Dandelion blossoms really good. Many ants or otherwise nefarious insects will object strongly at this point, however you must stay true to the recipe and carry through with a proper washing.
Get a large pot capable of holding the 4 quarts of water. Mix in the orange, lemon and lime juices. Add the dandelions. Add the cloves, ginger, orange and lemon peel, and sugar. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling it for an hour.
After the hour is up…pour the mixture through a series of filters to make sure you get all the specks out. We used cheese cloth and coffee filters though the coffee filters will take up a lot of time.
While it is still warm (but not TOO hot…) stir in the yeast.
Let the solution stand overnight then pout it into bottles (or mason jars) the next morning. Let it sit for three weeks with access to air. After three weeks you can cork it, or close it up tight.
Enjoy, and hopefully the wine will help various memories from your hometown come flooding over you like the ghostly whale-winds that swim through the forests of Illinois.