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Dandelion wine is wine made from the flowers of the dandelion plant. There are many different recipes for it, which have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years, each of which may differ slightly in both ingredients and method. Traditionally, dandelion picking was a summertime activity in which the whole family got involved. The result is a sweet, white wine, thought by some to be medicinal.
The dandelion, known by many as a troublesome weed, has actually been used both medicinally and in the culinary world in numerous forms. Known scientifically as Taraxacum officinale, almost every part of the plant has been used as food and/or medicine through the ages. Most well-known for its fluffy, white seeds, its distinct yellow flowers are used to make dandelion wine.
The flowers are traditionally picked at midday when making dandelion wine, when they are in full bloom. It is important to pick them from an area that has not been sprayed with insecticides. After picking the flowers the hands should be washed well as the stalk gives off a milky juice that can stain. The petals should also be examined carefully and cleaned as their nectar attracts many insects, which are not desired in dandelion wine.
Most dandelion wine recipes use only the petals, so they need to be separated from the stems. Boiling water is then poured over the petals, the container is covered, and it is left to steep for two to three days. During this time the color and flavor is leeched from the petals. The mixture is then strained through muslin cloth into a pot and brought to the boil.
Recipes differ, but most add the skin of oranges at this point, with the pith removed. Some add lemon too, and others ginger. The liquid is brought to the boil and allowed to simmer. It is then strained again and poured over sugar. This is stirred briskly to dissolve the sugar. Orange juice and yeast are then added and fermentation begins. It is left for some days to allow the fermentation.
The dandelion wine is then strained again and poured into sterilized bottles and left in a cool place to mature for at least six months. The longer the wine is left, the better it is, and many recipes recommend waiting a year before drinking dandelion wine for a superior taste. The alcohol content may be high so caution is advised on first drinking.
@Soulfox -- That is very true, and the fact is you can barely taste the orange juice or citrus fruits at all in this stuff.
In fact, one might be surprised at how light dandelion wine really is. Adding a little citrus to the concoction doesn't add just a whole lot to that light flavor.
Oh, and as for the alcohol content, that is all controlled by the yeast used. Yeast that allows for high alcohol content will need to age longer, too, because it takes longer to mellow out the wine (there's a reason they call high proof, homemade wine rocket fuel). Stick with a low yield yeast or even bread yeast and you'll have something that won't have to age as long because it will taste better sooner.
For those turned off at the notion of orange juice, orange peel and etc. being added in to the recipe, don't be. The orange juice just adds some much needed acid to the wine to add to the complexity of the taste and that is it.
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