There was a time in my life where I bought into the idea that dandelions have no place in the yard. I think part of it was psychological in that I would watch TV commercials or see magazine ads showing what appeared to be perfect, happy, fulfilled people lounging and playing in perfect and blissfully weed-free yards, suggesting to me that the key to my own happiness was to accept nothing less than a perfectly lush and green weed-free yard.
So, that’s what I did. In pursuit of green perfection and the perfect happy family, I purchased and applied weed killers to eradicate dandelions and other broadleaf weeds from my lawn. I celebrated my success as the chemicals did what they were designed to do and the dandelions disappeared.
Several autumns ago my father-in-law offered me some of the dandelion wine he had made in the spring of that year. I was a bit hesitant to try it but when the liquid hit my tongue I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste good but it just felt good to drink it.
He explained that it took a large volume of dandelion flowers to make just one gallon of wine and that it had been a challenge to find them. My mind flashed with images of how many dandelions had perished under my diligent applications of weed killers. I wished I could rewind time and take it all back. That was when I stopped using weed killers and started welcoming the dandelion to grow in my lawn.
Since that time I’ve learned that the dandelion carries powerful and healthy medicine in all of its parts – from flower to root. It’s high in vitamins and minerals and is said to assist with issues of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder. Perhaps that’s why it felt so good to drink a wine made from the flowers.
Dandelion Wine Recipe from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed with notes on variations and adjustments I made. One of the most important things in wine making is cleanliness. Make sure your tools and vessels are clean and sterilized. This will help prevent spoilage and nasty “science experiment” types of surprises.
2 gal/8 liter crock
3-5 quarts/ 5 liters blossoms
5 quarts/ 5 liters water
3 pounds/1.5 kg sugar
1 organic orange
1 organic lemon
1 pkg/ 8 grams live yeast
wholewheat bread toast
1) Find a field of dandelions in bloom on a glorious shining day. Follow the honeybees to the finest flowers. Pick them with a sweeping motion of your parted fingers, like a comb. Leave the green sepals on, but get rid of all stalks.
Note: The sepals will impart a bitterness to the wine. My preference is the leave the sepals on as the bitters are part of the medicine of dandelion. When the wine is finished it doesn’t really taste bitter at all to me. For a sweeter wine you can choose to remove the sepals and just use the petals but you’ll need to gather more flowers to make 3 to 5 quarts of just petals. In the example photo below two quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only.
2) Back home, put blossoms immediately into a large ceramic, glass, or plastic vessel. Boil water; pour over flowers. Cover your crock with cheesecloth. Stir daily for three days.
Note: I don’t like putting hot liquids in plastic whether they are deemed food-safe or not simply due to the chemicals from the plastic that can leach out and into the wine. I used the ceramic crock from my crock pot however, it only held 4 quarts of water. I added the extra quart in the next step.
3) On the fourth day, strain blossoms from liquid.
Note: I strained directly into a stainless steel stock pot, added the extra quart of water and the sugar. The blossoms can go directly into the compost pile.
5) Cook liquid with sugar and rind of citrus (omit rind if not organic) for 30-60 minutes.
Note: I didn’t have organic citrus so I omitted adding the rind and squeezed out the juice of the orange and lemon to add later.
6) Return to crock. Add citrus juice. When liquid has cooled to blood temperature, soften yeast, spread on toast, and float toast in crock.
Note: Since my ceramic crock would not hold the entire batch I removed the pot from the heat, stirred in the citrus juices and set it aside to cool before pouring into a food grade plastic bucket. I scooped a bit out into a measuring cup and added 1/5 packet of wine making yeast (one packet is enough yeast for 5 gallons) and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient. In Susun’s recipe I think the wheat toast acts as the yeast nutrient. The wine yeast and the yeast nutrient can be purchased online or at your brew and wine making store.
7) Cover and let work two days.
Note: This is where the most violent fermentation takes place. After a few hours the yeast will begin to transform the sugar into alcohol. You want to cover the bucket but not seal it completely as the gasses created by the fermentation process will need to be able to be released.
8) Strain. Return liquid to crock for one more day to settle. Filter into very clean bottles and cork lightly.
Note: I strained the liquid through a fine mesh screen directly into a clean stock pot to remove as much non-liquid as possible and then using a funnel added the liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug fitted with an airlock. If you don’t have an airlock you can fit a balloon over the top of the jug. The purpose of this step is to keep the wine from becoming contaminated and to allow the gasses created by fermentation to escape. If the bottle were sealed at this point, it would explode.
Here’s a short video I made showing what happens during secondary fermentation. Over time the bubbling will slow down and the wine will begin to clear and become ready for bottling.
9) Don’t drink until winter solstice.
Note: This wine needs a good six months to age and is even better if you can stop yourself from drinking it and waiting two years or more.