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You’ve heard the motivational phrase about making lemonade from lemons. Well, what about making wine out of weeds? Literally.
The next time you see a fresh crop of dandelions spreading across your lawn, don’t think about how you are going to kill them. Instead, think about the great wine you are going to make out of them.
If this sounds a little crazy, let me assure you it is not. Dandelion wine is a time-tested, well-loved beverage that is made from those pervasive weeds. And, what’s more, it is pretty easy to make.
Thought to be of Celtic origin, dandelion wine is regarded as a European country wine. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, when it was considered improper for ladies to drink alcohol, dandelion wine was recommended as an acceptable medicinal wine for the kidneys and digestive system.
If you need more convincing, dandelion is high in calcium, vitamin A and protein.
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The Internet is rife with dandelion wine recipes – some of which have been passed down through the generations — clearly showing that there is no one true way to make the stuff. Some use the whole flower heads only (no petals), some use flower heads and greenery but no stalks, some use flower heads, greenery and stalks, and still others only use the flower petals. However, they all have dandelions — lots of dandelions — and some form of sweetener.
Wine made from dandelion petals (rather than the whole head) has a gentler taste and is more aromatic than wine made from the whole heads. Wine made from the whole heads has a heavier taste because of a higher concentration of tannin. The choice, then, is a taste preference and a timesaving preference. Plucking the petals is time-intensive, after all.
Dandelion wine is light tasting and lacks body for some wine drinkers. Therefore, many recipes call for bodybuilding ingredients, such as raisins, dates, figs or even rhubarb. How much sugar you add in the wine-making process determines whether the end product is dry, semi-sweet or sweet.
How to Harvest Dandelions
Dandelions tend to close up at night, so your best bet is to choose a hot, dry sunny afternoon to pick your dandelions. Avoid flowers that are damp or wet.
Arm yourself with a bucket, because you need about a gallon of flower heads to make a gallon of wine. If you are just using flower heads, pluck off the heads and gently place them in the bucket. If necessary, you can pick your dandelions over the course of a few days, but store them in the freezer until you have enough flowers for the amount of wine you want to make.
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If you have small children, you can enlist their help. Kids enjoy picking dandelions, and they can help cut down on the bending you would have to do if you tackle the project alone.
Here are three recipes for making your own homemade dandelion wine:
1. Recipe one
- 3 qt dandelion blossoms
- 1 gal water
- 2 oranges, with peel
- 1 lemon, with peel
- 3 pounds sugar
- 1 package wine yeast
- 1 lb raisins
- Sterilized bottles and corks
1) Collect the blossoms when they are fully open on a sunny day.
2) Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the flowers in a large pot. Cover pot and let steep for three days.
3) Slice fruit and make zest from peels.
4) Add orange and lemon zest to the flower-water mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, strain out solids, then add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved. Let cool.
5) Add orange and lemon slices, yeast and raisins to the liquid. Cover mixture with a loose lid to ferment.
6) When the mixture has stopped bubbling, which can take up to a week, the fermentation process is complete. Strain the liquid through cheesecloth and then transfer to sterilized bottles. Place a deflated balloon over the top of each bottle to monitor fermentation. If the balloon remains deflated for 24 hours, the fermentation process is complete.
7) Cork the bottles and store them in a cool, dark place for six months or more before drinking.
2. Recipe two
- Half-gallon dandelion flowers
- 2 oranges, juice and thinly sliced peels
- 1 lemon, juice and thinly sliced peels
- Small piece of ginger root
- 1-1/2 lbs sugar
- 1/2 oz yeast
1) Place flowers in a large pot or crock and pour a half gallon of boiling water over them, making sure they are completely covered with water.
2) Cover pot and steep for three days.
3) After three days, strain the flowers from the liquid and then squeeze flowers to get all their juice.
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4) Pour mixture into a cooking pot. Add ginger root, lemon and orange juice and zest.
5) Add sugar and gradually boil mixture for 20 minutes.
6) Pour liquid back into the rock and let cool. Add the yeast.
7) Pour mixture into a fermenting jug that is fitted with an airlock. Wine will ferment in six days to three weeks.
8) When the fermentation process is complete, transfer liquid to sterilized bottles with caps or corks. Let bottles stand for six months.
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3. Recipe Three
- 1 qt dandelion petals
- ¾ lb chopped golden raisins
- 2 lbs granulated sugar
- 3 lemons, both juice and zest
- 3 oranges, both juice and zest
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 7½ pts water
- Activated wine yeast
1) Pluck petals from dandelions.
2) Pour boiling water over dandelion petals into a sterile glass jug or food grade bucket.
3) After 2 hours, strain and discard petals.
4) Return water to heat and bring to low boil.
5) Add juice and sugar, stirring well to dissolve.
6) Add zest and chopped raisins.
7) Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
8) When mixture reaches room temperature, stir in yeast nutrient and activated yeast. Cover pot.
9) Stir three times per day for about 10 days to two weeks.
10) Strain mixture into secondary fermenter with a snug airlock.
11) After three weeks, transfer the liquid part (leaving the sediment) into another sanitized fermenter. Fill to top with sterile water and reattach the airlock device.
12) When the wine clears, wait 30 days and then top up and refit airlock device. Age wine at least six to 12 months.
If you would like to read more about how to make dandelion wine, here are a few good resources:
- Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines by Helen S. Wright, published by Press Holdings International, 2001.
- The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012
- Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, published by Storey Publishing, 2014
Have you ever made dandelion wine? What tips would you add? Share your advice in the section below:
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