Dandelion Wine

By Caitlin Moser

Full of healing powers and history, dandelion wine is a beverage long forgotten by most and of questionable taste to others.  Europeans get credit with concocting the recipe, dating back several centuries, to be used as a “cheap-man’s wine.”

Settlers pioneering the Great Plains of North America continued the tradition. Dandelions are not native to North America, but two relatives of the plant, also known as false dandelions, were lush in the Kansas region. So, as people have done throughout history, the pioneers used what was familiar to them.

Kansas, at the time, surely seemed sparse. With little water and even less shade, dandelion wine was the perfect antidote. It could be made early spring and last through the winter.

This particular dandelion recipe was printed in the Oakley PEO Cookbook, Centennial Ed., in 1987. Mrs. Mel Wheeler wrote that her husband’s grandmother used the recipe when she first came to America around 1880. The recipe had been in their family long before that but had little use until they found themselves on the Kansas plains.

Mrs. Wheeler noted this advice: “Choose dandelions from an open field and avoid the plants from domestic areas where pesticides or herbicides may have been used and always wash off the flowers before use.”

This wine is easy to make at home and pairs perfectly with light meats and salads or is great on its own.

Contributed by Mrs. Mel Wheeler

Oakley PEO Cookbook, Centennial Ed. 1987, Oakley, KS

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts fresh, young dandelions*
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • 4 oranges, peeled
  • 4 lemons, un-peeled
  • 4 pounds sugar
  • 1 slice of toast, saturated with yeast

Preparation:

  • To make it in perfection, gather 4 quarts of fresh, young dandelion blossoms and cover them with 4 quarts of cold water.
  • Add the 4 oranges and cut into small bits and also the 4 lemons un-peeled, cut into smaller bits with the seeds removed.
  • Cover closely and let stand two days. Then put into preserving kettle and allow to heat slowly until the boiling point is reached but do not boil.
  • Drain and add sugar to liquid.
  • When it has cooled to blood heat, add a slice of toast, saturated with yeast and let stand where the temperature will remain unchanged for two days.
  • Then drain and bottle liquid….the longer the better (suggestion: 6 months – 1 year).

Makes about 4 quarts of wine.

(Miss Moser wrote about dandelion wine in Development of American Cuisine class.)