Now is the season, the possibilities of this years bounty are starting to bubble up in our minds. Wild wines, Jams, Jellies, confections and preserves, fritters and frittatas. Wild Mushrooms and May-apples. SPRING is here! Symbol of potential and new beginnings, new endeavors. so let’s get started.
Experience has shown me a good recipe is only part of the work, and often not as important to the result as HOW we go about making our wildcrafted delicacies. Since Dandelion Wine is one of the first Wild wines we can make, and in many North American areas, there is still time to make it, I will use Dandelion Wine as our example. These TIPS can be applied to all your planned productions from Mother Natures Bounty each season and year.
Dandelion Wine is a Spring tradition internationally. More than just a beverage. It can capture the essence of the season, and since it should sit for a few months to mature, you shouldn’t really drink it till Winter. Yule or Christmas or Chanukah time, capturing a taste and memory of springs light and warmth to savour during the dreary cold dark and dead of winter.
A pest and a blessing. Love them or hate them, either way we simply have to live with them. As persistent and adaptable as the proverbial cockroach, they are going nowhere, and we will never be rid of them, so might as well embrace them in all their bitter, medicinal, sweet and sunny glory.
There are hundreds of recipes for Home made Dandelion Wine. I can’t tell you which is the best. I am sure every year there are more being developed as more people explore making it, and with the speed and proficiency of internet communication there are probably more wonderful recipes being posted as I write this. Whatever recipe you use, these tips are guaranteed to take it to a whole new level!!
– Not all Dandelions are equal .When it comes to making Dandelion Wine. You can’t just chop down any Dandelion flower at any time of the year in any place willy nilly so to speak and expect to make a superb wine. One dandelion is not the same as all other dandelions! First of all, if we are going to use them for our dandelion wine, we need to wait for them. That’s right.
–If you want Wild Mushrooms, you hunt them.
–If you want Dandelions for wine, you wait for them. Seriously.
1- Wait patiently , keep your eye open for where and when they will rise, you know where they will appear. Because you have noticed them,(consciously or not), year after year while your subconscious toyed with the idea of making something with that abundance that seems to be wasted. You are a creative spirit. Have all your tools, materials and vessels ready and sterilized, and a place ,(kitchen?), to do your magic planned. Be prepared!
2 – What is it that you are waiting for? You are waiting for that first county-wide Yellow Shout of Spring Joy from the earth, and that big outward push of those Dandy Lions from the sweet loins of mother nature en mass. That is the sweet spot!. There is usually only one per year. And it is worth waiting for! It could last two weeks, or it could only last a few days before a run of cold cloudy rainy weather puts a damper on it. There will be no more of a glorious or perfect a time to harvest Dandelion flowers for wine than this. Period. Sure, there will be more Dandelion flowers all summer long, and yes you could make dandelion wine at some later point in the season. But y’know what? It simply won’t be the same, and you will never know it unless you try this out.
So,,.Do enjoy Spring, relax and breath it in, take a few days to let that warm spring glow take the winter chill out of your bones, but DON’T miss that first yellow window! Seriously, when I do miss that first virgin big yellow swath of dandelioness everywhere, I will most often just wait till the next spring and say, “oh well, it wasn’t meant to be”. That’s how important it is. Having a good recipe is only one part of making the best Dandelion wine.
3 – If you can, try to harvest on a SUNDAY. Start as close after dawn as you can. Astrologically this is the day of the Sun and The hour of the Sun. (about an hour and a half to two and a half depending on which system you use for division of Planetary hours), and you only really have to initiate the harvest then, you don’t have to complete your harvest within this time frame. Astrologically, Dandelions are ruled by the Sun. (As are Calendula, and St. John’s Wort). So from an Astrodynamic perspective they are energetically at their peak and prime, resonating and ripe, in happy harmony ,( vigorous and vibrant) at this time. Timing is everything. You can tell, if you look for it. There is an extra vibrancy and glow to them. It is not random, and it’s not your imagination.
