By Lee Hedgmon
Ah yes… every year this happens. An article is published about making dandelion wine or mead and for the next two months, SE homebrew supply shop FH Steinbart gets a run on people wanting to make their own.
As a homebrewer and Steinbart employee, here are a few things I’ve learned having made dandelion wine and mead over the years.
1) Three things are important when harvesting dandelions. No dogs, no pesticides, no car exhaust or traffic exposure. So no front yard dandelions or dandelions harvested from any areas that are/may be sprayed.
2) Pinch, pull and snip. Pinch the petals of open flowers together, pull them up slightly to expose the white base and then cut with scissors. You get very little green that way. Personally I don’t like to pick the whole plant and then take the petals off later.
3) Expect to be on your hands and knees for a while because one cup of dandelion petals harvested by hand takes a long time. You might find yourself running out of plants before you get what you need.
4) A warm day, late morning to early afternoon, when the dandelions are fully open is the best time to harvest.
5) The petals will turn your wine/mead a beautiful golden yellow color and if you want to preserve that color, choose your honey wisely. The darker the honey the more it’ll hide that golden yellow.
6) If you run across a recipe that says to use champagne yeast, don’t do it. Those tend to be older recipes when access to a variety of yeast strains was limited.
While champagne yeast will work every time, the down side is that it has a very distinctive taste that often takes months to years to age out. There are better yeast strains to use. Tell your homebrew supply shop what you’re making and they can guide you.
7) Use a small, mesh “hop sock” with marbles. The weight of the marbles will keep the petals submerged and containing the petals in the hop sock will make it easier to rack your mead/wine into your secondary fermenter.
8) Don’t be impatient to drink it. Give it some months in secondary or bottle. I prefer the secondary; just remember to make sure that airlock is full to avoid contamination.
Supplies can be purchased at FH Steinbart. See page 9 for their Business Walkabout piece.