Monday, January 23, 2012

Making a Good Dandelion Wine

For gardeners and landscapers alike, the dandelion represents a threat unparalleled by other pests. These little yellow flowers can invade a lawn or garden in a matter of days and spell ruin for a lovingly tended piece of your landscape. However, viewing them as an obstructive menace might be a little misguided. There are many, many uses for dandelions that far outweigh there negative reputation. In addition to a use as food, dandelions have many medicinal properties, and their roots can even be used to make a drink that is much like coffee.

For generations, though, dandelions have been harvested and used in one of our favorite beverages: Wine. May families possess a particular recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation. In recent history, though, dandelion wine has gone down in popularity. This is mainly due to the increased urbanization of people. More and more of the population is concentrated in urban centers, and going out to pick a basket or bucket full of dandelions is not as convenient as it once used to be.

Dandelion wine is a product of the yellow flower petals of the plant. Unfortunately, the greens of the plant, though they have many other beneficial properties, would lend a bitter, "green" flavor to the wine that has very little appeal. The wine produce from the petals has a sweet, refreshing taste that is just as, if not more, satisfying than many of the white wines on the market today. Like white wines, it is best served chilled on a hot day, and goes well with lighter foods.

Most recipes for dandelion wine are very similar to each other. The main ingredients are always dandelion petals, water, sugar and yeast. The amount of dandelions petals that is used varies from recipe to recipe, though it is generally between six and ten cups. When plucking flower petals off the flowers, this is a lot of dandelions! What determines the amount of petals used is generally the amount of sugar used. The sugar part of the recipe is usually just ordinary, granulated sugar, though there are recipes that use honey instead (this will be discussed in a moment). Sugar is the part of the wine that is fermented and turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Higher amounts of sugar result in higher levels of alcohol, which can overwhelm the flavor of the little flowers. This is probably why some recipes contain a much higher proportion of flowers. Finally, the yeast is the part of any wine making recipe that does the work of turning the mix into wine. Though any kind of yeast will do the desired work of turning sugar into alcohol, winemakers have been using specific varieties of yeast to ferment wine since the craft began thousands of years ago. In modern times, these varieties of yeast can be located in any wine making supply shop. Yeasts that are best used for dandelion wine are often the same yeasts that do well in making white wines.

Traditional dandelion wine recipes produce a clear, yellow wine that has much of the same characteristics as the popular white wines on the market today. They are best served chilled, white lighter foods that will not overwhelm the flavor of the wine. Dandelion wine also tends to be lower in alcohol content than most traditional wines as well.

Dandelion wine recipes have come a long way from just the basic recipe, though. You can find recipes for dandelion wine that contain a wide variety of ingredients from other flowers, fruits and even herbs and spices. Flowers that are commonly combined with dandelions to produce magnificent wines are roses, lavender and chamomile, just to name a few. Examples of fruit wines that benefit well from a pairing with dandelions are those made with melons, strawberries or any other fruits that have a lighter flavor and will not dominate the flavor profile of the wine.

Probably the most popular of ingredients to pair with dandelions in wine making, though, is honey. When combined with honey, dandelions make a wine that is commonly called a "metheglin." A metheglin is any mead (honey wine) that is made with one or more herbs (such as dandelions) as a main part of its flavoring component. Metheglins are incredibly versatile, and almost any herb or spice can be used to make a wine. In addition to just a drinking wine, metheglins are often made as wines that are used solely for cooking and as marinades. When used as part of a metheglin recipe, dandelions produce a wine that is both complex and flavorful and pairs well with a wide variety of foods and occasions.

One can easily see that even in the field of wine making, dandelions have vast amounts of potential. The beneficial use of this plant has been largely overlooked, and it has come to be viewed as a pest and an enemy. Perhaps the time has come that we reconsider our views of this little herb and begin to work with, rather than against it. If you would like to see two prime examples of how dandelions can be used to make wine, please visit the site Dandelion Wine Recipes .

Thanks for reading, and Blessed Be!

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