There are other Astrological conditions that you could take into account, but if you are not familiar with the energetic connection between plants and planets, Astrological rulerships, Planetary hours and the basics of Plant Alchemy, this is a great place to start. Especially since you may not have a wide window of time to work with. Does working with plants according to their astrological rulerships make a noticeable difference in quality? I believe so. But,, you will have to try it and find out for yourself.It’s just one of those things. Esoteric, because you have to experience it from the inside to know it. Experience it first hand, first person. It is not exoteric knowledge, learned from the outside as most knowledge is transmitted to us.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would be second best choices, ruled by Mercury, Jupiter and Venus in that order. Here is a link to a great site that is a primer for Astrodynamics, Planetary Rulerships, and Plant Alchemy, check it out ,http://humanityhealing.net/2012/08/astrology-and-the-use-of-herbs/
4 – Morning Dew– Often, when harvesting herbs for drying, it is important to pick when the dew is dried from them, to avoid encouraging mold and other organisms while they are drying.. When harvesting flowers for wine, you do not have to wait till all the dew has dried off, morning dew is a unique ingredient. So don’t shake it off. If you have it, keep it..
5 – Find a spot where where there is an obvious abundance of Dandelions, an area rich in whatever it is that Dandelions thrive on. Physically and energetically. Don’t get too close to busy roadways where pollution from exhausts might have seeped into the ground, or anywhere there might be a chance herbicides or pesticides may have been used, and stay away from areas that may have been home to, or down hill from old industrial buildings or old land fill sites. Stay away from areas sparsely populated by Dandelion, go for the gusto! There is a reason they grow so thickly in some areas.
6 – Harvest them by hand.. not with scissors or knives. Also, If you have helpers, get someone to do the picking, and someone to nip off all the stubs of stems and anything green that is still attached. (Kids are great at this).The green parts are not needed or desired for wine and will only reduce the colour and add their own flavour. We only want the flavour of the flower. Thumbnails work perfectly for harvesting most flowers.
7 – Since you are taking something, always give something back. Whether something physical that is of benefit to the land or plant, a gesture, or something symbolic. Give and receive. Balance. Nature is big on balance. It is a law you can count on. Like Karma.
8 – Make sure all your bottles, spoons, funnels etc. are clean and sterile, if you can’t boil them then use sodium metabisulfite, a standard preservative and sterilizing chemical available in all wine and beer making supply stores. Follow the instructions for using it. It is very, very important to keep everything clean and not introduce any organisms other than the yeast we are intentionally adding.
9 –. USE WILD GINGER I always add Wild Ginger to every wine I make! I am constantly impressed with the magic it performs and the flavours it adds without being obvious or obtrusive in any way. And I am not just trying to perk up sales of Wild Ginger from my shop either. Wild Ginger lends rich character and depth to a wine. It is absolutely transformative. To any wine. Perhaps due to the complexity of its oils and resins. I have heard historically in old Europe, Clary Sage was used for a similar purpose to create “Muscatel” Wine. Clary Sage is also an herb endowed with essential oils ,(in flower), and resins, (on the stem). About a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of ground dried Wild Ginger to each gallon,(4 liters) of liquid. I have found this especially benefits floral wines that need body to compliment their lighter and more ethereal spirit.
So those are the basics of How to make a kick ass Dandelion Wine, You can use these tips with every wild wine you make, and adapt them to all your foraging forays and wildcrafting projects. Here is a simple recipe. One I hope will suit first timers as well as the practiced maker of wild wines. it can be doubled, tripled or halved. It includes a secondary fermentation which many of the old recipes do not include, but I have I found it refines your end product considerably. making it dryer, crisper, clearer and higher in alcohol content. If you find it too complex as a beginner, you will find many simpler and good recipes online. Take what you can from these tips and incorporate them in your project. Start small.
Remember to Always take notes!!! I can’t stress this enough!! Quantities, ingredients, variations from a recipe, observations, times, dates, and keep them somewhere safe for next year. This is really important and if you do keep diligent notes, I guarantee your future self will thank you! If you already have your favourite recipe, try out the tips and let me know how this seasons wines turned out for you.
MY BEST DANDELION WINE RECIPE
(Makes about 12 liters of Dandelion Wine)
- 3 Kilograms of cleaned Dandelion flowers.
- 12 Liters, (quarts) of water.
