The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Dandelion Wine Part III: New Recipes and Insights May 18, 2015

I’ve posted on Dandelion wine before on this blog, and I wanted to follow up on my previous posts on dandelion wine – making the wine and racking/bottling. I’ve also written more generally about the dandelion as a beneficial plant–so why not 4th post on the glorious dandelion!

In this post, I wanted to spend some time talking about dandelion, review the last two years of dandelion winemaking adventures, share two new recipes, and talk about some flavor tests. For basics in how to make dandelion wine, please refer to my first two posts on the subject (linked above).

Bottled Dandelion Wine!

Bottled Dandelion Wine!

Some Thoughts on Dandelions

I want to speak briefly about the spiritual side to brewing dandelion wine. First of all, dandelion is a plant that so many hate and eradicate. Many poison the land to get rid of it–instead of learning about why its growing, what it does for our landscape, and how it may benefit us and wildlife (see photo below). By reclaiming this plant in various ways, we help heal the abused relationship that humanity has with dandelion and deepen our connection to the land. Its also fitting that dandelion is a very medicinal plant–healing the digestion and clearing the liver, primarily. And digestive  issues are plaguing so many, especially because of industrialized food. I also think that from a sustainable perspective, we take something that is unwanted and turn it into something that is very wanted–alcohol. What a way to reach out to people–through wine!  I am convinced that if I share enough bottles of the stuff, I can convince people to treat their lawns and dandelions just a little bit differently–and so I keep brewing the wine.  For these reasons, I love dandelion in all her forms, and I love the wine, food, and medicine that she creates.

Wild Turkey Feasting on Dandelion

Wild Turkey Feasting on Dandelion – Wildlife need the dandelions too!

Two Dandelion Wine Recipes

In 2013, we brewed our first batch of dandelion wine–a whopping 5 gallon batch of  using the #1 recipe listed from Jack Keller’s Winemaking site. It turned out beautifully–sweet, strong, reminding us of the sunrise. Very smooth. In 2014, we decided to try two new recipes of our own creation, based on Jack Keller’s.  Both turned out amazing–so here they are 🙂

 

D&P’s Dandelion-Ginger Sunshine Wine

This recipe makes a 5 gallon batch, which is well worth making. You can reduce this to 1 gallon if you want by dividing everything by 5. A 5 gallon batch gives you approximately 24 bottles of wine, enough to drink and share!

 

  • 15 quarts dandelion flowers (no stalks, just heads)
  • 5 lb sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 5 gallons water
  • 15 lbs sugar
  • 10 lemons
  • 5 oranges
  • 2.5 cups chopped fresh ginger
  • yeast (1 package, wine yeast)
  • yeast nutrient

 

Pick the flowers on a sunny day when they are open and full–you usually have about a week window of time to pick before they go to seed (in my part of the country, Zone 6b, this is usually early in May). Do not pick the stalks, but a bit of greenery around the head is fine. Using a VERY large vessel or several smaller ones (I use my pressure canner and huge stockpot, you could also use a brewing bucket), boil 4.5 gallons of water and pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers. Cover with a towel and tie the towel to the pot using string or yarn (see my earlier post for photos). Let it sit for two days, stirring three times a day. You’ll see it start to ferment and start to smell like wine after a day.

 

After the two days, bring flowers and water to a low boil (you will likely need to split the batch into two pots to do this). Thinly peel or grate oranges and lemons (avoiding any white pith), and cut up the ginger into small chunks, and add to the mixture. Also add the sugar at this time. Boil for an hour, then let cool to lukewarm (70-75 degrees Fahrenheit) and pour back into your brewing bucket, cover, and let sit in a warm place for three days.

Getting ready to bottle!

Getting ready to bottle!

