The classic home country wine is Dandelion wine. Almost everyone has either made some, or knows someone whose 2nd cousin twice removed on their paternal grandmother’s side who has made it when they lived in the backwoods of Kentucky.
In spite of the denigration of Dandelions both by professional winemakers and landscapers alike, the wine made from this annoying weed is both easy and educational for the budding winemaker.
To start off, you should have your hardware all ready to go. Needed for one gallon of wine are:
- A two gallon fermenting bucket
- A one gallon carboy, with airlock that fits
- A siphon
- Star-San, or other fermentation-friendly sanitizer
- Some wine bottles
- Corks to fit
- A corker to put them in with
You should also get a packet of wine yeast; I used Red Star Premier Cuvée wine yeast, which came in a five-pack bag. You will also need two oranges, a lemon, a pound of raisins and three pounds of sugar – white or evaporated cane juice.
If you don’t have the bottles, corks, and corker handy right away, you can order them later – possibly once you’re confidant the yeast is actually making a wine and not something undrinkable!
I wash all utensils with Star-San prior to working with then. Star-San is a yeast safe cleaner, and if you leave some suds in the carboy or bottles, it’s no big deal! Just don’t mix with dish soap or bleach when you wash. A little Star-San goes a long way.
To start out, you will need 3 quarts of dandelion blossoms. These are the actual yellow petals, without any of the green. I found that removing the petals in the field was better than pulling all the flower heads and separating them inside – they tend to wilt quickly. A handy way to remove the petals is to roll the base of the flower between two fingers, and then grab the petals and twist them out. Most people agree that no greens is the best way to go about it.
Once you have three quarts of blossoms (some leeway is possible here, I don’t pack them down into the measuring container), you need to boil a gallon of water, and pour it over the blossoms. Cover loosely and steep for three days. For the next phase you will need the oranges, lemon, and raisins. I also added ground cloves, just a couple of pinches.
After steeping for three days, add the zest of the oranges and lemons, and boil the mixture again. Strain out the blossoms and zest, and add three pounds of sugar, stirring thoroughly. Pour into the 2 gallon fermenting bucket. Allow to cool, and slice the fruit. Add the sliced oranges, lemons, cloves, and raisins to the mixture. Temper the yeast according to the instructions, and add it once the temperature of the boiled mixture and fruit gets down to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or less (40 Celsius). Mix together.
Cover the mixture, loosely to allow gas to escape. Stir daily with a wooden or plastic spoon. Allow to ferment for 1-2 weeks. You can leave things like this and wait for fermentation to stop.
After one week, I chose to siphon the mixture off into the one gallon carboy. Make sure to put water in your airlock! Give it a swish every couple of days to check for further fermentation; if the airlock doesn’t bubble any more, fermentation is done.
Once you are sure the fermentation is complete, it’s time to bottle! I filtered the mixture twice: I siphoned it out of the carboy through cheesecloth into my original bucket, and then put it through fresh cheesecloth in a funnel to into each bottle.
My wine was cloudier than some others I’ve seen; I suspect I didn’t rack the wine into the carboy soon enough. This is not required, of course, and you can run the entire fermentation cycle in the original bucket.
Corking is quite easy! I used #8 corks, and a double lever corker. You insert the cork into the open gap in the body of the corker, place the corker over the top of the bottle, and press down. The corker will press the cork into the bottle – the key is strong, consistent pressure. With that done, the wine is bottled!
The wine is not ready to drink, of course. The bottles should be stored, on their side, for several weeks – I plan to wait at least six months. A small amount of leftover wine I’ve left in a jar, and tasted. It’s a strong wine, to my taste, and somewhat sweet. Over time the flavor profile will change, so this is no judgment on the final product.
Be bold and give this a try!
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