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Dandelion wine to secondary fermentation

dandelion Wine to secondary fermentation
dandelion Wine to secondary fermentation. a little lighter in colour.

Well, finally, after what seems like months of babying, nurturing and feeding my dandelion wine during its primary fermentation, stretching it out for many weeks more than it is usually called for, I have given it its final racking and taken it down to the cool basement to sit for the next few months. I hope the only work I have left to do on it now is racking it every few weeks till it is bottled, just to make sure there’s not too much Dandelion Wine must on the bottom and to keep its flavor and color clear.
I did take a bit of a side road making this dandelion wine when I accommodated the 20 L carboy from a 14 L original batch of wine.
To fill-in the gaps and catch up a bit with this story line, I need to add that I’ve fed my primary fermentation slowly for weeks now, after adding an extra 6 L of water. I fed it with sugar syrup and after making the candied Angelica,

Candied Angelica- Boiling in syrup @145 till Translucent
Candied Angelica Boiling in syrup @145 till Translucent

I fed it slowly with the leftover Angelica syrup till the syrup was gone. This added  extra flavor and a touch of Angelica fragrance to the dandelion wine which seems quite complementary. However, only the final tasting, after the bottles have sat for months, will really tell me if it’s a success or not.

Sorted & Cleaned Dandelion Flowers May 2013
Sorted & Cleaned Dandelion Flowers May 2013

All in all I’ve added about an extra 1kg of sugar to the original recipe with the extra 6 liters of water. I will adjust that recipe accordingly now.

People have asked whether it is possible to add sugar and/or water during primary fermentation, so the answer is, obviously, yes. I think, realistically, there is a set amount of sugar that each type of yeast can handle. Once the yeast has turned it into the highest percentage of alcohol it can tolerate, the yeast will cease to work and the rest of the sugar is left as sweetness in the wine. Whether that sugar is added all at once at the beginning of the primary fermentation, or added slowly over the course of weeks, may make no difference. If I had not decided to stretch my 14 liter batch to 20 liters, the original amount of sugar would have sufficed and given a very dry wine. However, that being said, I would not have had that delightful extra, classic, flavour of Angelica in my Dandelion Wine if I had not stretched out the primary fermentation for so long. Having made a note in my formula book, I will be better prepared next spring and synchronize the making of Candied Angelica Stalks so the left over syrup goes directly into next years dandelion wine. I will make it part of the recipe.

Dandelion Wine working at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contently like a cat.
Dandelion Wine working at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contently like a cat. The colour was intense! adding 6 liters of water to it toned it down a bit, but the colour is still lovely and rich.

As I mentioned in my most recent post because I used 3 kg of fresh dandelion flowers it gave enough strength to the flavor that I could stretch it by a third without affecting the flavor. Though the color is not as intense as it was before adding the water, it is still a beautiful yellow color and the Dandelion flavor is very much intact.
I will probably rack the wine two more times during its secondary fermentation.
And in a month or so I will bottle it in sterile bottles with sterile corks, slap on some labels and put it aside until December.


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Dandelion Wine, how to save a Wildflower Wine-part 2

I’ve noticed more questions regarding problems with Wildflower Wines are coming in via Google search terms.
Since I’ve had some challenges with my own batch of 2013 dandelion wine, it seems appropriate to address them here and share their solutions in case it is of help to anyone who feels stuck with the same problems.
My first piece of advice to everyone attempting to make a wildflower wine is “Don’t Panic“. And while I could be accused of using that approach far too often in life, I consistently find that a few deep grounding breaths do wonders for putting things back in perspective. There usually are solutions that are hidden by our perspective and panic.

Though we have tried to keep things sterile and control the environment as best we can to avoid obvious mistakes and “wine gone wrong” scenarios, I have found that wild wine making is a robust and forgiving process which allows for much improvisation and room for flexibility. If your intent is not to create a commercial masterpiece for sale to the public, something you can duplicate precisely year to year, but to explore the ancient art of wine making, for your own satisfaction, share a cool homemade wine with friends and family, and to enjoy the process, then you have come to the right place.

Dandelion wine-First "real" racking to 20 liter glass carboy.
Dandelion wine-First “real” racking to 20 liter glass carboy. Note the heavy glass pot lid holding the siphon in place, something improvised or a clamp keep the lees from getting stirred up and following the clear must to the fresh carboy. Racking the must off the lees keeps them from adding their flavour to the wine.

Any creative endeavor we pursue, is as much about our own process and working with ourselves as it is about the materials we are working with and the product we are creating. Our own transformative and Alchemical process.

Looking back I note how I have been affected by all the materials and processes I engaged over the years as an artist, craftsman and Apothecary, I have evolved and grown as an individual through all my creative pursuits, challenged and manipulated, coloured and shaped by them all, and in a way, they have all become parts of me. I have grown particularly through the challenges. Just as our Dandelion flowers are transformed into Dandelion Wine through processes of fermentation, clarification and patience at our hand. From a simple flower into something complex and sublimated, so too are we engaged and affected by the process, touched & transformed through the challenges of our creativity and our willingness to expand and explore outside ourselves. The real Alchemy and transmutation is what goes on within us.

If you don’t mind creating a slightly different version of wine each season, and perhaps a better one as well, if you are not trying to produce a commercial “fine wine” and treat it as an exact science, then it is important to remember to simply do your best with the resources you have, enjoy yourself. Embrace the process and challenges, let them change you for the better. Learn, grow and enjoy. Most importantly, enjoy.

Dandelion Wine 2013 first racking of 14 liters to 20 liter carboy
Dandelion Wine 2013 first racking of 14 liters to 20 liter carboy. 6 liters distilled water needs to be added.
Dandelion Wine-Primary fermentation, second run after racking.
Dandelion Wine- Second Primary fermentation, after adding distilled water.

