I’ve been drinking my dandelion wine** for the past three weeks. I didn’t expect to get into it until the heart of the winter, all the recipes I consulted said let it mature for at least nine months and it’s been barely six. But I just had to try it. The nine bottles of golden liquid that carry the essence of spring called from the basement shelf where they have been keeping company with the plethora of empty canning jars. I haven’t canned a single fruit or vegetable this year. This wine is it. It is the product of many nights of separating dandelion flowers from their stems, eliminating all traces of green, pure yellow that became a tea to combine with citrus and raisins and yeast to make this golden brew. I get it now, the fun of making home spirits, of being witness to the natural flow of fermentation and transformation.
One taste turned into a glass. Truly a wine for sipping. Dry, fragrant, unusual, and strong enough to satisfy in small measure.
Like a ritual, I began to celebrate the end of each golden warm day with a glass, as if hugging the promise of spring as leaves changed and fell. Three weeks of known paths merging with new paths
immersed in beauty.
Five bottles later, the trees are now mostly bare. As the dandelion is one of the first to produce a bright yellow display in the spring, now all that is left are the golden yellow beech leaves that seem to hang on the longest.
The starkness of bare limbs signaling the coming winter proliferates now as strongly as the sea of yellow in the spring.
I think of all that has transpired since then, the promise of life and death settling into the middle ground of summer, Yogi coming into our lives, Molly almost dying in Peru, the intensity of the upcoming election, the challenge of discerning purpose in all the ways of relating to the world as a woman and as an American, all compressed into the space between these two displays of yellow.
Molly has struggled to find her balance once again in a place that feels like home to her, but is not where home began for her. She just recently made a posting on her Facebook page with a glorious photo and a caption of “Happy to be alive!”
And bless adolescent seven month old Yogi trying to work through his place too, mostly in the water these days as he explores off leash together with Nora. His body language says it all.
2 gallons fresh dandelion tops, collected when they are fully open on a sunny day
(all green parts removed)
4 gallons water
3 organic oranges
2 organic lemons
2 lbs. sugar
1 lb. package organic golden raisins
1 package wine yeast (I used Lalvin EC-118 for sparkling wine)
1. Remove dandelion tops from all green parts, flower will fall apart and become a puddle of individual petals.
2. Bring the water to a boil and pour it over the flowers in a large pot. Cover and let steep for three days.
3. Prepare the citrus. Zest half the skin, cut the rest of the peel off in thin strips to minimize the amount of pith going into the brew, peel the pith off/discard, slice fruit into thin rounds.
4. Add the orange and lemon zest to the flower-water mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, strain out solids, then add the sugar (I used about half of what most recipes called for because I like dry wine), stirring until it is dissolved. Allow to cool.
5. Add the orange and lemon slices, yeast, and raisins to the liquid. Put everything into a crock with a loose lid to ferment. (I actually put my silicone Silpat perforated baking mat on top…perfect for letting gas escape, but a clean cotton towel held in place with rubber band will work too)
6. When the mixture has stopped bubbling (about a week), fermentation is complete. Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth and transfer to two sterilized bottles (I used two (1) gallon carboys fitted with airlocks) Attach the airlock and allow to ferment 30 days.
7. Rack into bottles. After 90 days, when clear, rack again and cork.
8. Age for 6 months.
Ps. I skipped step 7. And even though the wine was clear and tasted great, there is residue settled at the bottom of each bottle that gets stirred up as I reached the end of pouring. I will definitely do the second racking next time I make this wine and allow the extra time for aging too. It will only get better!