Don't waste your weed: make dandelion wine

May 25 | Guest post by Allison

Spring is the greatest, right? Everything comes alive suddenly, especially the dandelions. They're instantly recognizable — the cheeriest and most iconic weed. But they're so much more than a lawn pest. Dandelions are used in all kinds of folk remedies and herbal medicine. The leaves are edible. And best of all, the petals can be made into wine!

A bottle of dandelion wine is a taste of spring sunshine that can be savored later on, when winter has set in and you might need a reminder of sunnier days.

SO MANY DANDELIONS

I've always wanted to make dandelion wine, but until this year I never got my act together during our brief dandelion season. If you're intimidated by home brewing, it's a fairly simple recipe and would be a good way to get started.

Dandelion Wine
adapted from Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking

Her recipe involves four ingredients: dandelions, sugar, oranges, and yeast. You'll also need a glass fermentation vessel: a carboy, growler, or demijohn that can be fitted with a fermentation lock, which can be found at your local homebrew store or online.
Ingredients

  • One pound dandelion flowers
  • Six cups white sugar
  • Four oranges (organic if possible)
  • One teaspoon dried yeast

To gather enough dandelions for a batch of wine, enlist the help of some friends. Have a dandelion party!

Choose a sunny day when the flowers will be wide open and find a lawn, lot, or field where you can be sure pesticides haven't been sprayed. Try to pick the heads and leave the stems behind: they'll just pop off usually. The milky liquid that oozes out of the stems is bitter and the green base of each flower is bitter too, which means that you have to pull the yellow petals off each base. Some people use scissors, but I've had luck pinching the base with one hand and yanking the petals out with the other. If you have to, you can freeze the dandelion petals until you're ready to use them — if you have enough, they can also be made into jelly.

Boiling more dandelions

  • While you bring a gallon of water to a boil, measure the yellow dandelion heads, discarding as much green leaf as possible without being too persnickety.
  • Sterilize your glass fermentation vessel — I use an iodine solution.
  • Juice and pare oranges, leaving behind the white pith.
  • Pour the boiling water over the flowerheads and leave to steep for two days. Don't exceed the time or what can be a delicious table wine may be spoiled.
  • After two days, bring the mixture to a boil, add the thinly pared slivers of the orange zest, and boil for 10 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth onto the sugar and stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar fully.
  • Leave to cool. Then add the yeast (activated in a little water) and juice from the oranges.
  • Put the mixture into a fermentation jar and fit an airlock. If necessary, add water to bring to full 1 1/2 gallons.
  • Siphon off into clean bottles when the wine has cleared — it will take about two months. It should be just right for drinking by Christmas.

Ready to begin fermenting

Forgotten Skills of Cooking is a great book if you're thinking of getting into making bread, foraging, raising chickens, or making your own dandelion wine and apple cider. I made a double recipe, enough to fill one of the three-gallon carboys we got from a guy on Craigslist. That meant collecting two pounds of dandelion petals, which is a lot! Enlist friends. Seriously.

After gathering oodles of petals, boiling them until my house smelled like a freshly mown field, locating the biggest bowl we own to contain the cooling mixture, and almost losing my organic oranges to rogue snackers, my wine is just beginning to bubble, and now I have to deal with the hardest part of homebrewing: waiting until it's ready to drink.

  1. I am SO doing this next year when we're not living in a dorm!!

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  2. This is so awesome. Putting out an Albuquerque dandelion call RIGHT NOW.

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  3. In our home, we make Dandelion Jelly from my grandmother's recipe. It's delicious, tastes kind of like honey.

    Dandelion Jelly
    1 quart dandelion blossoms
    1 quart water
    1 package Sure-Jell
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    4 1/2 cups sugar
    Dash yellow food coloring

    Rinse blossoms and boil in the water for 3 minutes. Strain blossoms, retaining 3 cups of water. Return this water to heat, bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add lemon juice and Sure-Jell. When the mixture boils again, stir in sugar until dissolved (about 3 minutes). Pour into jars and seal.
    Lavender, sweet violet, or rose petals can be used in a similar way.

    From Grandmother, Ethel Mae

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  4. Seriously, all I can think of is Redwall. I have wanted to make dandelion wine for my entire life since I read about mice in an abbey drinking the stuff…Life is now full of win

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    • Ha! I don't remember it in Redwall, but I loved the book Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury growing up so I just freaked out when I saw this post. Thank you for helping me prove to my husband that I'm not the only person to find this exciting.

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  5. This post is seriously the greatest thing ever.

    This is just seriously so right up my ally. I can imagine myself going on a picnic in the woods with my sweetie and packing fresh fruit and home made breads and cheese and dandelion wine! I am doing this as soon as I can possibly accumulate 1 pound of weeds, haha!

