How to Make Dandelion Wine (and any other you can think of!)

“Honey, you want to harvest these dandelions before I mow?” my husband called out.  Why, I didn’t even know the dandelions were here yet, and there they were in lovely carpets of gold; their lion manes of spring feeding the bees and dotting the yard with color.  I love dandelions.

Using my thumbnail, I simply pop off the tops of the flowers.  Like a little bee myself, I flit from flower to flower.  I filled a quart jar and a half and still left some in the garden beds for the honey gatherers.  The next thing you want to do is to pour the golden flowers into a paper bag and leave it on the porch on its side.  This allows the stragglers to escape.  No one wants ant wine.

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Wine is, in its essence, fermented sweet tea or juice with yeast that feeds off the sugars turning it into a delightful and medicinal drink.

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Bring flowers, one peeled orange, and 16 cups (1 gallon) of water to boil.  Turn off heat and cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

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Strain into a gallon container used for wine making.  Leave a few inches headspace. You will have some tea left over.  Add 4 cups of sugar (I prefer organic, unbleached, raw sugar) and 2 cups of brown sugar (molasses is what makes it brown).  Stir to dissolve.

Dandelions taste particularly good with orange and caramel notes.  I like to add orange extract and butterscotch extracts when making dandelion jelly.  In this case, we are using fresh orange and brown sugar to create those notes.

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Let cool to 90 degrees then add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine yeast.  Stir.  Replace lid and carboy.  Pour a smidge of vodka into carboy to specified lines.  Let sit in a cool corner and bubble away.  It will bubble (the yeast is eating the sugar) for 10 days to 3 weeks depending on what kind of wine you are making.

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When the bubbling stops then it is time to siphon the wine (all but the bottom 1/2 inch of sediment) into super clean bottles.  Place in root cellar for 6 months to a year or more.

You can use any fruit or herb to make wine.  If there is enough juice and sugars in the fruit (like in grapes) then you just add yeast to the juice.  Most things will be made into a strong tea like the above recipe as well as my chokecherry wine and rosehip/lavender mead.  Have fun and experiment.  Use 4-8 cups of sugar.  Use 1/4 or 1/5 of a teaspoon of wine yeast, red or white.

My chokecherry wine was pretty dang strong after a year, but after two years, lord it was smooth, and I highly wished that I hadn’t given away all of the bottles!

Homestead Anywhere and How to Preserve Rhubarb

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This sentiment is going around facebook and I read some of the comments.  Impossible.  You need at least so many acres.  Too hard of work.  But it isn’t all or nothing, folks. We are all where we are supposed to be through circumstances of decision or fate.  I am in an incredibly urban environment right now, decidedly un-homesteady.  But, there are still many things I can do to homestead because the result is so delightful.  I will have a freezer stocked with nutritious food, a gallery of canned goods in the living room, healthy drinks at the ready, flowers and herbs and a community garden.  No one is an island, Lord we learned that on our last farm and we’ll remember it on our next, but it isn’t all or nothing.  One can homestead anywhere.

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Putting up rhubarb, for instance.  A reward all year!  Aunt Donna had us over to harvest some of that delicious, crisp summer treat, a celebration of getting through winter, a testament to survival, a perfect meal to surprise folks with at Christmas should you have any left!  I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating how Aunt Donna taught me to put it up.  I have canned it and it is good, syrupy and soft and still quite fine, but the easiest way, and the way to keep it crisp and fresh as the day one snaps it off at its base, is to freeze it.

Cut stalks, discarding far ends and rogue strings, into 1/2 inch chunks.  4 cups of rhubarb go into a quart sized freezer bag.  Now, don’t skimp, you know how cheap trash bags are….same with freezer bags, get the good zippered ones.  I despise freezer burn.

Add 1 cup of sugar.  Zipper to one inch then suck the air of the bag with your lips and finish closing it.  Label and freeze.  One large bag yielded enough to share and 5 quarts of frozen rhubarb.  Thank you, Aunt Donna!

