Today is Victoria Day, a Canadian holiday that marks the beginning of the summer season for many of us. A day of relaxation, gardening, fireworks, and puttering around trying things you might not on a normal day. This morning a friend posted on Facebook wondering if anyone had a recipe for dandelion wine since she had loads of them on her lawn. Someone posted a link to a recipe and then I remembered the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I was sure there was a recipe for Dandelion Wine in the Beverage section. I pulled out the cook book and there were two recipes. I decided to make the one contributed by A Friend since it was my friend who reminded me to try it!
Many of us have a love/hate relationship with these bright weeds. They are lots of fun in childhood when we can use them to make chains or pop off their heads or see if our friend likes butter. As adults we know the leaves can be eaten and are supposed to be good for us but really we secretly know they are weeds. When the flowers bloom they can make us smile briefly since they are such a bright spot in the early spring. But soon we are mowing down this cheerful yellow flower. My lawn needed mowing but first I picked all the dandelion flowers I could find in my tiny yard.
I ended up with 1 quart of dandelions so I needed to cut the recipe by a fourth. Fortunately this is an easy recipe to convert. Instead of four quarts of dandelions I had 1 quart (4 cups) to rinse. I boiled two quarts (8 cups) of water in a large pot and then added the washed dandelion flowers. I covered the pot and left it to boil for 30 minutes. I poured the greenish-yellow liquid through a strainer and discarded the sad-looking dandelion flowers.
Now I had to figure out the rest of the recipe. I poured the liquid back into the pot to keep warm. I sliced one and a half lemons and added them to the liquid. I stirred in 1 pound (2 cups) of sugar and left the pot to warm slowly on the burner. I had it turned to low. Another recipe had mentioned keeping the liquid warm but not boiling. I squeezed the lemon slices a bit with a spoon and removed everything from the heat after about 15 minutes. I strained it again and poured the soon to be dandelion wine into preserving jars. I left about an inch of head space in the jar and used plastic lids rather than sealing lids in hopes of avoiding problems when the wine ferments. I’ve heard stories of burst jars and sticky messes. If this works I will have to find my bottles. They haven’t made it back to their usual location after they were packed out more than a year ago.
The Friend contributing this recipe has to remain a mystery. Since I now strongly believe Meda Oberlander played a big role in creating the Berlin Cook Book it is likely she’s connected to the contributor. I’ve discovered that a number of contributors were related by birth or marriage to Miss Oberlander. Mrs George Potter was her sister. The Boullees in New Hamburg (Ontario) and Syracuse (New York) were also relatives. Another possibility is a contributor who attended a church now following a more temperate path. Some members of the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations were active in the temperance movement and might have looked poorly upon a fellow church goer who contributed a recipe for an alcoholic beverage.
Before bottling my fresh dandelion wine, I decided to taste it in its non fermented state. It was delicious!! I was shocked. The sweet lemon flavour made it more like lemonade. There was just a hint of dandelion. This gives me hope that the final product might be drinkable. I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait for that moment. Some other recipes suggest a week or two of fermenting and then another week of rest. I’ll let you know the result.
4 quarts of flowers, 8 quarts boiling water, boil for 1/2 hour and then strain, add 6 lemons, 4 pounds of white sugar, strain again and bottle.