Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer in a bottle

"The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered."

Ever since I was assigned to read Fahrenheit 451 (I think it was in middle school) I have been a Ray Bradbury fan. His prose is brilliant, and he's got great old school sci-fi style.

My favorite of his books, though, has always been Dandelion Wine. Because when summer started and I had warm and sunny afternoons all to myself, Dandelion Wine congealed all my thoughts about summer into one book. Central to the book was the dandelion wine of course, and thus  I was forever intrigued about what dandelion wine would be like....

"The medicines of another time, the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sounds of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver skyrockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through ant countries, all these, all these in a glass."

"Peer through it at the wintry day--the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind And peering through, color sky from iron to blue."

This was something that Mr. Bradbury seems to have loved deeply. My grandfather, who grew up in Montrose, Colorado, also had fond memories of family members making dandelion wine. It was something that made me nostalgic and for which the thought of it made me feel comforted, though I had never tried it.

I had just come back from Peru in February 2012. When April hit, the dandelions started to pop up all over the fields behind my parent's house where I was residing while still unemployed. One lovely evening while the sky was still pink with the sunset I went out with a shopping bag and spent an hour collecting dandelion heads, procuring two quarts of the lovely aureate blooms.

There were manifold permutations of recipes for the wine on the internet. I consulted many sites, the two of which that stood out as most detailed in the wine-making process were these: Jack Keller's Winemaking Home Page and Mother Earth News. Though I followed neither recipe, really, they were great guidelines.

I liked best the idea of using citrus and dried golden-colored fruits, and I think #17 on Jack Keller's page came closest to the ingredients I used. Now, I had never made wine before, and I had none of the winemaking equipment that the recipes required. So I made things up as I went along, seeing as I had neither the money nor space to meet traditional winemaking standards.

But a year and a half later, when I've uncorked my first bottle of wine, it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I expected something like a cross between moonshine and dandelion tea, but what I made became more like a lovely champagne; it was a bit dry, had a lovely pale yellow color and a complex tart but faintly sweet taste. It uncorked like champagne too--the bubbles were incredible and quickly threatened to overflow when I poured my glass!

So, I wanted to share my winemaking success, and get the point across that while more convenient and refined, carboys and bottling equipment aren't always necessary to making a good wine, All you need is flavorings, sugar, yeast, bottles, and patience.

Dandelion Wine


-2 quarts dandelion heads (just the yellow flower and the green back to the flower, no stems)
-1 c. dried apricots
-1 c. golden raisins
-The juice and zest of 3 oranges
-3 lbs sugar
-1 gallon water
-1 tube fresh champagne yeast (you can find this at your local brew shop)


Bring water, apricots, raisins, orange juice and zest, and sugar to a boil. Place washed dandelion heads in a large bowl, and pour boiled mixture over them. Cover with cloth, and let sit for 1 week. Strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth or an old T-shirt, add the champagne yeast, and pour into sanitized bottles (preferably Grolsch bottles, since they're built to withstand pressure and you need that. I had a weaker tequila bottle I was using explode! The Grolsch ones did great, and were safer), and cork the bottles. Store in a cool, dark place (such as a basement) for two months.

After 2 months, uncork the bottles, and pour the top portion of the wine from each bottle into a large bowl (here, you are trying to get rid of the sediment that forms at the bottom of each bottle). Add 1 c. sugar to the wine, and pour into sanitized bottles. Cork the bottles, and store in a cool, dark place again for at least 6 months to 2 years. Mine was drinkable at 6 months, but tasted great after 1 year. Before drinking, put the still corked bottles in the fridge until thoroughly chilled. Uncork (watch out, it's like champagne and comes with a lot of carbonation), and celebrate summer!


  1. Again, the patience! A lovely idea though (^.^)

    1. Thanks! I didn't know you were still blogging, I've been looking over your blogs too and they're great! Hope you've been doing well, we should get together and swap South America stories :)