It was lovely to have a glass of my own homemade raspberry mint kombucha while chopping.  For dinner we had a pile of freshly harvested dandelions prepared in a Cherokee fashion  with crisp bacon (from a local heritage pig farm) and the fat from the pan poured over the cold, tart greens sprinkled with salt.

Self sufficiency on any level is quite nice.

 

Preserving Spring (freeze and pickle asparagus then make some dandelion jelly after eating the leaves!)

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One of the very first crops of spring is asparagus.  We enjoyed a few dishes of roasted asparagus and I preserved the rest for asparagus cravings in July…or December.  If one can find asparagus in the stores during those months I would highly question its origin, how old it is, and the flavor of really fresh asparagus isn’t going to be there, so what’s the point?  By preserving what is in season one can enjoy the flavors any time of year.  Here are a few ways to do so after you have enjoyed your fill of fresh.  Just snap the bottom woody part of each spear off by bending it until it cleanly breaks.

Freeze it!

Cut up asparagus into the sizes you desire.  I like one inch slices to put into frittatas or stir fries.  Have a pot of boiling water ready and one of ice water.  Throw the pieces into the boiling water, let it come up to boil again and a minute later remove the asparagus and place it in the cold water to stop the cooking.  Now, line it all onto a cookie sheet and place in freezer.  In thirty minutes transfer to a freezer bag.  This prevents the asparagus from sticking together in one swell lump.  Not ideal for retrieving a scant half a cup for cooking!

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I also freeze whole spears.  Since these I will roast I do not want to blanch them.  I will eat them before they lose their flavor.  So, I freeze them on cookie sheets for thirty minutes then transfer into a freezer bag.

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Pickle it!

Place right sized spears in quart sized clean, warm canning jars.  In each jar add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 Tablespoon of dill (dried as fresh isn’t ready yet), 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard.  These additions can be altered, removed, or things added to fit your taste.  They do not change the time processed!

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Now fill the jars half way with red wine vinegar (to learn how to make red wine vinegar click here) or apple cider vinegar and the rest of the way with water.  Leave a half inch head space on top.  Clean the rim and apply the lid.  Place in a large pot of boiling water so that the water covers the lid.  Boil for 20 minutes adding 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level that one’s homestead is at.  I round up to seven.  So, I will boil the jars for 27 minutes.

Remove jars and let sit on counter overnight.  The jar should have sealed.  Label and place in pantry until July.

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The other crop to preserve right now is dandelions.  The leaves can and should be eaten in salads, smoothies, soups, and with roasted veggies.  The flowers will become dandelion jelly today.  Click here to find out how!

Hurray for spring vegetables!

Orange Butterscotch Dandelion Jelly

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I found this recipe in one of those little stapled paper cookbooks in a museum.  It is filled with delicious and fun pioneer recipes.  I use the leaves and roots of the dandelions in my herbal medicines so I don’t ever kill dandelions and the flowers are so pretty, it seemed like a wonderful idea to turn them into something too.  This tastes a bit like honey.  It will also take on whatever extract you put in it.  This time I chose orange and butterscotch.

Orange Butterscotch Dandelion Jelly

Collect a quart jar of dandelion flowers.  Pour into a strainer and let sit for awhile to let any tag alongs escape.

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Put dandelion flowers into a soup pot and pour 2 quarts of water over.  Bring to boil and boil for about 4-5 minutes.

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Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve 3 cups of dandelion water.

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Bring that 3 cups of dandelion water to boil and add 1 package of pectin stirring constantly.  Gradually stir in 5 1/2 cups of sugar (I like organic, raw sugar) and boil 5 minutes more.

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Add in 1 Tablespoon of orange extract and 1 Tablespoon of butterscotch extract and boil one more minute.

