Dandelion Wine: Tonic Elixer
Have you ever made wine with flowers, fruits or roots? I enjoy making country wines. Each one is so straight forward and a delightful, complex ferment at the same time. It’s a great way to get outside first, then into the kitchen for some dandy fun!
One spring, I headed out to a local farmer's potluck to share food with valley farmers and enjoy a talk on native pollinators. Getting to know this valley through many aspects is a lifelong endeavor.
On the way, I happened upon a bountiful field of dandelions,Taraxacum officinalis, the harbingers of spring. There was just enough time to pick a basketful of flowers and get to the potluck.
Dandelions, the sun come to earth…have you noticed how they hide their faces when the sun goes behind a cloud or begins its descent into the western horizon? I delight in the way the fine rayed petals (each a separate flower in a community of many) shine the light right back up at that golden sky orb…a perfect reflection of the sun herself!
My mom was a knitter, always kept her hands busy when she went to meetings. I fell in with the roots and barks and flowers and keep my hands busy moving plants along in their journeys through place and time. It amazes me that when a woman sits down with a basket of herbs and starts doing something with them, any other women in the near vicinity often come over and wonder what she's doing! Before you know it everyone is plucking and visiting and having a good time. And so, the basket of flowers became a basket of petals in no time at all.
Of course, that's what I love about country wines, they're a social thing. Like eating and dancing!
Over time, I’ve found that making one gallon of 3-4 different wines each summer is just enough for a winter’s sipping with plenty to share. One gallon is easy to put down in an afternoon. Uncorking sunny fruits and flowers, vitamins and minerals in dark and rainy times brings the brightness of summer and the tonic value of plants to the table year round.
DANDELION WINE RECIPE
Pick a basketful of dandelion blossoms. One gallon flowers for a gallon of wine. Although, picking petals from the calyx, is not required, it is my experience that the wine is bright and delicious using just the petals. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium, often blooms along with dandelion. Two big handfuls of Oregon Grape flowers add a sour tangy taste to the wine, broadening the flavor spectrum. This batch has a small handful of Lungwort, Pulmonaria sp. added as well. A wine of yellow blossoms with a hint of sky blue!
Be daring, mix it up a little, see what happens!
Raw Materials for Dandelion Wine
Simmering the herbs into an flower infusion
Place petals into a stainless steel pan.
Add 3/4 gallon boiling water
Add 2 1/2 # sugar or honey, your choice Stir to dissolve
Slice 1 organic orange and 1 organic grapefruit (peel on) into thin slices, toss them in the kettle
Stir and cover with a cotton dish towel
Cool down to blood heat
While the brew cools...
Mix 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon yeast into warm water with a double pinch of sugar or small spoon of honey to make a nucleus, this quickens the yeast so it hits the flower tea ready to work on the sugars sparking an eager ferment
Pitch the yeast into the sweetened tea mix when the brew is at blood heat.
Cover again with the cotton dish towel
Now, the primary fermentation takes place, let the kettle bubble and spark until it settles down into a quiet state...
Pitching the yeast nucleus in primary fermenter
Next, boil 32 ounces of water with 16 oz sugar, remove from heat and add 2 black teabags. This is a simple kitchen trick to bring the tannin level up. Let this simple syrup tea cool to room temperature.
Strain out all plant material and rebottle liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug (apple cider jug)
Add as much of the simple tea syrup as needed to bring liquid to the shoulder of the jug, don't fill too full, ferment will be active to start
Close top with a fermentation lock or a balloon and watch the secondary fermentation begin
Let the ferment go until it stops, make sure the wine is in a place that stays the temperature that will allow a yeasted dough to rise
Once fermentation has ceased the wine is ready to bottle
The wine can be bottled once the sediment has settled and cleared to your liking. I often leave mine until the first freeze of fall. Something mysterious happens after a freeze which helps clear the wine a wee bit more.
Secondary Fermentation (better kept in a non-sunny place)
Dandelion Wine, a delicious beverage to enjoy and share with friends! Perfect before or after dinner as a digestive tonic. And, goes really well with January seed catalog viewing in the evening by the fire.
This is just the tip of the Dandelion story…want more great ways to bring Dandelion's wealth of health giving properties into your life? Her leaves and roots are nature's storehouse of nutrients and how she works in your garden will blow you away!
Do you make Dandelion wine? What have you found worked or did not work in the making of this delicious country flower wine? Have you enjoyed bringing Dandelion Wine into your life? How?