It’s been close to two weeks since I added extra distilled water and decided to extend my batch of dandelion wine to make 20 liters from the 14 liter recipe, See “How to “Save” a Wildflower Wine) Since putting it back in the plastic bucket for primary fermentation it didn’t seem to be doing too much. I assumed that yesterday, after 2 weeks it must have finished its primary fermentation, so I racked it into the 20 liter glass carboy for secondary fermentation. (I nailed the quantity pretty much perfectly!)
Lo and behold, it started vigorously working!! Hissing, fizzing, bubbling away, working like there was no tomorrow. It had not gone through primary fermentation at all since I returned it to the bucket with the extra distilled water!

I can only assume that because of the cold snap we had for a week or so, (down to 2-4 degrees Celsius some nights!!), and because it was on the floor where it is always cooler, it did not have enough heat for the primary fermentation process to kick in properly. It must have sat close to 2 weeks not really doing much of anything. Funny as it may seem, I just assumed my hearing was at fault after fifty odd years, and that I was the only one that was not hearing the hissing of the process. It must have been the power of suggestion that compelled everyone who checked it for me to state that they definitely heard fizzing. There is a moral there somewhere.

I am going to say I was lucky no other organism got the jump on fermenting the must while the wine yeast was contemplating navels, (or the juice of the Navel oranges I added), as could have happened.
Racking it into the carboy on the second day of a heatwave really got it going! Perhaps the agitation of racking helped stir it to action, so I’m going to leave it loosely covered and wait till it stops hissing and bubbling and then rack it again and put the CO2 lock on it for a real secondary fermentation.

Dandelion Wine working at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contently like a cat.
Dandelion Wine “working” at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contentedly like a cat.

Gauging by some of the questions I’ve seen on the search stats I believe that others have experienced a similar problem so if you’ve had your wine not doing much of anything in primary fermentation, staying sweet, and wondered what you were doing wrong, this may have been the reason, and may provide you with a happy ending. Proper temperature is definitely necessary for primary fermentation. As far as I know, once the primary fermentation has kicked in, it creates its own heat which will keep the must warm and working till the sugar content has been completely consumed. Wikipedia has some of the basic information, and always is a great starting place for questions. This is also a good time to mention that besides sugar, wine yeasts need other nutrients to thrive. Adding some “Yeast nutrient” to your not fermenting wine is also something that should be tried if you are stuck, before you give up.

Before this last most recent racking, the wine was still tasting rather sweet though it was tolerable. Considering that the secondary fermentation would reduce the sugar a little further, it still would’ve made a nice wine with adequate alcohol. If after this current primary fermentation or during second fermentation, I find that it is too dry for my taste, I can add sugar or glucose to sweeten it without initiating the primary fermentation again. I will cross that bridge and share it here, if and when I get to it.

I will keep you posted.

Till then, remember to keep legible notes. Your future self will thank you.

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My Best Dandelion Wine Recipe

Happy Beltane, Mayday or whatever this part of the planetary and seasonal cycle represents to you. Spring really has sprung here in Southern Ontario!! The birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, all agree. New beginnings, inspirations, insights, seeds, hopefulness and anticipation are in the air. Ahhh what a gift! Winter is finally really over!! This is the day, more often than not, I will visit forest and field to find Natures cornucopia spilling it’s first gifts, scattering them across the ground for the taking. Fiddle heads, Wild Ginger unfurling, Blood root flowers announcing Springs true arrival and the beginning of foraging season. Morels and chanterelles coyly hiding and teasing from under hedges and fallen forest leaves. I am yours if you can catch me. I know they are there, they know I know, and so our yearly courtship begins.

Bloodroot flowering Dundas Ontario April 2013. Harbinger of Spring
Bloodroot flowering Dundas Ontario Harbinger of Spring
 A field of Scilla. Dundas Ontario.
A field of Scilla. Cross Street Dundas Ontario.
Bloodroot flowering Dundas Ontario April 2013. Harbinger of Spring
Bloodroot flowering Dundas Ontario April 2013. Harbinger of Spring
Mayapple and Scilla 2013
Mayapple and Scilla 2013

Ok... So why have I named this post ” My Best Dandelion Wine Recipe”? I have a confession. I changed the recipe I posted with “9 Tips- for making a Kick Ass Wildflower Wine”. I did!. It is done.. Ever since I posted my recipe for Dandelion Wine, I have had a nagging vague feeling that just wouldn’t go away. Yesterday I saw the seasons first bright YELLOW flush of Dandelions peppering green fields, and I knew I had to change some details in the recipe for my own peace of mind. There is an art to sharing recipes publicly and I am discovering, simpler is better.

English: Various common fermentation vessels f...
English: Various common fermentation vessels for homebrewing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of the old fashioned wild wine recipes are for a simple, single fermentation wine. You leave the must in the bottle and cork it after it has fermented in the bottle. You could say it gives you a “Rustic” style wine. Which is fine. It is a simple process and people have been making it and very happily drinking it that way for centuries.

However,, Now days the art of home wine making, is very popular and offers much more sophisticated recipes, equipment and processes. I was trying to do both in that recipe, to bring together the traditional rustic, single fermentation approach with a secondary fermentation twist. It is do able, but challenging to do it in a simple straightforward way. And I feel simplicity is important here. I want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to enjoy making, drinking and sharing this classic wild wine.

So, please find below, “My Best Dandelion Recipe” .It will have a higher alcohol content than the rustic type, and my earlier recipe. It will have a smoother and more refined flavour, and I hope you will find, like I have, that it really is a kick ass wild wine recipe. Thanks to all for bearing with me. I hope you will find it worthwhile.


(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 in my post” 9 tips for making a kick ass wildflower wine”.
  • 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 nylon stocking 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.