Dandelion Wine is the spring classic beverage for wild food and wine lovers alike. For the past 5 years I have been telling myself “This is the year I will try my hand at wine!”, and then the Dandelion Flowers fade away with late spring and my window for gleaning has passed. I am pleased to announce that I have beaten the procrastinator and I did it.
Google has no shortage of variations on wine recipes so I wanted to record my own experience with some tips that would have been helpful for me in the beginning.
2 gallon stone crock
Cotton tea towel or cotton muslin cloth (large enough to cover opening of crock)
Medium sized strainer
8 quart (at least) pot
1 gallon or larger carboy and airlock
Empty wine bottles with corks or beer bottles with caps
1 gallon dandelion flower petals
1 large orange and 1 lemon
2 pounds sugar (white, brown, honey, or dextrose)
1 package of yeast (wine yeast – follow directions on package)
1 tsp dried ginger
Begin by collecting the flower heads of Dandelions. The first step of this process really only needs the crock, flowers, and water so you have a few days to get the other items together.
Harvesting Dandelion Flowers
It’s not as simple as just pulling off the heads from the stem! The trick is to get only the yellow petals and not (or as little) as the green sepals as possible because the green parts are quite bitter and will alter the flavor of the wine. My husband and I found two different ways to do this. The first way is mine. With my harvesting basket in hand I go out on sunny days when the flowers are in full bloom.
Side note – the Asteraceae Family have many sun loving plants including the Dandelion. They will actually open in the morning and close up at night. The fancy term for it is “sleep of plants”.
After popping off as many heads as I can in a few minutes with my basket I then grab another bowl to throw the discarded flower bits. Using my finger nails to slice the flower down the middle so that it will open flat I pinch off the petals pulling it away from the head of the flower until nothing is left but the green parts. FYI your hands will get very yellow and sticky!
Matt on the other hand used scissors (nice kitchen shears) to cut the green sepals and lower portions off leaving just the petals. His lack of fingernails made it difficult for the pinch and pull method.
It takes a lot of time and patience to get a full gallon of flower petals so my solution was to gather each evening after I came home from work and put them in a gallon size zip lock then froze the entire bag. It took me probably about 5 days to gather enough during the week then freezing to fill the entire bag full. I am lucky to have plenty of Dandelions in my yard to yield several batches of wine if so inclined. Do be sure you are harvesting from a place that is free of chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides.
Ants love Dandelions and seem to be a major pollinator. We found that if we came to a bunch of flowers crawling with ants to just leave the bowl full of freshly harvested flowers outside so that the ants disperse on their own. Formic acid (from the ants) will probably not be a great additive to the wine.
Once I gathered the full gallon of flowers I emptied the bag into my 2 gallon crock then boiled about a gallon and a half of water. Pour the boiling water over the flowers, stir, and cover with the cotton cloth. Allow the petals to infuse for 3 days.
This concludes part 1 of making Dandelion Wine. Keep an eye out for part 2!