May 012009

Photo is “spring” by Jay Simmons

“Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer in a bottle… Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, take a great sniff of the wine and change the season in your veins by the simple expedient of raising the glass to your lips and tilting summer in.” -Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to brew some dandelion wine? Oh, yeah!

Our first batch of dandelion wine (and our first wine made from flowers) didn’t get off to a great start. One morning, two weekends ago, we picked a whole bunch of dandelion heads, then left them in the kitchen and went off to do some other stuff.

Returning to the dandelions in the evening, we noticed they had started to close their sunny little heads. Which meant it was a bit of a bugger to pick the petals off. (Using any green bits apparently imparts a resinous flavour, and we wanted to avoid this by using just the petals). Undaunted, I picked the petals off, measured them (2 quarts, by volume), and started the brew by putting the petals and citrus rind in a hop bag, then in a fermentation bin, and pouring over boiling water. This was meant to sit for a few days before the other ingredients were added.

Except that shortly thereafter, the mixture started to turn a rather unappetising shade of brown. By the next day, it was really brown, and definitely didn’t look like it would be “summer in a bottle” by the end of the process. More like “mud in a bottle”. Irk. So I decided to start again.

This time, I picked the petals straight from the flowers. I measured them by volume when picking, but then double-checked the amount by weighing them after. (If you’re using a big container to pick the petals in, they will compress as you’re picking them, which will make the amount inaccurate.)

I also altered the technique somewhat, simmering the citrus rind in water to extract more flavour, and adding the citrus flesh to the hop bag with the rind and petals.

Success! The mixture stayed a lovely yellow colour instead of turning brown. After five days, I squeezed out all the goodness from the hop bag, and added a litre of white grape juice, a kilo of sugar, half a packet of yeast (Gervin GV3) and a quarter cup of strong tea (for tannin). It was then transferred to a demijohn for fermenting. As I write this, it is happily bubbling away, turning the sugar into alcohol, and making us a batch of “summer in a bottle”!

So what caused the first batch to turn brown? I don’t know for sure, but have a couple of ideas:

1. I used too many petals (this was suggested to me by someone at a homebrew shop). The weight of the petals the first time around was 340g (12 ounces). The weight the second time was 180g (6-1/2 ounces). Big difference.

2. I didn’t have enough water in the fermentation bin to start, and with part of the hop bag exposed to the air, the petals oxidised and turned brown. I don’t remember much high school chemistry, but this sounds plausible.

3. The little people, who love messing with my mind, also messed with my homebrew and did something nasty to it without me noticing. (The paranoid answer.)

Any other ideas?

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but we’re going to try and pick some more petals to make another batch (a lot of them have gone to seed already), in which case I’ll take pictures of the whole process.

Is anyone else making any wine right now?

  6 Responses to “Dandelion wine”

  1. I’ve always been interested in trying dandelion wine, and I’m excited to see how yours turns out!

  2. Oh I have always wanted to try this. I remember when I was a kid my dad tried to make this and was really excited, but unfortunately he made it in a cast-iron pan… so it turned black…I am sure it would have been high in iron 🙂 but he ended up tossing it out. But he also made a nice dandelion greens salad.

    Oh how I wish I could try your wine–I am sure it will be fabulous!

  3. 3. It was the little people


    I’m not making any brew at the moment but it’s something I desperately want to do (never done it before so it’s all a bit daunting!!).

  4. Y’all are invited over for a wine-tasting party 🙂

    Jeni — I found it daunting at first as well. You can start by first gathering the necessary equipment: 1 gallon glass demijohns, bungs & airlocks, a fermentation bin, empty wine bottles (we use ones with screw caps and then we don’t have bother with corks… just reuse bottles from bought wine), plastic funnel, plastic spoon with a really long handle, large measuring jug (we use a 2L glass one, but a plastic one would be fine too), hop bags (we use cotton ones, but nylon would work too… you can sew these yourself if you want!). Also find a place that sells wine yeast.

    Are there any homebrew shops where you live? Now is the time to start gathering this stuff, so that when the fruit starts to ripen, you’ll all ready. (Though I suppose in Spain, there is almost always local fruit in the shops!)

  5. whenever I read your wine posts, I always want to make some 🙂

    it sounds like a lot of petals, luckily (?) I have a large supply on hand.

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