 

Then, strain your dandelion mixture and put into a secondary fermentation vessel, like a 5 gallon glass carboy.  Add all of the raisins (I do this with a funnel–and its tedious), top off the carboy with water till its 3″ from the top, then fit with the fermentation trap. You’ll see the yeast going crazy over the sultanas–it’s really fun to watch. After a month or so, the wine will clear (that is, everything, including the sultanas and yeast, drops to the bottom and the wine gets much less cloudy). Strain and rack, again topping up with any additional water to get 3″ from the fermentation vessel. Wait another month or two till fermentation ceases completely, then rack again, again topping up with water. Wait another two months or longer, then bottle. At this point, you are about six months in–bottle it and wait another six months before tasting. If you wait even longer, it will just continue to get better and smoother with age. Sometimes, we forget to bottle it and even if you leave it racked, it ages and tastes really good by the time we bottle it :P.

 

The addition of the ginger in this wine is awesome–its smooth, complex, sweet, and quite alcoholic!  Its seriously some of the best wine we’ve ever had!

Preparing for bottling Dandelion-Ginger Sunrise wine!

Brewing Mentor Paul preparing for bottling Dandelion-Ginger Sunrise wine for bottling!

D&P’s Dandelion Bitters Wine

 

This wine has less of a complex flavor than the Dandelion-Ginger above, and it has just a tiny hint of bitterness from the dandelion–which is a fantastic thing for after dinner to get the gastric juices flowing (bitter flavors stimulate digestion). So we see this as a really medicinal and fantastic wine–herbalist approved :). Its doesn’t get as clear as the Dandelion-Ginger wine, but its still sweet, strong, and wonderful.

 

  • 15 quarts dandelion flowers (no stalks, just heads. No need to pick out flower petals)
  • 15 lbs sugar
  • yeast (1 package, wine yeast)
  • yeast nutrient

 

Follow all directions above, omitting the ginger, oranges, lemons, and sultanas. Ferment and enjoy!

Dandelion Bitters Wine ready to bottle!

Dandelion Bitters Wine ready to bottle!

Taste Tests

All three wines (including the original dandelion wine recipe we tried two years ago from Jack Keller’s site) taste great. We like the Dandelion-Ginger Sunshine wine the best because the ginger gives it a really nice flavor, not too strong, but just adding that little amazing extra zing to make it an A+. But any of the three are great–and the longer they sit in the bottle, the better they get. I still have about 8 bottles left from 2013, and they are seriously so amazing (and a very hot commodity when people find out you have it).

 

Here’s a photo of the difference in the color and clarity between Dandelion Bitters (left) and Dandelion-Ginger Sunshine (right). The Dandelion-Ginger Sunshine wine really clears nicely.

Taste tests - the clearer one on the right is Dandelion-Ginger Sunshine

Taste tests with Paul

As my bottles safely age in my pantry, I am once again reminded about the lessons that time and patience bring. I hope that more people take up brewing with dandelions (or cooking with them, or anything else)–its a great alternative to mowing them or spraying them with chemicals. If we can get enough people to do this, dandelions will be cultivated once again in our fields and lawns, rather than hated. And then their sunny, golden heads can serenade the spring!

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11 Responses to “Dandelion Wine Part III: New Recipes and Insights”

  1. CWhitmore Says:

    I live in an area where I would not feel safe to use or eat the dandelions. When we get to the point where we can buy a house, I am hoping to find one where I have more control over the surrounding greenery so that I can take advantage of the less appreciated plants, like the dandelion, that grow in abundance here in Michigan. Also, I would just like to walk around with no shoes without having to worry about what’s been soaking there. :/

    The wine you made sounds delicious!

    • Willowcrow Says:

      You might see if you can find them in abandoned farmer’s fields. Nobody bothers to spray them there :). I hope you’ll get access to fresh, clean dandelions in the future!

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature Says:

    This sounds great. We have a big field full of them. I have always loved dandelions. So pretty and happy, they are, while also being strong and hearty. Lots of life lessons they teach us. I love to watch the animals eat them, especially the deer, turkey and geese. As I walk through the field, I eat them. They are so sweet. I love to photograph the flowers and seed heads. I also love how they camouflage the baby geese when the babies are new and yellow, then when the goslings turn grey, the grey seed heads appear. Thank you for this post. If I ever find the time to make wine, I know where to find the recipe. In the meantime, I will just eat them, and put leaves in my salad. Thank you for loving dandelions. They get a bad rap.
    Mary

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Mary – they really are amazing, aren’t they? My bees just love them too. I had dandelion greens and heads in my salad just yesterday! 🙂

  3. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature Says:

    🙂

  4. Ynnothir Coll Says:

    If you’re careful about not getting any green with the flowers, the Dandelion Bitters Wine recipe should give you a very light, delicately flavored wine with no bitterness at all. Although, as you pointed out, bitterness may be just what you want.

