Dandelion season is here, and whether you consider those little yellow flowers a blessing or a curse, you've now got an excellent reason to go a-picking. Dandelion wine is a light, fine fermented drink that's graced many a picnic basket. Your grandparents may have enjoyed it now and then during Prohibition, but in the years since, it's fallen out of fashion. Bring back this spiced, citrusy summer drink: Gather dandelions now, and enjoy their sunshine come winter.
1 package of dried brewing yeast
2 quarts of dandelion flowers, yellow petals only
1 gallon of water, plus water to wash the flowers
2 organic oranges
6 cups of raw sugar (5 1/2 cups for a dry wine)
Gather your flowers at midday, so they are fully open. Wash them thoroughly, then remove as much of the green parts as possible, leaving just the petals. Place the dandelions in a heat-safe container.
Bring the water to a boil, and pour it over the flowers. Cover the container with a cloth, and let it sit for two days. Do not wait longer than two days.
Pour the mixture back into a pot and bring it to a boil. Peel the oranges very carefully and thinly into the pot, making sure you do not add any of the white pith to the mixture. Let the pot boil for ten minutes.
Place the sugar in a large bowl. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or muslin into the bowl, stirring it to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture cool, then stir in the yeast and the juice of the oranges (again, avoiding any pith).
Pour the mixture into a fermentation-ready vessel, such as a glass jug with a bung and an airlock. Let it ferment completely. After several weeks, the sediment will fall to the bottom as the wine "clears." If you want to help this along, you can "rack" the wine once or twice by transferring all the liquid to a new container, leaving any fallen sediment behind. However, you don't need to rack dandelion wine; it will clear on its own eventually.
Once the wine is clear, transfer it to bottles and let it age six months to a year. Serve your dandelion wine at next spring's petal party, or on a dark winter evening when you're craving a taste of summer.
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Image: barb howe