Alaskan Wildflower Wine
I've heard it said that Alaska is one of the best places to live for plenteous opportunities for foraging. I would have to agree. One of my favorite things to do every summer is to gather Alaskan flowers to make wine to enjoy in the wintertime. My son and I are visiting Alaska for the summer and we didn't make it in time for the dandelions, so this year's wines are made from Alaskan-grown roses, fireweed and peonies---most of which came right from my mom's garden! Making your own wine isn't terribly complicated, it does, however, take time and patience. Honestly, the hardest part of the whole process is having to wait 6-12 months for the wine to be ready to drink! Below, I share my recipe for delicious wildflower wine, along with some of my tips and tricks. Enjoy!
- 4 cups of flower petals
- 6 cups of water
- 2 1/2 cups of raw sugar
- 1/2 pkg of wine yeast
- 1 lemon
- 2 whole star anise (optional)
- 1 tsp whole cloves (optional)
- big stainless steel pots
- coffee filters
- wooden spoon
Begin by picking your flowers. You can use any kind of edible flower you want. With the exception of lavender which has a much stronger flavor, the basic ratio is 4 cups of flowers/flower petals to 6 cups of water. I've also used dried flowers which seem to have worked just as well. But if you use dried flowers you'll want to use a little more since they have less potency than the fresh ones do. You'll end up with about two bottles of wine. (It made enough for me to fully fill one wine bottle and one Jim Beam bottle)
In Alaska there are these awful little black mite-looking things that regular rinsing does not kill or remove. Put your flowers into a glass bowl with a little bit of organic dish soap (plain castile soap works too) and cover with cool water. You can use just the petals at this point, or if you haven't removed them yet, use the "plunger method": hold the flower by the stem and gently pump it up and down in the water to remove all the bugs from inside it. Let the flowers sit in the water for a minimum of an hour to kill and remove all the bugs inside.
Using a strainer, rinse all the flower petals, making sure to remove all soap, dirt and bugs. Put the petals in a large, clean glass bowl or a stainless steel pot.
Bring water to a boil and pour over the flower petals. Cover and let steep (along with the anise and cloves if you're using them) for 24-48 hours. You're essentially making a really strong flower tea.
Using a coffee filter over a strainer, ladle the flower tea (including the flowers) through the strainer into a metal pot. Make sure to press the flowers with the ladle to get all the liquid out. This is also the point where I strain in the fresh lemon in (see note below).
Add sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Prepare yeast according to instructions. (Stir yeast into warm water until dissolved and let sit for time suggested on packaging to activate).
When your wine base has cooled, but still warm, stir in the activated yeast. Using a funnel, pour it into sanitized wine bottles.
Poke holes into a regular ol' latex balloon and cover the top of the bottle with it. This allows the gases to escape so the bottle won't explode and keeps dust and bugs out.
Store in a cool, dry place for 6-12 months and enjoy!
If you're foraging your flowers, make sure to pick them from an area that's pesticide-free, at least 20 feet from a road, and is not used by animals for bathroom purposes
Pick unblemished flowers in the morning as soon as they reach their full bloom. Their essence will be strongest in the morning.
I cannot stress the importance of sanitization! Wash everything you're using (especially your bottles) on the sanitize setting on your dishwasher. Nothing would be more awful than having to throw your wine out because of mold or making yourself or someone sick, so make sure everything is extremely clean. That includes your hands and all kitchen surfaces.
Some recipes say to thinly slice your lemon and add it while making your initial flower tea. We're using the peels to make lemon-flavored vodkas, so I just squeezed the fresh juice into the mixture during the straining step. The citrus aids in the reaction for the fermentation process.
When picking flowers to use for your wine, you can use the whole flower and even the buds. The green parts can make the wine a little more bitter (but with all the sugar added, I never noticed it being bitter) and they add more macronutrients for the yeast to eat up in the fermentation process.
Back in 2012 when I made my dandelion wine, I used regular yeast that you buy in a grocery store and it worked just fine. This year, I'm using actual wine yeast (the person at the brewing supply store recommended champagne yeast and it's been really cool watching it bubble!). According to some sources, regular yeast isn't always strong enough and stops the fermentation process too soon.
When straining, do your arms a favor and find a strainer that will fit over your pot without you having to hold it for the duration of the straining process. Your arms will definitely thank you!
Be sustainable and use recycled wine bottles! Save your bottles and wash them again in the dishwasher on the sanitize setting just before using.
These make great Christmas and winter party hostess gifts, especially since you make them in the summer and they're ready come winter!