- 4 Kilograms sugar, brown or white.
- 2 cups white seedless Raisins chopped fine, (or an extra cup of sugar).
- 2 whole large washed Oranges, seeded and either put through the blender or chopped fine.
- 1 whole, washed Lemon,same as above.
- 6 whole clove pieces
- 2-1/2 teaspoons dried and powdered Wild Ginger or 60 grams,(2 oz.) fresh & chopped.
- 1 packet wine making yeast, or 1 tablespoon regular bread making yeast.
- 1 cup lukewarm water.
- 1 food grade white plastic bucket 15 liters capacity,(standard restaurant size used for liquids and muffin mixes, grape juice for wine etc.
- Large pot that will boil 15 liters.
- Old and clean Pillowcase.
- Clear plastic hose for “racking”,(transferring the wine out of containers without the must).
- Large funnel, and or colander that will sit firmly on top of your bucket.
- one medium wine making carboy 12-15 liters.
- or -3 to 4-1 gallon narrow mouthed glass jugs. The kind hot sauce and vinegar come to restaurants. Easy to find on recycling day.
- Beer or wine bottles with corks or caps.
- Sodium Metabisulfite for sterilizing. Available at most brew your own shops and anywhere that wine making supplies are sold. Follow directions!
- All vessels and tools must be sterile.
- Collect and prepare your Dandelion flowers as directed above.
- Bring water to a boil,
- Add flowers, water, sugar, oranges, lemon, cloves, wild ginger, raisins
- Bring back to a boil for 1/2 hour, simmering on low and covered.
- Let it sit covered to cool, until it is just cool enough to handle.
- Pour and strain into plastic bucket through a clean washed pillowcase, or through a colander lined with doubled cheese cloth, nothing beats a pillowcase especially for wringing out the liquid and keeping larger particles from passing into your wine. the colander is just a precaution, and to support the weight, ( ideally find one that your bucket supports, or put the colander in a funnel that sits firmly on the rim of your bucket, or just use a large funnel and sit your pillowcase in it.)
- Press whatever liquid you can through the pillowcase or cheese cloth. (Make sure your hands are washed and clean first).
- When liquid is room temperature or a little warmer. Take one cup of liquid, (using a clean or sterile utensil), add it your cup of lukewarm water and stir in the yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until yeast starts “working”, (it will start creating fizzing or frothing).
- Add yeast mixture to liquid in plastic bucket, cover with a clean cloth or a clean towel, (tie or use rubber band around the rim so it does not sag and come into contact with the liquid), and let sit for 1 or 2 weeks at room temperature undisturbed or until you can hear no more fizzing.
- Note, if you do not hear fizzing within 24 hours of adding yeast. Put your liquid back in the pot, boil for 10 minutes, cover, wait for it to cool enough to just above body temperature and go through the process of adding your yeast again.
- After a week or two, when your wine has stopped “working” or fizzing, “rack” it to a sterile carboy or to your sterile one gallon glass jugs if you don’t have a large narrow necked glass carboy. Racking in wine lingo means siphoning off your clear wine from the must that has settled on the bottom. Pouring it out would just mix in the must and carry its taste over.
- Keeping a minimum of space between the top of your liquid and the top of the bottle is helpful. If needed add room temperature boiled water to bring liquid level up to 3 to 4 inches from the lip in a gallon jug and 6 to 7 inches in a large carboy.
- Add CO2 locks, From a wine supply store, about $1.00 each. Or a piece of balloon rubber pulled tightly over the opening and tied, with a couple of pin holes in it for gas to escape and keep organisms out. Let sit, undisturbed in a cool dark place for secondary fermentation. Cool basements are ideal for this.
- Wait 4-6 weeks, then siphon the wine off the must again, but this time into your sterile bottles.( Note; For those more experienced with wine making, you can do whatever you like at this point. You can put it back in a sterile carboy and continue your secondary fermentation, rack it as often as you like, pump it through a filter, play with the sugar/alcohol content, flavouring etc.)
- Cork, cap and set aside till December at the earliest.
In December, open, decant, and have a taste of Spring in the middle of Winter.
Remember to keep CLEAR notes. Your future self will thank you.