It has been a fast paced spring so far and I’ve barely been able to keep up. Between working, searching for full time employment, home projects, lots of volunteer work, friends/family, and getting my garden going, there’s been lots of ideas for posts, but little time for fruition.
However, there’s some fruition going on in my cupboard right now. A few weeks ago it was still quite chilly outside. One weekend it rained a lot and the next day there were warm temperatures and lots of sun. All of the yellow speckles known as dandelions bloomed overnight. I was at my grandmother’s with my mom, and we were outside walking the dogs in the yard. I noticed how all these spots of yellow had appeared! I had been wanting to make dandelion wine for a while, and I decided on a whim to go ahead and pluck all the blooms I could. I first read about dandelion wine in a music magazine, Arthur (May 2008). So there was me, my mom, and grandmother all picking the blooms off dandelions. I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what we were doing.
What you will need…
- 3/4 gallon dandelion blooms
- 3 pounds sugar
- yeast & yeast nutrient if you have it
- 4 oranges
- sharp peeler
- 2 large pots
- siphon or large turkey baster
- wine vessel or mason jars
A gallon of blooms was all about we could collect before getting tired. After getting home that night, I went through and cut off as much of the green parts of the bloom as I could. This is supposed to make the wine less bitter. I then followed this recipe from Jack Keller’s Winemaking page. I used a combination of recipes #1 & #2.
I had 3/4 gallon of blooms after removing the green parts, which is 3 quarts. I used a plastic ice cream bucket to measure them. I brought 1 gallon of water to a boil, stirred in the yellow blooms and turned off the heat. I covered the pot and let it sit for 48 hours, stirring a couple of times each day. It smelled like wet grass, but didn’t smell bad (I was a little worried!).
After the 48 hours I used a sharp peeler and peeled 4 oranges very thinly. I saved the juice from the oranges in a separate bowl. I brought the dandelion juice to a boil for 10 minutes. I used a mesh strainer to strain the juice from the blooms into a separate pot. The spent blooms went into the compost. I cleaned the pot and added 3 pounds of sugar, having it mounded in the center. I added back the dandelion juice and allowed the sugar to mostly dissolve on its own while cooling off. Once mostly cooled (around 110 degrees), I stirred to dissolve the rest of the sugar, added the orange juice and yeast. It smelled like honey! I followed the back of the yeast packet instructions to see how much to add. I barely had to add any and it was tough to measure out the small increment. The packet costed less than $1 at my local liqueur store that sold alcohol making supplies. I didn’t find yeast nutrient though. I asked my friend who makes wine, and he said this yeast is fine, it is just a slower fermenting yeast and made for floral white wines.
I didn’t have a large glass vessel, so I bottled the wine in quart size mason jars. I allowed it to sit for a couple of weeks. I could see all these bubbles in the wine moving to the top. After a week, I could begin to see sludge on the bottom of the jars. The instructions says to rack the wine after the liquid is clear. Racking the wine simply means to clean off the clear part of the liquid from the debris that falls to the bottom (fruit debris/dead yeast). I thought it looked pretty sludgy, so I went ahead and racked it. I did this after 2 weeks of sitting. When I opened the jars, it smelled like champagne! To rack, I poured off the tops into a clean pitcher (I slightly sterilized the pitcher with really hot tap water). I used a turkey baster to draw out as much liquid from the bottom without mixing up the sludge. You typically use a specific siphon for this. I then cleaned out its original jar and sterilized it a bit (hot tap water) and poured the wine back in after drying with a clean towel and the jar had cooled off a bit. I don’t think you have to do this step…but again it’s supposed to make it more pure and less bitter.
The directions says the wine will be good for drinking after 6 months of sitting, but will be best after a year. I suppose I’ll be able to drink this next Earth Day! That is if I did everything right! Could dandelion wine be the answer to all of our weed problems? Maybe I’ll read Ray Bradbury’s fiction novel “Dandelion Wine” while sipping the wine!