Bees Know a Good Thing – Dandelions are Sweet
This is the time of year when I harness my in-home child labor to make dandelion jelly. I pay my girls 1 cent for each fully opened yellow dandelion blossom they pick from our yard – They might be the one remaining thing worth a single penny today. If you’ve never made dandelion jelly, you’re in for a surprise. I like Langdon Cook’s recipe at Fat of the Land - It’s just the right size for us since I can’t can anything on our glass range (apparently the glass can’t take the heat of canning). I split a batch into two jars; one goes into our fridge, the other goes to a friend. If you have a stove that’s canning-friendly, by all means make a larger batch and save some for future toast – Directions and recipes abound online.
Boiling the petals unlocks the most amazing fragrance, just what I’ve always thought an alpine meadow in full bloom should smell like – Dandelions are hiding the archetypal perfume of spring flowers in their petal manes and dusty finger-staining pollen. Bees know this, so it makes sense that dandelion jelly tastes a good bit like honey, just more distinctly floral and less sweet.
To get the 300 – 400 blossoms needed for a small batch of jelly takes my two kids about 30 minutes. They pick some greens as they work and throw those to our hens, who love dandelions more than any other green.
I use a small paring knife to cut the base of each blossom away, then unroll the petals and peel the green sepals away from the outside.
When I get it just right, the sepals come away in a single sheet that looks an awful lot like the plastic faux grass garnish that comes with every grocery store box of sushi. The sepals are edible, it’s just that they’re bitter and not so wonderful in jelly.
I save the yellow petals for myself, cutting and peeling until I’ve got a heaping 2 cups of them. This takes between 300-400 dandelion flowers, or about 30 minutes of kid harvest time on our yellow-dotted lawn followed by at least an hour of petal separation. This is not a fast jelly, but it’s worth it and the work is meditative.
I’ve used both Pomona’s Universal Pectin and Ball and Sure Jell dry pectin for low- or no-sugar jams and jellies. They both work; I love the texture I get from the Pomona’s, but the dry pectin is easier to use for small batches like this.
Dandelion Jelly, based on this recipe from Langdon Cook at Fat of the Land:
- 2 heaping cups dandelion petals
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup raw organic sugar
- 4 tsp no-sugar/low-sugar dry pectin, the sort in the pink box
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Bring the water to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the dandelion petals.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Cool, then strain the resulting dandelion tea through cheesecloth, pressing well to remove all liquid. Compost the leftover petals.
- Return clear dandelion tea to the pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the sugar and pectin, stirring until everything is dissolved.
- Stir frequently and bring the liquid to a full rolling boil, then set your kitchen timer for 1 minute. To get a good set on the jelly, you want to stir it constantly for one full minute at a full rolling boil (the boiling shouldn’t stop while you’re stirring; watch out for bubbles and splashes).
- When the minute of boiling is up, pour the hot jelly into your prepared jars. Put the lids on and allow it to cool. This will store in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
- It’s delicious on toast.
What’s your favorite way to serve dandelions? I’d love some new recipes to try…