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Even though dandelion wine takes hard work and patience to make, the reward is a sweetly fragrant sip of summer that will be ready to warm you during winter’s darkest days. Crain adapted her formula from the recipe below, excerpted with permission from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation.
Ingredients (for 1 gallon)
1 gallon flowers in full bloom
2 lbs.. (4 cups) sugar
2 lemons (organic, because you will use the peel)
2 oranges (organic, because you will use the peel)
1 lb. raisins (golden raisins will preserve the dandelion’s light hue better than dark raisins)
1⁄2 cup berries (for wild yeast) or 1 packet wine yeast
As a general guideline, pick about a gallon of flowers per gallon of wine you intend to make. If you cannot gather this many in a single outing, freeze what you gather until you accumulate enough. Be sure to pick flowers from places that have not been sprayed, which usually means not roadsides.
1. As much as possible, separate flower petals from the base of the blossoms, which can impart bitter flavors. With dandelions this can be a tedious project.
2. Reserving about 1/2 cup to add later in the process, place the flower petals in a crock with the sugar, the juice and thinly peeled rinds of the lemons and oranges (to add acidity), and the raisins (to introduce astringent tannins). Then pour 1 gallon of boiling water over these ingredients, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover the crock to keep flies away, and leave to cool to body temperature.
3. Once the mixture cools, add the reserved flower petals and berries to introduce wild yeasts. (Or to use commercial yeast, remove 1 cup of the cooled mixture, dissolve a packet of yeast into it, and once it starts to bubble vigorously add it to the crock.) Cover the crock, and stir as often as you think of it, for 3 to 4 days.
4. Strain out the solids through a clean cheesecloth and squeeze moisture out of the flowers. Then transfer liquid to a carboy or jug with an airlock, and ferment about 3 months, until fermentation slows.
5. Siphon into a clean vessel and ferment for at least 6 months more before bottling.
6. Age bottles at least 3 months to mellow wine; even longer is better.