With lots of dandelions flowering from Spring right through to late Summer, why not try a light but easy to make white wine? The recipe is shown below... no chemicals used, just natural ingredients other than Milton baby liquid to sterilise equipment. Why not try out some of the other Allotment Heaven easy recipes?
I make this wine for several reasons. Dandelions get a bad press... yes, they're technically a weed, but they act as a beneficial companion plant, bringing up nutrients with their long tap root to benefit shallower rooted plants, they attract pollinating insects and help surrounding fruit ripen by releasing ethylene. They're one of the earliest flowering plants and freely available in abundance. A good Spring wine to make.
Another reason is the difficulty of finding wine in shops without the 'contains sulphites' message hidden away on the back label. Sulphites can cause allergies and headaches. Hence no chemicals are used in this recipe.
The instructions below make one UK imperial gallon of wine, which means about six bottles. It's much easier if you make a few gallons at once... the demijohns are cheaper if you buy several off eBay and it's easier to bottle without disturbing the sediment. Just multiply the ingredients according to how many gallons.
The cost of equipment is pretty low... under £20 if you acquire the wine bottles by saving from bought white wine. Thereafter your only cost is for sugar, oranges, some wine yeast and a little Milton liquid... so having made the initial investment in equipment, typically you're enjoying rather nice wine with no sulphite content for well under 50p a bottle! Why wouldn't you want to do it?
- One 5 gallon plastic fermentation barrel with lid
- Something for stirring the contents
- Milton baby sterilising liquid
- Long clear plastic tubing (available from DIY stores)
- A 1 gallon demijohn (cheaper if you buy several off eBay)
- Rubber bung with airlock
- 6 wine bottles (ideally clear glass)
- 2 quarts dandelion petals (pick much more flowers to give you enough petals, best to pick on a sunny day when the flowers are fully opened and avoid areas frequented by dogs)
- 3 lbs granulated sugar
- 4 oranges
- 1 gallon water
- Yeast and nutrient
- Sterilise the fermentation barrel and lid using the milton liquid.
- Pluck the dandelion petals from the flowers and place in fermentation barrel.
- Add 4 pints of boiling water and mix.
- Place lid on barrel and leave for two days.
- Add a further 4 pints of boiling water to bring up to one gallon.
- Add the orange zest and juice, avoid getting any of the white pith included.
- Add the sugar and mix well until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Once cool add the yeast and nutrient.
- Put the lid on the barrel and leave in a warm place to ferment
- After a few hours you'll notice something starting to happen... there'll be froth on the surface as the yeast starts to ferment, turning the sugar into alcohol. Stir the contents twice a day.
- It will take a couple of weeks or so for the fermentation to finish. Don't worry if it takes longer... it's a natural process and not a science. Once completed transfer the liquid to the demijohn using the plastic tubing and funnel. Make sure all the equipment has been sterilised with Milton liquid.
- Avoiding disturbing any sediment, place the fermentation barrel at a higher level than the demijohn (e.g. put the barrel on a table and the demijohn on the floor), put one end of the plastic tubing in the barrel, and having placed the funnel in the neck of the demijohn give the other end of the tubing a strong suck to pull some of the wine up and over the edge of the barrel. Quickly remove your mouth and put the tube end into the funnel. The wine should start to drain.
- Avoid transferring any sediment if you can. Once all the clear liquid is in the demijohn top up with water to bring to a gallon (if you're only making one gallon). Seal with the rubber bung and airlock, having put a small amount of diluted Milton liquid in the airlock.
- You can now store the wine somewhere cool and frost free. At first the fermentation may start up again and you'll see bubbles going through the airlock. Gradually the wine will clear.
- Once fully clear repeat the draining process, this time from demijohn to sterilised wine bottle. Put a stopper in each bottle and store.
- The wine will be ready to drink after being bottle for six months, but much improves with age after twelve months.
Note: If you do decide to make several gallons at once, filling the demijohns can be a bit tricky since, once the first is full, you have to put your thumb over the tube end and use the other fingers of that same hand to transfer the funnel to the next demijohn, then removing your thumb to let the flow continue into the second demijohn. Where's your other hand? Holding the other end of the tube in the fermentation barrel without disturbing the sediment of course! It's a good idea to position the demijohns close up against each other.