Are Dandelions taking over your yard? Put those weeds to good use and make Dandelion Wine.
For years I have heard about Dandelion Wine and have wanted to make it. this year I finally attempted it and I was super impressed and glad I did! Dandelion Wine is a sweet dessert wine, made with dandelion petals, lemons and oranges; It tastes like summer in a glass. It is a bit time consuming brewing the wine, but it is well worth the effort! The recipe yield about 5 gallons of wine or about 24 wine bottles.
- 10.5 ounces of Dandelion Petals
- 4 Oranges
- 2 Lemon
- 13 pounds granulated sugar
- 2 packets of Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast EC-1118
(All this equipment can be purchased online or better yet, go visit your local homebrew store. They are fun to visit and the people there are generally a wealth of knowledge. In Colorado I love Quirky Homebrew and The Brew Hut
Step 1: Picking Dandelion Flowers
Step 1 is, by far, the most easy and most enjoyable of the process. Emily and I found a side ditch/canal where there were a bunch of dandelions growing (fortunately and unfortunately my yard doesn’t have nearly enough to pick to make this wine). We filled a rubbermaid tub about half way up. 10.5 ounces of petals equates to quite a lot of flower heads.
Step 2: Washing the Flowers
I filled my sink and dumped all the flower heads in, swished the flowers around for a bit to get off any dirt. Drained the water, filled up the sink once more and washed them a second time. After that I found a large beach towel to transfer the flower heads to and took them outside to start drying.
This is when I muttered as many curse words as I know under my breath, when I regretted starting this project, and when I almost gave up and tossed all the flowers in the trash. In removing the petals, you have to remove all the green stuff because it will make the wine bitter and give it some off flavors. The most effective method for removing them was to twirl the base of the flower between your thumb, first finger and middle fingers. By twirling it slowing and applying a little pressure at a time to the base, the petals will detach and make it easier to pluck them off. In the end, I collected 10.5 ounces of petals. During this step, I think I actually went through all the steps; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. Boy was I thankful when this step was done!
Step 4: Making Dandelion Tea
Place the petals in a fermenting pot and cover with boiling water (about 1 gallon). I used my German Style Fermentation Harvest Pot with Stone Weight, 5-Liter. I didn’t use the stones to hold down the petals, but I did make sure it was airtight by pouring water on the top rim to create the seal. Let sit and steep for three days.
Step 5: SANITIZE all equipment
Just like in making beer, you want to make sure that everything is clean and sanitary. Sanitize a 6-gallon carboy, hydrometer, stirring stick, and funnel.
Step 6: Make the Dandelion Wine
Strain out all the dandelion petals and save the tea to a large stockpot (initially I just used my largest cookware stockpot, but had to switch to my water-bath canning stockpot since it was not large enough). Zest and juice the 4 oranges and 2 lemons. Bring the tea to a boil, then add in the zest and citrus juice. Add in 13 pounds of sugar and stir until dissolved. Boil mixture for 20 minutes. Cool the tea mixture as quickly as possible to about 120 degrees. Fill up sink with ice water and transfer the pot to the sink, stir until temperature drops. During this time pitch the yeast (follow directions carefully for temperature on back of packet). When temperature hits 120, pour the mixture into the 6-gallon carboy (including the zest) and fill a majority of the way up with cool tap water (this will further bring the temperature down enough to add the yeast). When the temperature is around 105, add the yeast to the carboy. Yeast needs a lot of oxygen to start working so I plugged up the hole with a bung and shook the whole carboy for 2 minutes (yes it is a HUGE workout). Now take the hydrometer reading, I had to add a little more water until my reading was 1.104 on the wine scale. If my wine continues to fruition, this means it will be about 13% alcohol. Yikes, I mean, Yipee!
Step 7: Sit & Wait.
Transfer the whole carboy to a safe place to rest for a while. I put ours in the bathroom in case it explodes or bubbles stuff everywhere, then it is easier to clean up (now chances of that happening are slim, I am just paranoid). Place a sock over the hole and let sit until the hydrometer reaches 1.01(ish). The sock helps to keep stuff out but allows the yeast to breath. **originally (and in the pictures) I put an airlock on the carboy like you do when brewing beer, but this preventing my yeast from doing it’s magic of converting all that sugar into alcohol, so I took that off and replaced it with a sock. Now the yeast is happy and the hydrometer reading is dropping**. Take a hydrometer reading every 3 days to make sure the yeast is still active and happy and that the reading is dropping, or getting closer to 1.0 (which is the gravity of water). Some people say their wine finished this first ferment in about 5 days, some said it took 3 months; currently my wine is reading at 1.03 and it has been about 3 weeks.
Step 8: Sanitize Again.
Once your hydrometer reading is 1.01(ish), it’s time to Rack to the Second Ferment. You will need to clean and sanitize a 5-Gallon carboy, the hydrometer, funnel, strainer, and siphon.
Step 9: Rack to the Second Ferment
Place your 5-Gallon carboy on a lower surface than the 6-Gallon Carboy. Put the auto siphon into the carboy and the end into the strainer in the funnel (to catch any stray zest). Give the siphon a pump or two and then it will use gravity to keep the liquid transferring. You will want to keep the bottom of the siphon about 2 inches above the bottom so you don’t collect any spent yeast or zest. Transfer all but the bottom inch or so of sediment. NOW you can place the airlock on the carboy and place back in a safe place to rest more. During the second ferment, the gravity will keep dropping and the liquid will become clearer. Be sure to check the hydrometer readings every few days, just to make sure that the shock of racking won’t make the yeast quit feeding on the remaining sugar. This is also a great time to take your first sip to see how it is coming along. My wine had great dandelion and citrus flavors but it was a little strong and kinda took my breath away (like if you were drinking a very expensive hard liquor for the first time). With time, the flavors will mellow out and meld together for an awesome drink. **I racked my wine when my gravity was 1.012 and that took about 4.5 weeks**
Step 10: Clarifying
After 2 months of sitting, it was time to add a clarifying agent to help with the process. Mix bentonite clay into 1/4 cup water, let sit for 2 hours and then dump mixture into carboy and give it a good stir. Let the wine sit for two weeks. Rack into anther carboy to get rid of the bentonite sludge that has accrued on the bottom of the carboy. Once racked, let sit another month before bottling.
Step 11: Bottling Day!
I got a mixture of 750ml wine glasses and some really cute smaller 375ml bottles. My thinking was that the smaller bottles can be given away as gifts or since it is more of a dessert/sweet wine it might be nice to crack a smaller bottle for just me and my husband. Clean & Sterilize EVERYTHING. Syphon the wine into a bottle filler bucket (it has a spout on the bottom to make filling bottles easier). Attach the bottle spout and start filling up your bottles. The bottle spout will allow the bottles to be filled from the bottom up, without introducing oxygen into the wine. Cork each bottle. For the next week, leave the bottles standing up so that the cork will dry out and create a snug fit. After the week, store the wine bottles on their side for another 3-6 months.
Step 12: DRINKING DAY!
After the 3 months of storage you can crack open a bottle and taste it. If you feel it still needs to mellow, then wait a few more months and open another bottle then. Enjoy whenever you see fit! I made the wine in the spring and bottled in early summer, so I am expecting the wine to mature around Thanksgiving time.
Have you ever made Dandelion Wine before or even tried it elsewhere? What is your opinion?