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Pour into 4 ounce jars leaving a half inch head space.  Make sure lid rim is clean and replace lid.  Boil in water bath for 5 minutes.  Add one minute per 1000 feet altitude.  I live at 6500 or so feet above sea level, so I round up and boil the jars for 12 minutes.

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Let rest on towel when you pull them out.  Listen for the lovely tell tale popping to let you know the lids are sealing.  It may take a few days for jelly to set.  Enjoy with homemade bread.

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Recipe based off of one in “Old Pioneer Recipes” from Bear Wallow Books.

The Apothecary Garden

An Apothecary Garden is an important addition to any farm whether your plot is an apartment balcony or large acreage.  Herbs easily grow in pots on the porch or a south window in the house or in their own space in the garden.

IMG_0658 (Rosemary increases focus and memory)

Apothecary gardens have been a staple in every culture around the world for many, many centuries.  The religious leaders were generally the herbalists, medicine men, and healers of the village.  Herbs have amazing healing powers and are every bit as effective and much more safe than pharmaceuticals.  Herbalists have been known as healers since the beginning of mankind.  Sometimes these things are met with cynicism.  I know how to make a broken bone heal in two weeks.  Folks that aren’t aware of herbs are confused about this.  My own family stems back to the Salem witch hunts where many of my herbalist ancestors were burned at the stake.  Herbs are wondrous and miraculous, but met with confusion all the same.  My goal is to take the woohoo out of herbs.  They heal.  End of story. Now let’s get your Apothecary garden going!

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Peppermint is a staple everyone should have.  It is a mild pain reliever but its real job is in the digestive area.  It will calm an upset tummy, help stop heartburn, even heal stomach lining due to ulcers or colitis.  It is carminative, meaning it is anti-gas!  A cup of tea is delicious and with a little chamomile and ginger (which contain the same digestive properties) you will have a fine medicinal tea ready for the taking.

IMG_0657 (St. John’s Wort)

St. John’s Wort is becoming harder to find to grow, but if you can get it, grab it!  The pharmaceutical companies use a derivative of St. John’s Wort that is then lab created to make chronic pain medications and anti-depressants.  If you can change the structure of the constituent then you can patent it.  Can’t patent something God made up.  He was there first.  Therefore, you cannot make very much money peddling a plant.  Big pharma is after a bit more money than that.  Making a tea of St. John’s Wort flowers, leaves, and rose petals is every bit as strong as an anti-depressant/anxiety medication.  There are corporations out there that don’t want you to know that!

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Valerian is a beautiful plant that will get your sleep cycle back into a peaceful rhythm.  It is also an excellent pain reliever.  Add catnip and chamomile to go to sleep.  Add California Poppy and St. John’s Wort for an excellent sleep remedy.

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Stinging Nettles will stop allergies in three minutes flat.  Take care when harvesting them (they aren’t called Stinging for nothing!) and dry them in a paper sack.  Crumble them up and make tea with them.

Dandelions can be made into tea or salad to help heal the liver and gallbladder.

Red Clovers help with women’s health, uterine health, and breast and uterine cancer.

So the weeds that pop up in the garden are there for a reason too!

There are Apothecary gardens that are designed in a circle with paths leading north and south, west and east.  There are Apothecary gardens that have winding paths.  I turned the front three feet of my long front yard into our garden.  The left side is medicinal plants and the right side are culinary (which also have medicinal qualities) herbs.  One large section of the garden holds the Poppies and Calendula (great for skin when infused into oil) to inspire beneficial insects to the garden.  Pots of herbs line the porch and in the winter are brought in to line the window sills.

Head to the nursery and see what you can add to your garden.  Want to learn more and completely take charge of your family’s health?  Look up my correspondence classes for Certified and Master Herbalists and take control of your medicine! http://gardenfairyapothecary.com

I am also leading an herb walk and medicinal tea talk Sunday, June 30th from 10-12 at Castlewood Canyon.  Meet at the visitor’s center.  Their cost is $7.