A few weeks ago, my daughters and I dipped off the main road that runs through our town into a field to pick dandelion flowers. Risking social scrutiny and limes disease we waded through the tall grass and filled a canvas bag so Mommy could make "a grown up drink." I had got it in my head while walking home from my four-year-old's first field trip to make dandelion wine. I have been informed by my husband that it isn't really dandelion wine because the dandelions are not actually being fermented, but dandelion flavored wine. I have also been informed by Rico Check's book Making Plant Medicine, that some of the medicinal qualities of dandelion are preserved in the wine, so it's all a wash and good old-timey fun.
I wasn't sure how much we were supposed to collect so we just collected until the kids started complaining. When we got home I set to de-bugging and making sure all the stems were off. If you use just the petals it results in a less bitter wine. It's really time consuming to remove just the petals, so I thought I could find an easy medium. I just used my fingernails to pinch off most of the green part of the flower. This also was really time consuming and it resulted in a completely blackened thumb and forefinger nail, which looked really gross for a couple of days no matter how many times I scrubbed with boraxo.
When all was said and done and the inch worms had crawled away I had about 3 quarts of mostly petals. These were then supposed to be steeped in boiling water in a non-reactive container and covered with a cloth (I used a crock from a crock pot with the lid). So I boiled up a gallon and a half of water and poured it over the flowers and let it steep. When I informed my husband that I was "now making dandelion wine," he--being an experienced beer and mead maker--informed me that we are without much of the equipment needed to progress to the next stage after the flowers had steeped for two days. So once again a project was begun on a whim and then the exciting scramble to get what is actually needed to finish said project had begun. It wasn't really as dramatic as all that, but we did have to drive into Cambridge to the Modern Brewer to get a 2 gallon bucket and an air lock. Let it be said that this can be done with a wine bottle and a balloon, but apparently the quality "is for suckers."
After the flowers have steeped they are put back into a pot with some other fun things like orange peels with no pith, a couple of lemon peels with no pith (pith makes the wine bitter), the juice from these fruits, a couple of cloves and brought to a boil for ten minutes. We then strained the mixture into a large stainless steel bowl, added four-and-a-half pounds of sugar and let it cool a bit. When it gets to a temperature yeast likes (which is usually about 110 degrees) I added the juice, champagne yeast and yeast nutrient. We poured the whole thing into the 2 gallon fermentation bucket and then let it sit. I basically used the second recipe on this site, but changed it up a bit, as you can see.
In the morning, we looked at it and didn't believe it was doing anything, even though the air lock buoy had risen and we could hear the sound of bubbles popping. So we opened up the top to see and it was of course doing something. We then called the Modern Brewer and they said it was doing something and opening up the container was the worst thing to do but that it would be fine and we would in fact have wine of some kind at the end of this adventure. They also said that we could do something called "back sweeten" the wine which means adding sugar after the wine has stopped fermenting. The sugar that is added at this point is not eaten by the yeast, as the four-and-a-half pounds we already added will be. The new sugar can then behave in a more traditional way for sugar and sweeten the drink, making what my husband called "dandelion wine coolers." Do you think he was making fun of me?