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Dandelion Cyser

Eric Reinsvold takes advantage of the season’s bounty of dandelions—and his daughter’s energy—to “brew” up a batch of bright sparkling floral summer cyser.

Eric Reinsvold May 1, 2016 - 7 min read

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Several years ago, a member of my local homebrew club introduced me to dandelion wine. I was skeptical at first, but after the initial sip, I was a convert. It had a wonderful floral aroma that paired perfectly with a delicate sweetness and pleasant tartness. I immediately inquired about his process and recipe, but soon zoned out listening to him describe the arduous task of picking the dandelion buds and pulling off all of the sepals, leaving just the yellow petals for the wine. Despite the promise of a delicious end product, I couldn’t get over the tedium required to get there, and so burgeoning aspirations for my own homemade dandelion wine quietly died that night.

Five years later, I found myself helping out at my in-laws’ horse ranch, putting up temporary stalls and trying to keep my five-year-old daughter entertained at the same time. While I was dragging tarps on top of metal frame stalls, it was impossible to ignore the spring emergence of the dandelions in the surrounding alfalfa field. Much like those dormant dandelion seeds that survived the winter only to spring forth when conditions were right, so too did my aspirations for using foraged dandelions in a home-crafted drink. I pacified my truculent five-year-old with the task of picking dandelions in exchange for the promise of a toy. She busied herself with the yellow flowers while we finished putting up the stalls, and by the end of it, I had more than a pound of dandelion flowers.

Since using the foraged dandelions was an impetuous decision, I went where anyone else in a similar situation goes...the Internet. Most of the recipes I found seemed to follow the same rough sketch: mix the dandelions petals with a ton of table sugar, citrus rinds, a gallon or two of water, bring to boil, allow to cool, pitch generic yeast, ferment, bottle, and wait several months for it to mellow. Some recipes got a bit fancier with golden raisins and ginger. Regardless, it all of seemed a bit like prison hooch; the only things missing were instructions on how best to hide the wine during bunk inspection and how much volume one would need to make to keep in the good graces of the local MS-13 gang. I’m no vintner, and I’m clearly showing my prejudices here, so maybe this is a common approach for wine, but it all seemed a bit ham-fisted.

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