    You’ll have to take me with a grain of salt, though. I haven’t made dandelion wine in a couple of years and, as it turns out, I actually have no idea what flower I was really using. This is kind of a funny story.

    I’ve been learning wildcrafting and herbalism for a while now. Positive identification of plants is absolutely necessary but, I mean, everybody knows what a dandelion is, right? I’ve used the flowers for wine and the roots for tinctures. You just go out in the yard and get ’em. (No worries about chemicals there!)

    Well, after the snow melted off this year, I went out to get some dandelion roots and I noticed something that gave me pause. There can be a lot of variation in leaves, but some of the “dandelion” leaves were hairy. It was like when when I read “The Lord of the Rings” for the fourth time and realized that Meriadoc’s name had an “a” in it. Changes things, you know?

    So I only gathered from the really toothy, smooth ones and set out to find out what kind of dandelion has hairy leaves. Turns out, as I’m sure you know, Willowcrow, no dandelion does. About 60-70% of the “dandelions” in my yard are cat’s ear, or false dandelion.

    No harm done, though, they’re high in beta keratine and vitamine C, minerals (especially copper, if it’s available in the the soil) and has a strong anti-oxidant action. Its virtues are different from the dandelion’s, but it’s still good, food-grade medicine. And, odds are, I’ve made some pretty yummy wine out of it, too!

    Sometimes the Green Man smiles on the complacent and the unobservant. Sometimes they poison themselves. It’s a funny story, but I’m not laughing just yet.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Wow, great story. I’ve seen some people confuse dandelion greens around here with wild lettuce (its a diuretic, so it might give them a bit of surprise) and the flowers with colts foot flowers (they do look pretty similar to the unobservant, even if the leaves are radically different), but neither of those would be particularly dangerous :P.

      I have a story of my own about potentially poison plants. I was at a local park one day foraging, and I saw a little girl picking flowers on the edge of a swamp. I walked nearer, knowing what grows in wet areas in Michigan, and sure enough, she’s got poison hemlock in her bouquet (and doesn’t it just look so pretty in there, in full bloom?) I said to her mother, who was nearby, that her daughter had picked a very poisonous plant and showed her what it looked like and told her that it shouldn’t be handled. I didn’t freak her out, but I did encourage her to wash the daughter’s hands and keep a good eye on her (I’ve heard reports that even touching or smelling it can affect some people pretty strongly). The mother responded to me, “They should eradicate that stuff!” and I said, “No, we simply need to know enough to know what plants are poisonous and which are not and to teach our children safety practices. If we eradicated every poisonous plant on the landscape, we’d have little left.” She thanked me and, hopefully, didn’t go on a rampage to eliminate poison hemlock from Michigan :P. The daughter did seem to be unaffected…but still.

      Concerning the green stuff from the dandelions–I know that if I picked off all the green, yeah, I could get no bitterness at all. But my brewing friend and I were going for a slightly medicinal wine and are kind of “bitterphiles” in the sense that we take bitters with every meal :P. And, when you are making 5 gallon batches, there is NO way I’m going to pick off every bit of green! Interestingly, in the Dandelion Ginger Sunshine wine, there is no bitterness at all doing the same method. But that’s a much more complex wine than the straight dandelion!

      Thanks for writing in! 🙂

  5. Gina Carter Says:

    I am using the original recipe, it’s fermenting with with the raisins now. When I strain and rack again should I add water to the carboy 3″ from the top with this recipe?

    • Dana Says:

      Yes, that’s what we did :). The wine is very strong, so a bit of water isn’t going to be a problem at the top of the carboy! 🙂

  6. Nathan Wells Says:

    In the ginger recipe at what stage does the ginger get added?

    • Dana Says:

      We added the ginger when we added the oranges and lemons. Sorry I omitted that step–I will edit the post. Thanks for asking!


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