So in the 10 years I’ve had my travelling bar, I’ve tried to find what is the most popular with folks. A few items get repeated every year because of easy availability and reputation. My Maple Hard Cyder is one of those regular items, as well as my rhubarb wine (as out of period as it is). The third repeat customer is my Dandelion wine recipe. Folks hear it’s on the bar and usually it only takes a couple of events for the keg to be sucked dry.
Dandelions are not originally native to the New World. They are scattered all across from the tip of the Barony of Ruantallan (Eastern Canada) across the continent to the very doorstep of Winter’s Gate (Alaska).
Dandelions are thought to have originated somewhere in Eurasia (1). The first mention of Dandelions is by an Arab Doctor (2) in the 10th century using it for medicinal purposes. Have you noticed a common theme? Medicinal and Pleasureable beverages seem to run side by side. Dandelion is a diaretic (3) and was often boiled in water and the resulting wash drank to clear the liver. Add a little sugar and it becomes more pleasureable. Leave it too long in the bottle and wild yeast has a party and the next thing you know, Dandelion Wine is born (in theory).
And as travellers bring along cattle, belongings, mother-in-laws, etc, they also brought Dandelions (Taraxacum) with them. They planted it and the next thing you know it’s everywhere. It may suck to see them in your garden and grass but to brewers and folks who know them for a food, it’s free gold.
I am fortunate enough to be living near a very large field where the farmer uses it to grow hay and uses only natural fertilizer on it. It’s uphill from the road so there’s no runoff and it’s open to the sun so much that the dandelion flowers are as big as a silver dollar. About 2 weeks ago I brought my 8 gallon stainless steel pot with me for a walk. Within about 1 hour, I had this:
Dandelion Wine (4)
- 9 gallons water
- 27 lbs sugar
- 18 Seville Oranges (5)
- 27 quarts dandelion flowers
- 1 oz hops (no!)
- 1/2 lb brown ginger
- 12 lemons
- orange and lemon peels to taste
To make nine gallons of wine. Boil twenty-seven quarts of pips in nine gallons of water for an hour. Strain and boil again with 13 1/2 lbs best Demerara sugar, 1 oz of hops, 1/2 lb brown ginger, and sufficient orange and lemon peel to taste. Slice eighteen sevile oranges and twelve lemons, and put to them 13/ 1/2 lbs sugar as above. Pour over them, and boiling beyond when blood warm, add a little brewers yeast. Strain again before putting into a barrel. The wine should be allowed to work three or four days before being bunged tight. Bottle in six months. Like a sharp liquer.
So we start by cleaning the bugs, grass, dirt and any other foriegn objects from the dandelions, leaving only the green on the backside of the flower. My pot isn’t big enough to do the whole batch so we have to break it in half at a time:
4 1/2 gallons of water is mixed with 12 qts of dandelion flowers and brought to a boil. I looked for Demarara (6) sugar but none was found. Instead I used 13 lb common white table sugar. We have left the hops out. The reason why is that I’ve made it before and between the bitterness of the orange, the bitterness of the dandelions and the bitterness of the hops, it just isn’t flavorful. If I leave the hops out, it’s fine. Seville or Blood oranges are also difficult to come by. I used Florida Oranges in it’s place which were far more readily available.
The mixture was strained into the container and topped off.
After the batches have cooled sufficiently we will pitch the yeast.
Another recipe I had called for Champagne yeast (SCUM Magazine), however, when using this yeast, I find it leaves the beverage painfully dry. I swapped it to a LALVIN ICV D47 wine yeast which gives it just enough alcohol but leaves a tiny bit of sweetness as well.
This recipe traditionally starts with a golden color, turns an algae green and then finishes the fermentation with all the stuff falling to the bottom and leaving a clear golden colored beverage the tint and clarity of urine. Sorry, I know of no other beverage that even comes close to the same color and clarity for comparison.
And like the picture says, let’s hope 2015 is as good as 2014 was.
(1) Luc Brouillet. “Taraxacum F. H. Wiggers, Prim. Fl. Holsat. 56. 1780″. Flora of North America.
(4) Travels round our Village, by E.G. Hayden (undated) *
* reference – A Sip through Time by Cindy Renfrow, 1994, p 150