Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dandelion Wine

Lured down the primrose path of dandelionage by the Bank Holiday and the imminent rising full moon on Good Friday, my younger daughter Rhianna, foraging chum Suzie Bishop and I decided to go forth and forage. (Folklore tells us that the power of the plant is at its greatest on the waxing moon and diminishes as the moon wanes.) This is true for all plant gathering, but rather than rummaging for remedies, it's easier to forage with friends for blossoms to brew, particularly when they enjoy the bevvy better than the cure. So wine was our goal!

I'm quite a fan of the chap John Wright who features on River Cottage demonstrating foraged hedgerow yumminess.  Having tried his elderflower beer last year I looked up his dandelion wine. Unlike his elderflower stuff which needs nothing extra and which ferments in its own yeastiness, apparently dandelions don't do that. So in search of the requisite sachet of white wine yeast, in the glorious sunniness of Friday morning we foraged up to Barry Forkins' hardware store (independent trader and the last bastion of brewing stuff in Newbury) only to find him shut. Hey ho!

So we foraged down Bartholomew Street thinking that Wilkinson's might have the requisites, but while they were purveying airlocks and bungs, they had no yeast. Hey ho!

Undeterred, we figured that  a bread yeast would do the trick, but still needing sugar, lemons and raisins, we foraged intrepidly to little Tesco. Hoorah! 

Bearing in mind that we needed both to gather and to steep, we then foraged onwards toward Poundland for buckets, trusting that we might pause for refreshment along the way at the Snooty Fox for a slush puppy or glass of cider. We were too early! Hey ho!

On we trudged. 

In Poundland, bucketage was procured! Hoorah! 
And yet a Thirst Fell Upon Us!

So we foraged in to the Queen's Hotel where a most refreshing bottle of rosé, a glass of diet Coke and a bucket of chips gave sustenance. Hoorah!

We returned to HQ to deposit sugar, raisins etc and donned our foraging gear.

Wright may well believe that a gallon of dandelion blossoms can be gathered in 20 minutes, which may be true, but just because there several in my garden (or his) doesn't mean that there are many in the fields or hedgerows, that the rabbits hadn't had.

So we foraged away.

And back at HQ we separated the petals from the sepals which took AGES! But apparently this makes the brew less bitter.

So we boiled the water and poured it over the petals, covered it with a clean tea towel and left it for a couple of days.

Then... we plopped it all into a large pan and boiled it up with the sugar and lemon zest. The recipe called for mushing the raisins by crushing and I put some Tesco Value sultanas into the blender in batches to mush up (lazy) and added the lemon juice. Worked a treat.

When that cooled I sprinkled over the yeast and waited. For four days.

Today we strained the brew into a demijohn and it smelled really rather appetisingly of fresh bananas!

It looks like chicken soup right now but it's blooping away in its airlock so I imagine it will settle out the sediment and become deliciously potent...

I'll keep you posted.

Dandelion wine

The petals from enough complete dandelion flowers to loosely fill a gallon container
4.5 litres of water
1.5kg sugar
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
500g raisins, chopped or squashed by putting in a carrier bag and pounding, or 200ml can of white grape juice concentrate
1 sachet of white wine yeast
Yeast nutrient
Boil the water and pour over the petals. Cover and leave for a couple of days, stirring occasionally.
Pour everything into a large saucepan and add the lemon zest, bring to the boil then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Continue to boil for five minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and the crushed raisins or grape juice concentrate.
Clean the fermenting bucket thoroughly using a campden tablet, pour in the mix and cover until cool. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient and cover. Ferment for three or four days then transfer into a demijohn using a sterilised sieve and funnel. Fit a bubble trap and allow to ferment for a couple of months, rack-off into a fresh demijohn and leave until clear then bottle.


  1. From a request on Facebook, this dandelion flower recipe from Julie Bruton-Seal without added yeast is worth trying:

    Pick 100 dandelion flowers. Boil 2 litres of water with 100g light brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool until tepid, then pour over the dandelion flowers in a large container. Add a lemon finely sliced.

    Cover the container with a clean cloth and set aside in a cool place for three or four days stirring occasionally.

    Strain and pour into tightly corked bottles.

    The beer will be ready to drink in just three or four days.

  2. Very Nice article my dear! I have always wanted to make Dandelion Wine!And~~ You made it sound like a great fun kind of challence which is attempable! I know the prep work is HUGE work yet honest hard fun! It is great how you don't pretend it's easy! Thank you for sharing! You write so well, it's very fun to read your adventures, and as I'm reading along, learn a thing or two(three). Thanks bunches!

  3. Thanks for that Allisonian. you made my day! X

  4. Thanks for that Allisonian. you made my day! X

  5. I adore your foraging gear! lol! Oh my gosh, I adore dandelion but the preparations! oh my! thank you for inspiring me! I must try this:) Your posts are so much fun!! xoxoxox

  6. Ooooh I can't even imagine what this would taste like. But you've made it somehow sound divine! I would love to try it but will probably have to sip then splutter ;) as i rally don't like wine. Although I made sloe gin & liked that with lemonade :) Thanks for sharing (I'm just catching up on an unexpected quiet day off:)

  7. Hello Charlie- I've found your blog and was most interested in your recipe. My Dad used to make it- with very varying results! I do hope yours is a success. Jane x