It’s almost time to start making rhubarb wine again, and I’ve been busy sterilizing my carboys (old wine jugs) and laying in fermentation lock parts (balloons and big rubber bands). But meanwhile, the rain (we’re having an unusually wet spring again in Blue Wyoming) has brought out bumper crops of dandelions! And the town hasn’t started spraying for mosquitoes yet (which coats the plants in pesticides even if you’re not trying to poison them yourself)! And the rhubarb here needs a few more weeks to grow, so…
I’m going to try making dandelion wine!
This is my first time trying, so I’m following the recipe as exactly as I can. Here’s about a quart of dandelion blossoms.
- 1 quart dandelion blossoms, rinsed well and patted dry
- 4 quarts water
- 2 1/4 tsps/one package active dry yeast, like you’d use for bread
- 1/2 cup warm water, to wake up your yeast in
- 1 orange, peel and all
- 1 lemon, peel and all
- 1 lb. raisins
- 6 cups white sugar
- A good stock pot
- A sieve or strainer
- A batter bowl or other big plastic or glass bowl
- Cheesecloth or coffee filters
- A small bowl in which to proof your yeast
- A funnel for decanting
- A big glass jug to ferment in
- A good-sized balloon and a big rubber band, or a fermentation lock that fits your jug snugly
- Bottles for the finished product
1. First, you need to trim the green stuff off your blossoms. I found this easiest to do after they’d been partially frozen. You don’t have to get every single bit of green off them, but get what you can. The green bits, I’m told, can make the wine bitter. But they’re great in your compost pile!
This is my own dear personal mom cleaning up a small harvest of blossoms. Note the lack of green in the lower portion of the tray. She’s better at this than I.
2. Pour those lovely yellow petals into your pot, add four quarts of water, and bring it to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Doesn’t it look appetizing?
3. While you make what’s essentially dandelion blossom tea, measure your sugar and cut up the orange and the lemon into pieces small enough to fit through the opening of your carboy.
4. Once your blossoms are done boiling, kill the heat.Line a sieve/strainer with cheesecloth or a big coffee filter. Strain out the blossoms into a big bowl. I like a batter bowl for this for easier decanting later, but use what you’ve got!
Again, super appetizing, innit?
Note: my batter bowl isn’t quite enough to hold all the liquid, so I used two. The second is only about 1/3 full.
Lots of dandelion tea! I don’t know how drinkable it is at this stage. We’ll see if my tea goddess Kee-Hawk at Desert Sage Naturals has an opinion in the comments…
5. Let the liquid cool to a bit above room temperature. And, speaking of room temperature, if like me you keep your yeast in a jar in the fridge, now’s a good time to measure out what you need and let it warm up to room temp. You want it to be ready to start eating sugars when it’s time to combine, but you don’t want to kill it by adding it to hot tea!
6. When the tea is no longer scalding hot (the bowl should feel a bit warm to the touch), it’s time to wake up the yeast. To a 1/2 cup of warm (not hot!) water, add a pinch of sugar and the yeast. Let stand until foamy.
7. Now for the fun part. I had to do this in two batches because of the volume, so had to try to divide the sugar (easy) and the fruit (not as easy). Then add proportional sugar and yeast mixture to each volume of tea. Stir it to dissolve the sugar.
8. At this stage, if you’re using a jug like mine, you need to decant the now sweet and yeasty tea into your fermentation vessel. My recipe would have me adding the fruit before decanting, but it’s hard to get that through the bottleneck! So, I filled my jug to about 3/4, then plopped in a proportional amount of raisins and pieces of orange and lemon. The raisins (yeast nutrient) will sink to the bottom, the citrus (acid to discourage bacteria and also for flavor balance, I think) floats on top. When you’re happy with the amounts (and you’ve cleaned up a bit), grab a balloon and a rubber band. Pierce its tip with a pin, then stretch the balloon over the mouth of your jug. Secure it with a rubber band and it’s ready to go!
Now comes the dull-but-hopeful part. This needs to sit for two weeks in a dark, cool place. Once a day, it needs a good shake to agitate everything.
I wound up with more liquid, etc. than one jug would hold, but there wasn’t nearly enough to fill another jug this size, so I improvised. Some is in a flip-top bottle, closed but not sealed, and some is in a cleaned and sterilized spaghetti sauce jar with a pierced balloon and rubber band. Here is their home for the next two weeks, my hall closet.
See you in two weeks, when it’s time to strain and bottle!
Update: After two weeks in my fermentation closet, I pulled out the carboy, strained out the fruit, and gave everything a look, sniff and taste. The liquid looked like orange juice — i.e., cloudy, smelled very yeasty, and was still producing visible bubbles. Not done yet! The raisins and orange slices were completely sour and the liquid still tasted sweet, so I decided to do a secondary ferment. I strained and then decanted the wine-to-be into some new bottles and gave them another week. Today I checked them again and they’re still going, so I’m giving them another week in the closet. It’s been a chilly June so far, so I’m thinking that might have slowed the yeast down a bit. Stay tuned!
Second update; after two weeks of secondary fermentation, I pulled it out of the closet and poured a glass. It’s still slightly cloudy but no longer smells of yeast and it’s eminently drinkable, slightly sweet and just a tad effervescent. The finish is great!