Summer Project: Homemade Dandelion Wine

Here’s some summer fun for everyone. If you’ve never made your own homemade wine, don’t be mistaken, it isn’t easy. But, then again, it isn’t hard, either. It does take a bit of effort, a few tools and patience. But there is a big plus: the dandelions are free. Feel free to pick any kind of dandelion you can locate, from your yard, the neighbors yard, wild fields or someone’s garden. It actually doesn’t matter if it’s a pretty one or a ratty one, but be sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. It’s worth the money if you have a local organic farmer that grows them or florist that has organic flowers; the cleaner, the better. You can sometimes buy them dried in health food stores but fresh is much better. What you will need is fresh blossoms and it doesn’t matter what genus or strain of flower. Wild or cultivated. Just pick or otherwise obtain fresh flowers and you are ready for wine!

Ingredients:

3 quarts Dandelion Blossoms
Confectioners Sugar
2 Lemons
2 Oranges
1/2 tsp Grape Tannin
Montrachet Wine Yeast (follow package directions)
Yeast Nutrient
1 gallon fermentation container (made of wood, plastic, glass or stainless steel)
fermentation locks (for the wine bottles and gallon container)
Wooden Utensils (including a dowel)
Saccharometer or Hydrometer
Corking Device
Corks
Sterlized Glass Wine Bottles

You can get the tannin, saccharometer, corking device, corks, fermentation locks, yeast nutrient and the yeast in speciality shops, from a winemaking supplier or from various vendors on the net. Shop for the best prices. You can get a wooden utensils set at Walmart for a few pennies. Once you have the various sundries you can then go looking for flowers. Pick the blossoms while they are fresh and fully open. Fading blooms lose their flavor. Discard the stems and leaves as you go, putting the blossoms into the bucket or hat or basket you brought along. Do not pick flowers from lawns or byways where you are not sure if they have been sprayed with chemicals. If you are not sure you will need to wash the flowers carefully but even such washing does not guarantee that there are no chemicals in the genus itself. Some chemicals take up residence in the actual cell structure of the plant. I would suggest for those of you who can grow stuff to grow your own dandelions. They are weeds, after all, and don’t need a lot of talent. They grow pretty much on their own even under the worst of conditions.

Once you have the blooms and the sundries, rinse the flowers in cold water and then place them in a fermentation container. Pour one gallon of boiling water over the blossoms. Cover the container with plastic wrap. You must leave them to steep in this water for five entire days; no shorter. No hurrying. This will extract the essence from the blossoms for use in the wine. As well, you must stir the blossoms every single day and always replace the plastic wrap after every stirring.

After five days, remove the dandelions and wring them through double folded cheesecloth until they are dry. Return the pressed out liquid to the fermentation container along with the remaining water. Throw away the flowers. You are done with them. Peel the lemons and oranges thinly (without the pith) and add the peel to the must. Cut the lemons and oranges and squeeze the juice into the must as well. Remove the seeds and skin the pith off and toss the rest of the oranges and lemons into the must. Be careful not to add the seeds or pith as this will make the wine tart.

Take a saccharometer reading and adjust the sugar level per instructions. This is done by pouring the must into the cylinder until the saccharometer floats. The higher it rides, the more sugar is present. If it floats near the bottom, add sugar to the must and test it again. If it is riding high, then no more sugar is needed. Just follow the instructions that come with the equipment. Once the sugar level is adjusted, add the wine yeast in a starter solution. Follow package instructions for the yeast. The starter solution is made by boiling 1/2 cup of water and then allowing to cool to a tepid temperature. Add 1/2 tsp of the confectioners sugar, stir it in and then add the wine yeast, using the full amount that is needed for the must (directions are on the package). Add a pinch of yeast nutrient and then let the mixture sit until it starts to foam and smell like yeast. Once it is foaming, add it to the sample of sugar corrected must that you used for the saccharometer readings. Put the whole solution in a bottle and stop up the bottle with either sterlized cotton, a clean cork or a plastic cap. Then let it sit in a warm area for 24 hours.

Sterilize the bottles before using. You can be doing this while you are waiting on the starter solution. You can sterilize them with tablets of potassium metabisulfite (available from winemaking suppliers; follow package directions) or by boiling each one in a large pot of water and then soaking in cold water treated with bleach. Once they’ve been soaked in the bleach, they must be rinsed completely until the slickness and smell of the bleach is entirely gone. You can also place the bottles in a dishwasher with no soap and run them through a hot cycle to remove the last of the bleach. Set them aside to dry completely.

After the 24 hours has passed, add the starter solution to the must. Recover the fermentation containter with the plastic wrap after adding the solution. Once this is done, start preparing to rack the wine. Once the bottles are clean and dry the wine can be racked directly into these bottles. While filling each bottle, allow for a small amount of air between the level of the wine and the cork. Drive the corks in as far as you can but don’t get too rough or you can crack the bottle. Store the bottles by laying on their sides so that the corks remain wet with wine at all times. Wine racks are ideal for storing wine this way. This wine, made this way, should be aged for up to a year but no longer. In fact, it should be ready to drink within 8 – 10 months.

Variations on this wine can be made. You can use 1/4 oz of Ginger Root per gallon of wine for a different flavor. You can also use 1 lb of Raisins in place of the Lemons and Oranges. You can also use other kinds of citrus fruits like Mango or Kiwi.

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