I know, this post has been a long time coming. I've had so many projects going on, not to mention the process takes a little time, but here it is...
My first experience with dandelion wine was not the most pleasant one. I must have been 9 or 10 years old when I grabbed a pitcher of yellow liquid out of the refrigerator, thinking it was orange juice. You can imagine my shock and disgust when I discovered otherwise!
Now that I'm older, I have a certain appreciation for this fine golden ambrosia. It's the epitome of summer to me. There is no better way to celebrate the upcoming Solstice than with a glass of dandelion wine.
Making wine at home is really quite easy. You just need your fruit (and flowers in this case), sugar, and yeast. With those three basic ingredients, you can make wine out of just about anything. I've been doing a lot of dabbling lately, with various juices, fruits and wild plants. Dandelion is one of the more popular home brews, especially for country folk like myself.
1 gallon dandelion flowers
1 gallon water
1 yeast packet
3 cups sugar (or honey)
3 oranges, sliced
3 lemons, sliced
The process is simple. You'll need a large stock pot that will hold about a gallon of liquid, and a glass jar about the same size. As I mentioned before, a big pickle jar is best. Ball jars are known to break with hot water.
Start by picking your dandelions- about a gallon jar full, picking just the flowers from the stems, just like you do when making fritters. You don't want any greens or stems in this. The base of the flower is ok. I just take my pickle jar out into the yard with me and pick until the pot is full, with about an inch remaining at the top.
I fill my stock pot with water and set it to boil. Once the water is boiling I pour the hot water into the pickle jar until the jar is full. Put the lid on and let this set for 3 days. Basically you're making a really strong dandelion tea.
After 3 days pass, dump your flowers and water back into the stock pot and add your orange and lemon slices. Boil gently for 20 minutes. Strain out the flowers and fruit pieces and stir in your sugar. Allow your mixture to cool before adding the yeast. I usually let it set over night before adding the yeast, just to make sure it's not too hot.
Add the yeast and stir it in. Place a piece of cloth over the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band. Put your jug in a dark place, like a cupboard or pantry for 3 weeks while it ferments. You'll know it's done when you can smell the alcohol. If you want a lighter wine, reduce sugar to 2 cups.
When fermentation is complete, strain and bottle your wine. Sediments will continue to settle, so I use removable cork caps in the bottling process and let the bottles stand upright. After 1 year I siphon out the clear wine into new bottles and leave the sediments behind.
Dandelion wine ages extremely well. My parents have a small jar of dandelion wine that is now approximately 15 years old. It's a lovely clear, amber color, and very strong. It tastes like a wonderful brandy rather than a wine. Most dandelion wine is drinkable immediately but is 100x better after 1 year, but feel free to let it age longer. It'll only get better with time.
It's my tradition to enjoy a bottle of dandelion wine at the Solstice, however it's equally appropriate to have a glass for Easter/Ostara as a celebration of the returning Sun and springtime. Adding a sliced of orange to the glass makes a lovely presentation.
There are probably hundreds of recipes for dandelion wine floating around the internet. Some use honey, some use sugar. Some recipes add raisins, which I've not yet tried. There are as many methods as there are wine makers, so feel free to explore and experiment. You really don't have to worry about doing it "wrong." Just enjoy the process.
Note: One little tip I found helpful, especially for anyone interested in winemaking. Keep notes! Take notes on your process and your ingredients each year. That way when you open a bottle of wine you can note the resulting flavor from the process you used. That way you can tweak and change your recipe over time to get the perfect results.