In some areas of the country, having a lawn full of yellow dandelions would get you judgmental glances from your neighbors and a swift fine from the home owner’s association. Fortunately, I don’t live in one of those gated communities and I let the dandelions grow free, pesticide free.
Sure, at first the dandelion looks only like a ragged flower that grows back faster than any of your grass after a weekly mowing, but instead of seeing a weed I see gourmet gold. Why is that you ask? Because I know it can be used to make a delicious dandelion wine.
- 1 gallon of dandelions. Be sure they are au naturel and not coated in pesticides. If you don’t have enough to pick a gallon on your own property, city parks are typically a good place to find them since most cities don’t have the money to be spraying their grass.
- 5 lbs honey. Divided into 4lbs for fermentation and 1lb for post fermentation sweetness.
- 8 oranges.
- 4 lemons.
- 2 gallons of water.
- 1 packet of white wine yeast
1. Pick some dandelions
Go and pick a gallon of dandelions. You want to be sure to only pick the yellow heads and not the tall green stalk. The green undersides that the yellow petals are attached to are OK to keep.
2. Make some dandelion tea
Add your 1 gallon of dandelions to 2 gallons of boiling water. Cover, and let steep for 24–48 hours, or until the flowers sink to the bottom of the water.
3. Add some honey and citrus
Strain the dandelion tea made from the step above. Add it back to pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in 4 lbs of honey, the juice of 8 oranges, and the juice of 4 lemons. Turn off the heat and let it cool.
4. Cool, pitch, and aerate
While the must is cooling to 80 degrees fahrenheit, add the packet of wine yeast to a cup of 90–100 degree fahrenheit water. Stir in a little bit of sugar and let it sit. Keep waiting until the dandelion must cools (a wort chiller or a sink full of ice water can help here) and then once it reaches 80F, pour the must into a carboy. Choose a carboy that is barely bigger than the volume of your wine, otherwise the extra room for air in the carboy will cause the wine to oxidize and taste bad. Once the wine must is in the carboy, pitch the yeast and tip the carboy back and forth to aerate.
5. Wait for fermentation
Add an airlock and stopper to your carboy and move it to a cool place out of direct sunlight. Optimally, the location will be around 68–70F. I find that basements work pretty well. In 18–24 hours, you should notice the must begin to ferment, and CO2 bubbles being rapidly released through the airlock. If after 48 hours you are not seeing any activity, get some new yeast and create a starter with it, then repitch it into the carboy. Once the bubbling activity has stopped (typically 7–14 days), you are ready to bottle.
Before cracking open the carboy of fermented wine, make a simple syrup by boiling 1 part honey to 1 part water (for this recipe I used about 2 cups of honey and two cups of water). This honey simple syrup will be used to sweeten the final wine to taste.
Instead of dealing with wine bottles and corks, I like putting my wine in glass canning jars. Clean and sanitize your jars and lids and then fill each jar with 100ml of the honey syrup. Next, using an auto-siphon or a bottle filler, fill the jars with wine (leaving any sediment at the bottom of the carboy), leaving as little empty space as possible in the jar because we want to minimize any oxidation. Once filled to the brim, cover the jar with a square of wax paper and then twist on the lid. The wax paper protects the wine from absorbing any metallic flavors from the jar lid.
It’s best to store your dandelion wine in a cool dark place, like a refrigerator. Avoid storing the wine in direct sunlight. Additionally, avoid storing the wine in a warm area since any remaining yeast could become active again and cause a second fermentation to occur. If this were to happen, it’s possible that the glass jars might explode (since they will be under pressure from additional CO2 build up)!
Originally published at bertwagner.com on June 10, 2014.