Nothings as Fine as Dandelion Wine
I’ve always considered dandelion picking as a rite of passage for a child. The yellow blossoms pop up everywhere in the spring, turning overnight into wispy globes of seeds, fun for hours of blowing through the breeze. Hated by gardeners and landscapers because of their amazing ability to reproduce, the plants are hardy, seemingly impossible to kill, and were actually introduced into areas of the Midwest to feed imported honey bees. Dandelions grow best in moist soil in full sunlight, and best of all, are not only completely edible — they have a wide range of medicinal properties.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of dandelion greens, stalks, and blossoms, let me bring in to focus the topic for this week’s column; dandelion wine. How cool is it that you can take a weed that grows almost everywhere, combine it with water, yeast, and a few simple flavorings and in three short weeks get crocked? And this isn’t even a prison-style potato vodka drunk, either — dandelion wine is actually pretty good. It’s a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll all at the same dang time.
So get outside to a dandelion patch and start harvesting! Ideally, try to find a patch in a giant meadow free of pesticides, but as always urban foraging will work no problem. When picking, aim for blossoms that haven’t been treated with pesticides and don’t reside at the dog park or any other spots that might be someone’s bathroom. Try to choose blossoms that are full, soft, and completely open. Pick just the blossoms — no stems needed, and try to be cognizant of bugs, as they have no business being in wine.
I tried to find a recipe that had additional flavors added for a more full bodied wine. The one I finally chose seems well rounded and full of interesting flavors.
1 package dried yeast
1/4 cup warm water
8 cups dandelion blossoms
4 quarts water
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped orange peel
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped lemon peel
6 cups sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Set aside.
Wash the dandelion blossoms well — this may take a few rinses, but be patient. In a large pot mix all the ingredients except the yeast together. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for an hour. Strain through a fine filter (such as butter muslin or a coffee filter) and cool.
While still warm (but not hot), stir in the yeast and let stand overnight. The next day the mixture should be bubbly, frothy, and smell quite yeasty. Give it a stir and then pour into your chosen bottles. Allow uncorked bottles to set in a dark place for three weeks; then cork and store bottles in a cool place.
Four quarts of water might seem like a lot, but after an hour of boiling the mixture reduced quite a bit more than I expected. The resulting liquid after straining was a deep golden yellow, almost like an unfiltered Belgian-style beer. My wine is now aging peacefully, and should be ready for drinking before I know it.
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