Once when I was in my early 20s, I made some dandelion wine. I didn’t realize that if you don’t “rack it off” and leave some room or a special device on the top for fermentation, it explodes. My father made that perfectly clear when I visited after a month or so after leaving 5 bottles of it in his basement. Apparently, it is also very sticky and hard to clean up.
I never was good at reading all the directions.
Luckily for me, my kids are smarter than I was and bought the little thing to let it ferment without exploding, and they rack off the wine a few times before bottling it. And by “they” I mean me and them. I helped my daughter with it this weekend and lost two bottles of wine because one batch was too low in the bottle (called a carboy), so we needed to put some wine in. There went a nice bottle of Chardonnay and a Traminette of mine. What’s a mother for?
It reminded me of a book I bought both of my daughters called “A Book of Directions” by Kate McNair when they were teenagers. It makes me very melancholy to read any part of it now – one of their copies is still up in their bedroom. I don’t think it’s in print now, but it is a funny and touching collection of stories written in or about 1970 from the perspective of various teenage girls as they encounter some typical teen life experiences. It’s mildly humorous too, as the author has a nice light touch, and it lets your kids know that what they are feeling as teenagers is normal – they are not alone. There are some things that are pretty universal.
No, there was no wine making but the book ends with a story where a daughter is asking her mom why she didn’t tell her exactly how to do something and watched her daughter make some mistakes. The mom answers with, “We all have to find our own way. It isn’t done with maps or a book of directions. We find our way, finally, with our heart.”
I just kept thinking how glad I am that the girls found their own way with wine making and that they followed someone’s directions. Otherwise, I would be cleaning up a 25 gallons of sticky half-fermented grape juices that would have blown all over the place.
On the positive side, I would have had the Chardonnay and Traminette to console myself.