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  6. Okay, stupid question here, but how do you make sure your Dandies are free peticides and …other grossness? How does one find free range Dandies if you aren't out in the country?

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    • Personally I would only trust dandelions from my own yard or the yard of someone I know never sprays.

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    • A park might be a good bet, especially if you can get in contact with the people in charge of maintenance and ask if they spray. I used dandelions from our yard, a nearby park that I know doesn't spray, and several vacant city lots that some friends maintain as a garden. If you find a good yard full of dandelions, most people don't mind you taking their weeds especially if you offer them a taste of the end product!

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    • To be sure their are no pesticides or other contaminants it is best to know the source (your yard, your crunchy friends yard, the unused spot at a community garden, etc) and to know the drainage. For example, the city park maintenance staff might not use pesticides but the owner of the lot next door may and if it drains into the park — pesticides. Does the city street or another impervious surface drain into your yard —- then pesticides, oil, and other heavy metals.

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    • Dear lady Weaver, by the time the boiling and fermentation process are complete. The last thing you will have to worry about is weather a doggie peed on it…lol. If you pick the flowers, do the friend a favor and dig out the root.. this way it wont be a weed to them anymore!

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  7. Groom and I grow massive dandelions in our yard and never spray. What's great is that they're HUGE!!! People often ask what kind of flowers they are, because they're not used to dandelions with flowers the size of a shot glass on a thigh height stem…

    This is our new pet project on our second blooming. (We top them in our own yard so we get 2 and sometimes 3 bloomings, and don't piss off the neighbors (; )

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  8. Is the yeast you use for this the same yeast that one would use for making bread? Or is it different (brewers yeast or something)?

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    • I've never made dandelion wine, but we brew a lot of beer and for the wine I would use brewer's yeast. The kind of yeast you use will probably have an effect on the flavor and character of your wine – for instance, with that much sugar I bet you could use a Belgian or even champagne yeast and get a fizzy, effervescent wine.

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    • Bread yeast will work, however. It just won't look as nice (not as clear) and some people who are into alcohol say they don't like the taste. My experience (making mead) is that it turns out perfectly drinkable, but YMMV.

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  9. All I can think of is sitting in my front yard as a child picking dandelions for my parents for them to make wine. Not so fun when it's hot out and you don't get to enjoy the end products. And it stains your fingers brown. Just a warning.

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  10. I am going to have to try the 'weed' wine! My first try at a cab was a disaster (I think I ended up with some cleaning solution/acid in my batch). Since that first attempt, I have found that it is both a science, and an art! My second batch was good, but not great (still a success if I do say so myself). I did find a website that helped a ton though at http://www.how-to-make-wine.com (broke down and paid, but it really was well worth it as my third batch ROCKED!). I am sure there are others too, but the info worked well for me. Cheers…(clink)!

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  11. MAN. This post reminds me of OH SO LONG AGO last year when I was like "YES. My parents grow SO MANY violets and dandelions! I will make all the things!" And then I noticed there weren't so many dandelions in my parents' yard this year.
    Apparently, they've been spraying.
    GODDOMMOT PARENTS. STOP RUINING MY DREAMS.

    Anyway, there's always hope that someday, I'll have a yard of my own. -_-

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  12. It is just too bad everyone has gotten Poison the Grass Happy. There would be some many good things like this. If they weren't. The only REAL GREEN IS SAFE GREEN. GO ORGANIC. My two favorite statements now.

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  13. I tried to make dandelion wine two years ago and it was a massive fail. I wrote my directions incorrectly and ruined it in the boil phase. Maybe this or next year I will give it another go. I was so disappointed because I have five of us picking them and then I de-greened them all myself!

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  14. I was always told as a child that picking dandelions would make you pee your pants!!!

    i can't read any dandelion recipes without imagining the author/cook/wine brewer weeing their knickers lol

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    • Well if you drink enough dandelion wine you could definitely pee your pants! :-P

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  15. I don't remember wine or jelly made from dandelions but I do remember dandelion salads yum. but grandma used to make corn cob jelly ( interesting)

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  16. I went and picked the first crop of dandelions this year…but didn't have the time to make the wine so had to just toss them back outside *sad face* (I did make some fritters and tea out of a few though). It has always been on my to-do list…I'm saving this page for when the time is right!

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  17. One of my best girlfriends and her family recently turned my partner onto the wonder and yummy glory that is dandelion wine! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I think we'll invest in some child labor (aka our godchildren) to help with the flower picking; we'll put them on the "cookies and hugs payment plan". :-)

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  18. Question, if I were to pick all the flowers today and store them until next week to make the wine (or I'm considering making jelly) how would I store them or is that even possible?

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    • I've read that you can store them in the freezer in a ziploc bag, till you gather enough or until you have time to do it.

      My question is how many cups or quarts = a pound? I don't own a kitchen scale…

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