Micro-Batch Dandelion Wine

Ten years ago this spring, my husband and I made a 5 gallon batch of dandelion wine on our first date.  Dandelion wine requires commitment you see.  While you can pick enough dandelions for a good-sized batch in about 20 minutes, it takes hours to separate the flavorful petals from the bitter leaves and sepals.  We spent those hours in the shade, getting to know one another and I wouldn’t trade that afternoon for anything in the world.

These days, we have two young children at home, and activities need to come in smaller packages.  My little “helpers” are game for just about anything, so long as it doesn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes of focus.  There’s no way they’d have the patience to sit quietly separating dandelions for hours, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be dandelion wine.

I started by appealing to their own sense of self interest, and first we made dandelion toddler treats.  A batch of “healthy” dandelion and honey marshmallows, a few super cute dandelion gummy bears, and a simple dandelion shortbread.  Each of those only requires about 1/2 to 1 cup of dandelion petals, and got my little dandelion hunters primed and excited to help.

prepping dandelion petals for winemaking

Still, my “small batch” one-gallon dandelion wine recipe requires a full quart of packed dandelion petals, plucked from roughly 3-4 quarts of dandelion flowers.  The first time I sat down to pluck petals with my best girl on a sunny day, we only made it to about 2 cups fluffy petals (or 1 cup packed).  That’s not nearly enough for a one-gallon batch, but it’s just right for a micro batch made in a quart mason jar.

We’ve been doing a lot of micro batch brews, using either a silicone water lock or other mason jar fermentation kit.  There’s so many types out there, and they all work pretty well.  The goal is to allow the bubbles from the ferment to escape the jar, but keep fresh air (and contamination) out.  The same one-way valves that work for sauerkraut are perfect for small batch wines, and they fit on any wide mouth mason jar.

That means you can make small batch wine in pint, quart or half gallon batches easily.  A one-quart batch is really convenient because it makes almost exactly 1 bottle of wine.  Perfect for a test batch when you’re working with a new recipe. 

Divide a one-gallon recipe by 2 and you can make a batch in a half gallon mason jar, or divide it by 4 and make a batch in a quart mason jar.  Of course, measurements don’t always divide neatly, but fudging it a tiny bit is fine two.  For more details on the overall process, try this primer on small batch winemaking.

Starting with my one gallon dandelion wine recipe, here’s the rough conversion for a 1 quart batch.

small batch dandelion wine in jar

Micro-Batch Dandelion Wine (One Quart Recipe)

Ingredients:

• 1 cup dandelion petals, yellow parts only
• 3/4 lb sugar (roughly 1-1/2 cups)
• Juice and zest of 1/2 both an orange and lemon
• 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient (or about 10 raisins)
• 1 tiny pinch wine yeast
• 2-3 cups water, plus more to fill

Instructions

1. Bring 2 cups water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Turn off heat, stir to dissolve the sugar and cool completely.

2. Place the dandelion petals, citrus juice and zest into a one-quart mason jar. Add the yeast nutrient and pour the lukewarm sugar water over the top, filling to within 1 inch of the top.

3. Add a pinch of wine yeast, and cap with a mason jar fermentation kit.

4. Allow the wine to ferment for about 3 weeks, or until the visible fermentation stops.

5. Filter out the dandelion petals, and carefully pour the wine into another mason jar, leaving the yeast sediment behind in the bottom of the jar.

6. Re-cap with a mason jar fermentation kit and allow it to continue fermenting for another 6-8 weeks.

7. When fermentation is complete, carefully pour the wine into another mason jar, again leaving the sediment behind.  Cap up tightly and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks before drinking (preferably longer). 

8. Alternatively, bottle in a flip top Grolsch bottle or regular corked wine bottle.

pickle_pipeThe Pickle Pipe

The Pickle Pipe maintains the perfect, maintenance-free fermenting environment without the need to burp your jars every day, or monitor the water levels of a clumsy 3-piece airlock. This item is available at the Fermentation Store. You can also purchase them in a Wide-Mouth Variety.


Ashley lives in a solar and wind powered home in Vermont with her husband and two young children. She writes about gardening, foraging, home brewing, DIY and all things off-grid at Practical Self Reliance and shares recipes from her Vermont kitchen on Adamant Kitchen. You can find pictures of her homestead adventures on Instagram, or follow along on Facebook pages for Practical Self Reliance and Adamant Kitchen. She’s also on Twitter.

How to Make Rhubarb Blueberry Wine

the finished product

My grandmother’s recipe box has several wine recipes, including dandelion, rhubarb, gooseberry, and grape. As soon as I laid eyes on the rhubarb wine recipe, I knew we had to try it as well. Our backyard rhubarb patch supplies us with more than what we need for pies and jam. No better way to use the excess than in wine!

Because we have a friend with a large blueberry patch, we also have an excellent supply of blueberries every year. Straight rhubarb wine seemed like it might be a little rough, so we modified Grandma's recipe by substituting blueberries for half the fruit.

Making wine takes at least 10 months. But with lots of care, some skill and a little luck, it can really be worth the wait.

If you’ve never made a fruit wine, you’ll want to visit a beer/wine making supply store for equipment and help.

"Bluebarb" (Rhubarb/Blueberry) Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 pounds rhubarb
  • 2-1/2 pounds blueberries
  • 5 pounds white sugar
  • 1-1/2 gallons water
  • 2 Campden tablets
  • 1 teaspoon acid blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon grape tannin
  • 1 package Red Star Cote des Blanc Yeast (dry wine yeast) plus another 1/2 cup warm water

Make sure to start with frozen, chopped rhubarb. When rhubarb is frozen and thawed it releases its liquid a lot easier, which is your goal, so make sure your rhubarb has been in the freezer for at least a few days before you start. We also started with semi-frozen blueberries. The blueberries need to be chopped just a bit in your food processor, otherwise they are very hard to burst. We found it was best to chop them slightly frozen so they don't completely turn to mush.

Line a plastic fermenting bucket with a straining bag. Put your thawed, chopped rhubarb and roughly chopped blueberries into the bag. Add a 5 pound bag of sugar. Mix well. Cover and let stand for 24 hours.

pressing the fruit from the bag

Use straining bag to drain as much liquid out as possible. Pour about a half a gallon of water into bag at a time to rinse the pulp repeatedly until your remaining pulp is as well-rinsed as possible.

After rinsing and discarding pulp, add Campden tablets, acid blend and grape tannin. Cover bucket with lid and place air lock in the hole on the cover. (Air lock relies on a small amount of water to operate.) The Campden tablets will kill all of the wild yeast present on your fruit and any other accidental contamination. You need to wait 48 hours so that the tablets dissipate and don’t kill the yeast you are about to add.

Start your yeast (any good wine or Champagne yeast will work) 48 hours after straining fruit by stirring it into  1/2 cup warm water. Open your fermenter and add the yeast. Cover and replace fermentation lock.

Allow to ferment three months or until the float in the air lock has settled.

yeast has been added and the mixture has been sitting for three months

Open fermenter and transfer wine to a glass carboy using a siphon tube and 1/4-inch tubing, being very careful to limit the amount of oxygenation. Replace air lock and let rest in carboy for another 2 to 3 month at which time the wine can be bottled.

Siphon off from carboy, bottle and cork.

bottling the wine

Age in the bottle at least six months. Open a bottle and toast the success of your efforts.







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