Ready to try making wine? I just bottled and tasted my dandelion wine (started in June), and it is very enjoyable. I know it isn't dandelion season anymore, but you can keep this recipe for next year, or just learn about the process of home wine making and try it with a different flower or fruit (a quick google search will lead you to a recipe for any type of wine you might be interested in). My next wine will be choke cherry.
1. Pull dandelion petals off flower heads, leaving as little green matter as possible. I have a feeling, though, that the wine would be fine if using the whole heads. Next time I might skip this step.
2. Pour one gallon boiling water over the dandelion petals, cover with a cloth, and leave to steep for two days. Do not exceed two days.
3. Pour the mixture back into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the peelings from the four oranges (peel very thinly, leaving as little white pith as possible) and boil for ten minutes.
4. Strain through a muslin cloth or bag into a crock or food-grade-plastic bucket containing the sugar, stirring to dissolve. When cool, add the juice of the oranges, the yeast and yeast nutrient.
5. Pour into a gallon carboy (it helps to use a big funnel), fit with bung and airlock, and allow to ferment completely. You will know it is fermenting because you will see bubbles coming up through the airlock (the airlock I use has water in it, so I can see the water bubbling when my wine is actively fermenting).
6. When the wine isn't bubbling anymore (anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months) rack the wine into another gallon jug (racking wine is the process of separating wine from its sediment, or lees, and transferring the wine into another container using a siphon), being careful not to disturb the sediment on the bottom of the jug (throw out the sediment), fit with airlock, and let it sit for another few weeks or so.
(All the websites and books say the fermentation process takes months and months, but my wine always seems done bubbling and ready to be bottled after only a few weeks. I do let it sit longer just in case-- for maybe 2 months altogether. Keep it in a dark place, preferably at a temperature of 70 degrees F.)
7. Rack the wine again (siphon it into the other carboy). While racking it, taste the wine. If you want it sweeter, add 1/2 cup sugar dissolved in one cup wine (keep adding more sugar dissolved in wine until it tastes good to you). Stir, put the airlock back on, and let it sit again for another 2-3 weeks or until it stops bubbling.
8. Siphon the wine into bottles when it clears, or doesn't have much sediment at the bottom (if it still has lots of sediment on the bottom, rack it and let it sit one more time before bottling). As far as corks go, I need to get a wine corker, but I don't have one yet. My grandpa uses bottles with twist-on caps, and his wines have always been just fine. I've always gotten small corks that I can soak in boiling water for a few minutes and then push into the bottle with my thumb, but my corks will only last for a year. To store wines longer and better, the best choice would be to use adequate corks with a wine corker, and to keep the bottles somewhere cool. Let them sit upright for a few days before storing them on their sides (store them upright if using screw-on caps).
9. They say to allow wine to age six months in the bottle before tasting (ha! yeah right...), but a year will improve it vastly (just make more next year!).
That's the basic recipe for any wine, although there will be minor differences depending on the fruit you're using. This dandelion wine has a unique flavor: it tastes... orangey and flowery. We like it.