The Cottage Smallholder


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Don’t miss the dandelions. Gilbert’s dandelion wine recipe

dandelion heads in basketHave you ever tasted dandelion wine?

Dandelions can be annoying in the garden. They’re a palaver to remove as their tap roots are thick and sturdy. But they are the key ingredient in an excellent homemade white table wine.

Gilbert will sometimes pour a glass if you pop round on a summer’s evening. As long as you are on foot. The first time that I sampled his patent recipe, it slipped down like water from a clear cold stream. I accepted a second glass. After the third, I had to feel my way home.

Two years ago I picked the dandelions in our cottage garden far too early. Having collected every single head, there was just a handful the next year. I left these to go to seed as stocks needed to be replenished.

This year there were masses again. I never thought that my eyes would sweep over the garden with pride at the sight of hundreds of yellow nodding heads.

But I waited just a little too long and yesterday I struggled to find enough heads to make a gallon of wine. So many have gone to seed that I’m hoping to fill quite a few demi johns next year.

Of course I could pick them from elsewhere but prefer my country wine to be estate gathered and bottled. It’s just a bit more fun.

Apart from the superb wine, the flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for the bees and poultry love the leaves as a special snack. So if you love good homemade wine, keep bees and want to indulge you chickens, then let your dandelions romp away.

Gilbert’s dandelion wine recipe

Ingredients (you can find a great converter here):

  • 3-4 pints of dandelion heads picked when they are open, with the sun on them, at midday.
  • Water to cover
  • 3 large oranges (orange peel, no white pith and strained juice)
  • 2.5 pounds of white granulated sugar.
  • Wine yeast

Method:

  1. Pick your dandelion heads at midday when the heads are fully open. Remove any stalk but leave the green bits beneath the petals.
  2. Cover immediately with boiling water and steep for 48 hours.
  3. With a sharp knife carefully remove the orange peel (no white pith). Add to the dandelions and their steeped juice and simmer briskly for 15 minutes. Strain through muslin immediately onto the sugar and stir to disolve the sugar.
  4. Allow to cool (closely covered with a tea towel or tightly fitting lid) .
  5. When cold add the juice of the oranges, proved wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Stir well and leave for five days in a warm place. Pour into a sterilised demi john and top up with boiled and cooled water to a gallon. Fit fermenting lock. Put in a warm place for at least a month. Rack and transfer to a cooler place when initial fermentation ceases. Leave well alone for at least a year.
  6. If fermentation has ceased and the wine is clear rack into bottles and store for as long as you can (a year is ideal).

N.B. I use two pound of sugar in the initial stage and then add the aother half pound (as a sugar solution) after the first racking to top the demi john.

Stored well most country wine improves with age. Sample a little every six months or so. The one that tastes vile after a year can often be a stars two years down the line.

Keep very detailed good notes (a label on the demi john is a good idea) so as to repeat your method. As Anne Mary says,
“Give six people the same recipe and ingredients. Each dish will taste different.”

It’s the same with country wine.


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25 Comments

  1. gillie

    I made a note of the ingredients, I know where the demijohns are and the dandilions are aplenty. Then I saw the flaw in the plan. The initial picking instructions state:

    “picked when they are open, with the sun on them, at midday.”

    Ho hum, that will be interesting, where will I find the sun?

  2. My mother used to say that the only time she had ever been drunk in her life was on dandelion wine. She was plied with the stuff by a little old lady and had no idea how strong it was!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Gillie

    I was lucky. I picked mine on a hot sunny day. Hopefully the wet weather will break soon!

    Hi Z

    Little old ladies armed with bottles of homemade wine are a dangerous combination!

  4. moonroot

    The only time we made dandelion wine it was disgusting. Unfortunately we didn’t keep detailed notes to know where we went wrong!
    Perhaps I’ll try again with your recipe.
    Our favourite is crabapple wine, which seems to come out well regardless of what we do to it!

  5. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Moonroot –

    do you have a recipe for said wine, please?

  6. gillie

    The sun came out, the dandelions are picked and are happily steeping away. Stage two on Tuesday :)

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Moonroot

    Perhaps the dandelion wine needed a bit more time.

    Hi Jo

    I’d love the recipe for the crab apple wine too!

    Hi Gillie

    Great news. Hope that it works for you!

  8. Ah, dandelion wine! A Virginia classic. I made 3 gallons once while living in Fredericksburg, VA. The trick is to use ONLY the yellow flowers and keep anything green out of the mix. The green = bitter, bitter, bitter.

    I used local honey instead of sugar, and lemon instead of oranges, but it was a similar recipe. Very dry (I did not add more honey at a racking stage) and very long-lived. I was sad to see it go.

    I make “real” wine now, as I live in California, so no more dandelions for me. Alas.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Hank

    If I find some more dandelions I shall give your dandelion petal version a go! Then I can compare results.

    Thannks so much for your input. Much appreciated

  10. Mollysmum

    You can make jelly with dandelions as well and it tastes like nectar, just be careful not to put any green bit’s in or the stem.

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