Dandelion Wine

Dandelion blossoms can be used to make a flower wine.

Dandelion wine
Dandelion wine – sparkly!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of dandelion blossoms
  • 16 cups of water (1 gallon)
  • 1 package of wine yeast
  • 8 cups of refined cane sugar
  • 1-3 citrus foods of your choice, sliced up (lemon, lime, orange)

Recipe:

1) Forage dandelion blossoms:

The wilderness would be the best place but if you’re an urban forager, try areas off the beaten track. Ottawa has banned herbicides on lawns so that is less of a concern. I look for flowers off the beaten path to minimize the amount of man-made chemicals and pet excrement. If you want to minimize the wine’s bitterness, only cut off the pedals. I like bitterness, so I cut off the entire blossom.

2) Sanitize your standard brewing equipment:

The brewing pot, the carboy, funnel, air-lock, strainer, cheese cloth

Don’t have any brewing equipment? Here are some substitutes:

  • Brewing pot = any kind of cooking pot that holds 20 or so cups of water
  • Carboy = a growler from your local brewery
  • Air-lock = a balloon big enough to stretch over the mouth of the growler

3) Prepare the yeast:

I used Lalvin K1V-1116, which is a sparkling wine style of yeast. Rehydrate the yeast as per the instructions on the back (warm water for about 15 minutes). If you have the patience to add another day to the process, you should prepare a fully developed yeast starter.

4) Boil:

Add about 16 cups of water to the brew pot and bring to a boil. You won’t be boiling for very long so you don’t need to account for evaporation.

The blossoms, sugar and a chopped up citrus fruit for 10 minutes.

The citrus should add an acidic balance to the bitterness of the dandelion. The sugar will provide the yeast energy to grow and produce alcohol.

5) Strain out solids into a pot:

Place the pot in the sink and strain.

6) Cool down the mixture:

I filled my sink with cold water. Alternatively, you can add half the amount of water for the boil and add cold water for the remainder to cool down the mixture.

7) Take gravity measurement:

Do you have a hydrometer? They usually come with your brew-it-yourself-kit. You can use this number (the Original Gravity) and the next number (the Final Gravity) to calculate the percentage of alcohol in your dandelion wine.

8) Pour into fermenter:

I used a cheese cloth (to get anything the strainer missed) and a funnel.

9) Add yeast for fermentation:

Now that your yeast has rehydrated for 15 minutes, you can add it to your “must” and let the magic happen. If your gravity is high enough, you should expect a typical fermentation length of 8-16 days depending on the ambient temperature.

10) Sanitize equipment (vinyl food-safe hose) and bottles

11) Bottle

If you don’t have 12 bottles of beer with unused beer caps and a beer capper, just put your growler of wine in the fridge to preserve it for a few days or weeks.

12) Store:

The taste will mellow overtime. I’ve heard of recommendations for aging 6 months to a year. I aged mine for over a year and it is delicious. Still very sweet from the residual sugar. Despite no added sugar for a secondary fermentation, the added time has turned the beverage into a sparkling drink of fine carbonation bubbles. There is a hint of the herbal from the flowers, a very small vinegary smell (I’m guessing from some combination of random bacterial or the acid of the citrus),  and a moderate amount of cider flavour from the sugar cane.

Notes:

On citrus acid:

I did a very simple preparation of whole lime slices. Many of the recipes call for boiling the peel and adding squeezed juice post-boil. The brewers recommend avoiding the white pith of the citrus fruits due to its strong taste. I will likely try this more elaborate method next time, as well as trying the traditional orange and lemon combination rather than lime.

On steeping:

I simply boiled the dandelion to extract its essence. Many of the recipes call for steeping over the course of 2-3 days. I will likely steep longer next time to extract more dandelion essence.

On body:

Many of the recipes call for the addition of grapes post-boil to add body to the wine – sort of like the tannin you get in red wine from the addition of grape skins.

On carbonation:

If you don’t want to wait 6 months to a year for aging, add a small amount sugar to each bottle to carbonate the beverage quicker. Be careful! Too much sugar will cause the bottles to explode.

On sugar:

I added a couple more cups than most recipes for a higher gravity and thus higher alcohol content. This will of course affect the flavour due to increased fermentation (which provides its own flavours) and the presence of more alcohol.

On headspace:

I put the gallon of dandelion wine in a 5 gallon carboy. The CO2 from fermentation should protect the wine from oxidization because CO2 is heavier than oxygen and will form a protective layer. If you choose to transfer to a secondary container to remove yeast sentiment, you should minimize headspace by using a 1 gallon carboy to prevent oxidization.

Freshly harvested blossoms
Freshly harvested blossoms
Hydrating yeast
Hydrating yeast
Blossoms and cut limes
Blossoms and cut limes
Concentrate
Concentrate
Cooling the concentrate
Cooling the concentrate
Straining the concentrate
Straining the concentrate
Straining the concentrate
Straining the concentrate
Adding the hydrated yeast
Adding the hydrated yeast
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