Referred to as a “nectar of the gods”, I can firmly say my first experiment with dandelion wine has left me with my stomach turning inside out. The wretched brew smells more like the “nectar” of a porcelain god, enough to send anyone with a working sniffer to run far, far away.
My dandelion wine experiment began last year. Seeing fields of yellow, perky dandelion blossoms painted through the grass left me wondering what could be done with the pervasive “weed” that leaves many lawn enthusiasts seeing red. Using the greens for a salad is a popular notion but you have to catch dandelions before they bloom, otherwise the leaves turn horribly bitter to our sensitive human palette. Vintage wine books however paint tantalizing imagery of a sweet and wild wine that trickles down your gullet and warms the depths of your belly with the sunshine captured by perky petals. Who wouldn’t want to lap that luscious sounding sun juice?
Last year my Darling Daughter and I spent the better part of an hour in a nearby field on our hands and knees. It’s hard work plucking a gallon of petite, sticky flower heads dotting the field grass. Some issue or another prompted me to delay the process of getting the wine started so I stuck the gallon container of flower heads into the fridge. By the time I went to work on them the next day, those darned dandelions had all clamped shut. They looked like a pack of clams with their mouths firmly sealed. Those flowers made it into the trash since they were no longer fresh and it would just take an inane amount of time to pry them open and pluck their petals. That was the last attempt of 2010.
Kicking off spring 2011, we’ve had rain storms measuring feet instead of inches of rain and the resulting carpet of dandelions was magnificent. Silver dollar sized, fuzzy lion heads bobbed and swayed through most grass patches up to just a week or so ago. Before our first official mowing of the year, Homestead Hottie, Darling Daughter and I grabbed a bucket and started plucking. From the front to the back (can you handle that?), we managed to pick 6 quarts of dandelions.
The recipe I used was from a vintage dime store paperback titled “Successful Wine Making at Home: How to make your own wine and liqueurs,” by H.E. Bravery. I only share the recipe so you can look at the process yourself, not because I endorse trying it out!
- 1 gallon flower heads without the tiniest piece of stalk
- 3 lbs. sugar
- 1 oz. yeast
- 1 gallon water
- 2 lemons
1) Pull out the petals by gathering them between your fingers whilst holding the base of the flower head. Put the petals in the fermenting vessel and pour on 3 quarts of boiling water, covered tightly and left to soak for 7 days.
2) Stir daily and cover at once
3) Strain and wring out fairly tightly and return the liquor to the fermenting vessel. Boil half the sugar in a pint of water and when cool add to the liquor. Then add the yeast and juice of 2 lemons. Cover and ferment for 7 days.
4) Pour carefully into a gallon jar leaving behind as much deposit as you can. Boil the rest of the sugar in a pint of water and when cool, add to your liquor. Fit fermentation lock until all fermentation has ceased.
I dutifully followed the directions to get this “nectar” going including taking sanitary precautions and sterilizing the equipment coming in contact with this wine. By day three though, the vile brew was putting off an aroma that indicated to this brewer’s nose it had gone sour. I was ready to pitch it at that point but Homestead Hottie urged me to let it run its course before dumping all our hard, dandelion pickin’ work down the drain. When it came time to pitch in the first batch of sugar the stench was overwhelming and one whiff was enough to send your stomach convulsing. Talina even likened it to the sickening and so hard to forget stench of one of our high school math teacher’s breath.
Needless to say my “mighty fine” dandelion wine found its way straight into the garbage disposal. It’s disappointing but I’d rather it be that instead of getting violently ill, like the time I drank Dogfish Head’s Red & White (that’s a completely different story though).
I reviewed more than two dozen other dandelion wine recipes and all are pretty similar to this vintage recipe. Most only let the dandelion petals ferment for three days instead of 7, but remember, my wine was spoiled by day 3 anyway. I think my fermenting location was way too warm and I think there was obviously some “nasty” that made it through the boiling water infusion. I think if I try this again, I might trying actually boiling the dandelion petals for a couple of minutes before pitching the whole pot into the fermentation vessel. This longer exposure to boiling water would kill off even more bacteria, especially on a plant that hugs the ground and comes into contact with who knows what!
Have you tried making dandelion wine? What has your experience been like? Please share!
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