This is Marie, writing about a canning experiment that turned out very well. I had read an article about dandelion jelly here (http://www.simplycanning.com/dandelion-jelly.html) and it proved irresistible – in part because I’d been itching since January to do strawberry jam so anything to take the edge off (i.e. Feed my addiction to canning) was welcome, and in part because the flowers are free so the experiment would only cost the price of the sugar and any wasted lids.
First, however, I had to do battle with my toddler, who was adamantly against the notion of my making jam from flowers. He stood in my way when trying to pick flowers, and forbade me loudly and many times to cook with them. I think I shall not be telling him what saffron is until he’s had saffron rice. Stubborn boy! I finally defeated his obstructionism (and doubled my harvest) by taking him to play in the park, where dandelions grew in abundance all around the playground. I could keep an eye on him and pick flowers without having to pull him up out of my way or remove him from my ankle. Plus, he had fun instead of showing his talent at being the whiniest, most tearful mass of bossy toddlerhood imaginable. A positive win for both of us!
So finally I had a big pile of flowers. Not quite enough – the recipe calls for 4 cups of flower petals (be aware that the petals and the stem parts are nearly equal in volume when separated, so get more than you think you will need if possible) but enough so I was no longer willing to push my luck. I was only able to do 3 cups of petals, so I just adjusted the other amounts to compensate. It’s quite tedious separating the petals from the green parts. The author of the article that inspired me suggested cutting the flowers off the bases, but I am way too OCD for that and besides, was concerned that I was already short on materials and didn’t want to lose even that small amount. I found that if you pinch the base of the flower and press with your fingernail, the petals will all come off together smoothly.
10 cups or so of fresh, clean, dry dandelion flowers from an area not sprayed with pesticide or weedkiller.
From those flowers pick out 4 cups of petals only (no stems and as few green parts as possible)
Pour to cover with boiling water; let sit several hours or overnight
Add liquid if necessary to bring to 3 cups
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 box pectin (I used 3 tablespoons of powdered pectin and the set was tender; add another 1/2 if you like a little firmer set)
Bring tea, lemon juice and pectin to a boil. Add sugar and return to a boil, stirring constantly, for one minute. Take off the heat and do your wrinkle test. If it passes, jar and use normal canning procedure.
Just a heads up – dandelion flowers wilt very quickly. Work fast, and definitely don’t start this project without some time to spare. You’ll lose some work if you put aside your bowl for later.
Once the petals are separated, cover them with boiling water and allow them to steep for at least several hours if not overnight.
I left my “tea” to steep with the petals floating on top. As time went on, the petals filled more of the container, just like tea leaves expanding; it really is very like the teamaking process. I used a small colander lined with gauze to filter, but a workplace coffee filter with a flat bottom would have been more convenient, so use that if you have access to one.
One misstep was adding the lemon juice to the filtered liquid. I had to filter it again because the lemon particles were easily visible! The recipe made 5 half-pint jars and most of a sixth that I put in a repurposed jelly jar to go straight into the fridge for immediate use. If I hadn’t wanted to try it out ASAP I could have evened the jars out to seal them all.
It turned out tasting like honey and herbal tea, a light and pleasant flavor. It went well on toast and mixed into yogurt. If you’re willing to put in the work it’s definitely worth a try, and so pretty!
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