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The art of making dandelion wine

  • Dandelion wine, made by Dawn Tuomala of Wilton. Tuomala will be giving a presentation on wine making at the J.A. Tarbell Library in Lyndeborough on Sept. 17. Staff photo by Ashley Saari



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 13, 2018 11:9AM

A tour down the aisles of the local liquor store is unlikely to unearth a bottle of dandelion wine. To enjoy a glass, you have to make it – or know someone that does.

“I don’t think anyone markets it,” Dawn Tuomala, who has been making dandelion wine as a hobby since 2006. “You can find recipes for it in old-fashioned cookbooks, or find someone that makes it.”

Tuomala’s grandmother once made dandelion wine, she said, and her father recalled drinking it as a young man. 

“My father, he always liked it,” she said. 

So, when an employee offered to teach Tuomala how to make dandelion wine, she decided to take up the challenge. The wine she makes today, she said, is a combination of her employee’s recipe and her grandmother’s. 

It’s a hobby that requires commitment, Tuomala said. From the time she goes out to pick dandelion heads, to the time the wine goes into a bottle, it’s more than a year.

Tuomala said she has several dandelion picking spots she frequents in May, when the yellow flowers are abundant. She will usually trade a bottle of the finished wine for the privilege of picking in a large field where the growth is unchecked until the spring mowing – the weeds that dot a front yard aren’t enough to make it worth the effort to pick them, unless she was making a very small amount, Tuomala said.

Dandelion wine or tea requires just the yellow heads – though the greens are edible, they lend a bitter taste to the wine. A quart of dandelion heads will make about a gallon of wine. 

The heads are boiled, and then removed from the water, and yeast, sugar, lemons oranges and raisins are added, and the mixture is allowed to ferment for three weeks, then stored until the fall. Then, the liquid is strained and left to sit again until April.

While some wine recipes will advise much shorter time frames, Tuomala said she’s found that her method creates the better tasting drink. 

“It’s almost a year before it ever gets into a bottle,” Tuomala said.

Usually, she makes several gallons of wine a year. Some, she keeps for herself, but most she gives away as gifts, or puts into the annual Woman’s Club auction fundraiser. 

While you can drink it the first year its produced, Tuomala said, it’s best if aged at least three years.

“The longer you let it sit, the richer and deeper and darker it becomes,” she said. 

Two bottles, only produced a year apart, have a noticeable difference in color. 

The process may be patience-testing, Tuomala said, but she enjoys the unique nature of the hobby.

“How many people do you know that make wine?” she said. “I find it relaxing. And it’s different every time. Two people, making wine in the same year and with the same process, each bottle will still have its own characteristics.”

On Monday, Sept. 17, during the J.A. Tarbell’s Third Monday talk, Tuomala will give a presentation that details the process for making dandelion wine at 7 p.m.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.