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By January 27, 2018 0 Comments Read More →

Dandelion and Burdock Wine

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This particular drink has been around for hundreds of years. The dandelion makes its earliest appearances in March and April, particularly on sunny days. Taraxacum officinale is its Latin name, but as children we knew it as ‘wee the bed’, or for the more romantically inclined, ‘love’s oracle’. These golden, daisy-like flowers are traditionally gathered on St George’s Day (23rd April) and should be collected in warm sunshine when the petals are dry, and preferably around midday.

There are certainly dozens of different recipes for this particular favourite country beverage, one or two of which we have already mentioned in earlier editions of Home Farmer, but this year why not try a slight twist on the norm and ferment the eponymous ‘dandelion and burdock wine’? It’s a magical pairing, and some have even likened it to sarsaparilla.

As dandelions grow in abundance all over our allotments – especially if we haven’t kept the hoe turning the soil earlier in the year – there are plenty to go around. However, when it comes to using burdock, this self-seeding herb is a bit more difficult to find, often growing along hedgerows and in ditches. If possible, it is worthwhile asking for advice from a local farmer or plant centre.

The Latin name for burdock is Arctium, and in centuries past its flowers were used to flavour ale, long before the hop was introduced into England from the Low Countries in the 16th century. Its huge, dark-green leaves – often heart-shaped ‒ can grow up to 70cm long, with taproots often matching this measurement. Burdock flowers, not dissimilar to the wild thistle, provide nectar and essential pollen for our honeybees, but the prickly heads or burrs tend to catch onto people’s clothing, animal fur or even birds’ feathers – hence its range of different country names, including ‘button burr’, ‘beggar’s buttons’ and ‘bardana clothbur’.

Classed as a valuable medicinal plant, burdock was revered by the distinguished herbalist and botanist, Nicholas Culpeper (1616‒1654). He regarded burdock as a cure-all for many different ailments, and even today, pharmaceutical firms invariably include its root, flowers, and seeds in many of their commercial products, combining it with other ingredients in much the same way that mediaeval monks cultivated the plant and used it in their ‘still-rooms’ after collection from monastery gardens.

In the latter part of the 20th century, burdock achieved international recognition for its culinary use due to the increasing popularity of the macrobiotic diet, which advocates its consumption, particularly in Chinese cookery.

If burdock root is not readily available, try a health food store, which may sell packets of them in dried form, or check out online suppliers. If a source of burdock is discovered while out foraging, do not try to uproot it without a spade due to the depth of its root, and remember, too, that it is an offence to uproot any plant without the prior permission of the landowner.

Sylvia Kent’s Dandelion and Burdock Wine Recipe

 

INGREDIENTS 
  • A jugful (1 litre) of dandelion flowers
  • 1 large burdock root (weighing on average 100g) < pic 5 with caption: Burdock root. >
  • 4.5 litres water
  • 500g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • The segments, juice and grated rind of 2 lemons and 2 oranges
  • 225g sultanas, washed and finely chopped
  • 5g yeast
  • 5g yeast nutrient
  • Campden tablets

SYLVIA’S TIP!

When preparing dandelions for winemaking, always make sure that any stem, leaf or calyx is discarded from the flower heads, as these cause a bitter taste in the finished wine.

METHOD 

1           Scrub and finely slice the burdock roots and lightly rinse the flower heads.

2           Bring 2 litres of the water to the boil, then add the flower heads, sliced burdock, sugar, sultanas, black treacle, and the orange and lemon segments, juices and rinds (being careful to omit the pith), and simmer for 30 minutes.

3           Remove from the heat and add the remaining cold water, stirring well to make sure all the sugar has dissolved.

4           When the must is at room temperature, add the activated yeast (see below) and the yeast nutrient, then agitate well.

5           Keep the must covered and leave it in a warm place for 2 days, stirring twice daily.

6           Strain off the flowers and fruit through a muslin cloth and colander, or sieve, into a funnel suspended over a clean, sterilised demijohn then top it up with cooled, boiled water.

7           Fit a rubber bung and a half-filled airlock, then leave in a warm place (at about 21°C), shaking daily until fermentation is completed.

8           When the fermentation is complete, rack the wine into a second, clean, sterilised demijohn and top up as before, adding 1 crushed Campden tablet.

9           Refit the bung and airlock and leave to mature in a cool place, racking at 3-monthly intervals.

10         When clear, bottle and serve chilled.

The wine should be drinkable after about 6 months, but is noticeably better if left for 9 months.

ACTIVATING THE YEAST

Add the yeast to a small bottle with a little sugar, then shake, cover and leave in a warm place to begin working.

 

Posted in: Home Brewing

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