There is a the dandelion wine recipe that has been floating around in my husband’s family for a couple generations. His grandfather fermented the wine in a large barrel—and the recipe was for a batch sufficiently large to fill that barrel. At the time of his passing in the 1970’s it had been decades since he made the wine. The remaining family had always been curious about the recipe, but perceived the volumes as too large to handle, and generally regarded home fermentation with a lot of caution and distrust. At some point in the 1990’s an attempt was made by my husband’s sister to translate the recipe into a smaller batch—when she tried fermenting it she said the results were “disgusting.” Her small batch recipe is the only version that survives.
We have a lot practice fermenting, including the particularly relevant experiences making pear wine from the fruit in our yard (look for a post on that at the end of the season after we harvest the pears)— and ever since getting into fermenting, we’ve been thinking of attempting the family dandelion wine recipe. Last year I took a stab at collecting enough flowers to execute it—but it was in summer and, upon closer inspection, all the flowers were a little buggy and unappetizing—and I decided to pass on attempting it.
This year, it was close enough to the front of my mind that those first colder weather dandelions, popping out in March, really caught my eye (and not just as a testament to poor weeding practices). Gathering them young and fresh in the cool weather, they had no bugs, and were abundantly available. An adjusted version of the small batch recipe follows.
Add 1 quart dandelion flowers to one gallon of boiling water and let stand overnight (make tea, basically).
In the morning, strain out the flowers.
Then add the rind of two oranges and one lemon and boil for 15 minutes.
Strain again to remove the rind.
Juice two oranges and one lemon into the mixture and add three cups of sugar.
When the mixture cools enough, add one packet of yeast (we used Pasteur Champagne, because it was around).
Ferment in a vessel with an air lock for no less than two weeks, until the airlock stops bubbling, then strain and bottle.
I note that this is an adjusted version of the recipe. When we examined the first small batch adaptation it called for 3 pounds of sugar. Based on experience, this sounds WAY high. A pound of granulated sugar is something like a little more than 2 cups. You need the sugar as the medium for fermentation— its what the yeast eat to produce the alcohol. There isn’t sufficient sugar in the fruit juice or dandelion flowers to carry the wine absent the sugar.
Our batch certainly took more than two weeks to finish, but it will depend on temperature and how vinous your yeast is. If you don’t know where to find wine yeast, try a local beer brewing supply shop or look online. Something fun to do is to do two batches of the recipe and use a different yeast with each to see what the difference in flavor and alcohol content is imparted by each.
As a rule, I don’t waste much time clarifying home made wine or beer—a cloth coffee filter is about as far as I’m willing to go, and a cloudy final product doesn’t bother me. If you are interested in clarifying, this is something you can ask for help with at your brewing supply store or read about elsewhere online.
Our final product was definitely fruity—but with a deep botanical, herbal backing. It had a pale color. Mildly bitter, but not as much as I expected for dandelion! Trying this in the future we will certainly adjust down the fruit additions to see what flavor of the dandelion we can get to come through. If we had the original high volume version I wouldn’t have minded trying it in carboys, though I think we would have had a hard time coming up with quite enough dandelions just from our yard.