Where I’m from in Canada, people like to say that we have two seasons: winter and construction. It’s funny because it is so accurate. What we do have of Spring and Autumn is magnificent but fleeting, seeming to last only long enough to breathe it in before it is replaced by excessive heat or bitter cold. If you blink, you might miss the Springtime– or you would if it wasn’t for the way it marks its territory: dandelions. Every year, it seems like it’s overnight that they appear, and then suddenly they are everywhere, enveloping the whole outdoors in yellow. Many land owners see dandelions as a nuisance; an intruder taking over their lawns. Personally, I have always loved them. As a child, I remember getting so angry at my parents for taking them out of the yard. I remember saying that they were beautiful, and I remember that “they are weeds” never seemed like a reasonable response for why they had to go. This must have been one of the first indications that I would grow up to be such a hippie.
I still have a soft spot for dandelions. As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve learned a lesson: everything is better when you add wine. So this year, I decided to make dandelion wine!
There is something inherently romantic about taking something that grows in the ground and turning it into sweet, fragrant wine. Here is my beginner’s guide to doing it yourself.
Step 1: Find a good, clean space to pick from
This can be a challenge (or an adventure, depending on how you look at it) even if you are surrounded by dandelions. Backyards and parks are likely to have been fertilized with dog pee, other public areas will be covered in pesticides, and any place too close to the road is going to be filthy. Get creative. We drove around directionless for nearly an hour before we found our perfect spot, which wound up being an extension of somebody’s gated mansion property– oops. At least we trespassed for a good cause; booze making.
We filled up about a quarter of a large garbage bag.
Step 2: Separate all of the yellow petals from the green parts
This is time consuming, but important, because the green parts of your dandelion will make your wine taste bitter if you leave them in. Set yourself up in a comfortable spot, lay out a towel for your discards, and get picking. I filled 12 and a half cups with the yellow petals, which was enough to make five bottles of wine. It took me about four hours to get this done, but I personally found the task of plucking the petals more soothing than tedious. It’s a nice way to keep your hands busy while you catch up on your favourite shows on Netflix. Alternatively, you can listen to my Dandelion Wine playlist to keep your mind busy.
Note that this step should be started immediately once you get your dandelions home, while the flowers are still open.
Step 3: Pour the petals into a large pot/crock. Cover them in boiling water.
Leave them to soak for three days.
Step 4: Strain and season
Once your petals have been soaking for three days, they are ready to be strained. If you don’t have a cheesecloth, you can use an old pillowcase. Once you’ve strained all the liquid, you’ll want to squeeze the flowers to get as much flavor out of them as you can. Pour all of the liquid back into your pot.
Now, it’s time to add your flavor. I based my recipe off a great one I found on the Twin Eagles website. Going by an increased version of their recipe, I added the juice and peels of 2 oranges and 1 lemon, a little chunk of ginger root, and 4 cups of sugar. To let the flavor soak in, you’ll want to bring your mixture to a gradual boil for about 20-30 minutes. Turn the heat off, give it a few minutes to cool, and then add a packet of champagne yeast (about 0.5 oz.).
Once all of the ingredients and the yeast have been added, it’s time to strain again. Your wine is almost ready to start becoming wine!
Step 5: Let it ferment
Now it’s time to transfer your wine into a fermenting jug or fermenting bucket with an airlock. If you don’t already have these things, they can be found at any and all home brewing stores. I would suggest first looking at an actual brewery, though. Many of them have a small selection of home brewing supplies for sale in their stores, with lower prices since their main business is in-house brewing. Make sure, if you’ve never used one before, that you learn how to use an airlock.
Let your wine ferment for 1-3 weeks.
Step 6: Bottle it
You’ve made wine! Transfer it into bottles, throw on some pretty labels if you’d like, cork ’em (see if your local winery will let you do this). You’re supposed to let the bottles sit for at least 6 months before the flavor reaches its peak. We stored 4 of our bottles, but we drank one right away. It tasted like dandelions- in a nice way! I can only imagine the satisfaction of drinking a glass of this in the middle of winter, and reminiscing about the Spring.
Side note: I posted a version of this story on the Steller app. This app is awesome for high quality mixed media stories and photo essays on the go.