Saturday, April 1, 2017

Dandelion Jelly... er.. Dandelion Syrup

I am new to the wonders of dandelions. I'd heard of eating the greens as long as I can remember, but... dandelions are weeds, right? Really best reserved for blowing the puffs around or merely omnipresent in a child's memory of summer days, bike riding and kickball playing - complete with drinking water out of the hose at your neighbor's house. Who would've thought I'd find myself, years later, wandering through my yard, picking the beautifully yellow heads of this weed?

Last spring, after searching for some recipes on the internet for honeysuckle, I came across a page that talked of the advantages of dandelion. Curious, I began to research the use of dandelion for many recipes as well as ills. 

I am not a doctor. However, I have found that, for flavor alone, I really appreciate the earthiness of dandelion tea, and I've seen firsthand the benefits of dandelion salve. I'll post instructions for those another time. Today is all about dandelion jelly!

I usually pick this bowl full - I'm not positive how much it holds. I would guesstimate that it is around 5 cups. I know I didn't need this many, but I couldn't let them go to waste! 

**Be sure to only pick dandelions from a yard that is not near a street, nor one that has been sprayed for weeds, etc. You'll be ingesting these, and you don't want remnants of exhaust, weed killer, or gasoline on them! I pick dandelions only until we begin mowing, and then I must say goodbye to my lovely concoctions. 

Next, I filled my tea kettle to the top with water and set it to heat up. I poured the entire contents over the dandelions, then promptly covered the bowl with plastic wrap and left it to steep, and cool off, overnight.

I left my spoon on top to ensure the weight kept the steam from lifting the wrap.

The next day, I strained out the blossom heads! These will go promptly into my garden for compost!

If I were making salve, I would have left the liquid as it was on the right. However, because jelly should have a lighter taste and is prettier when the light shines through it, I put a coffee filter in my colander and strained the liquid a second time through that (you can see the bare edge of the filter in my red colander). The bowl on the left shows the difference - it is much more clear than the original.

I should say that before I even started straining the flower heads, I started heating up my jars and lids. By the time I had the first batch of jelly simmering, the jars and lids were ready to be filled.

Dandelion Jelly

3 cups of dandelion tea
3 cups of sugar
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 package of pectin

Bring the ingredients to a boil and allow a hard boil for at least a minute.
Spoon into the hot jars and loosely tighten the rings around the lids. Leave at least 1/4" of headspace.

Once you have enough for your canner, place back into the pot and bring to a boil. Make sure you have about an inch of water above the tops of the jars.
Boil for 10 minutes.

Remove carefully and let cool on a dry towel. Wait for the staccato, symphonic 'thok' of the lids sealing as the jars cool.

This is my second batch - I didn't get quite as much out of this batch. I think I filled my jars more fully on this one than the first. But, in all, I ended up with 12 jelly jars of dandelion jelly.

Aren't they beautiful? My honeysuckle jelly was, initially, the same color. However, I added rose petals from my rose bush and it turned a lovely shade of red. I think, if I do a second batch, I'll do the same to the dandelion jelly.

So, shortly after finishing the canning process, my son had baseball practice. I left the jars cooling. A few hours later (long first practice of the season!), I came home and found that my jelly was not as thickened as I would like it to be. However, it is delicious (I tasted the spoon after I filled the jars) and it smelled like honey, so I am fairly certain I will still enjoy my dandelion syrup. I may alter the pectin ratio in the future.

Next up, I plan to try to make dandelion cookies. I'll be sure to let you know how those turn out! And, if the spring continues as it has, I should have enough heads to make more salve. I took stock of my batch from last year and am nearly out, so that obviously means it is time for more. I'll document that as I go, too. It really is wonderful.

If you try to make anything dandelion, let me know! I have fallen in love with these happy little flowers - they make me smile as much now as they did when I was a child!

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