Time for a confession: I am going to let you in on one of my deepest, darkest secrets:
I love dandelions.
Don’t tell my husband – PLEASE don’t tell him. It’s a betrayal, I know. I KNOW. But I cannot help myself. They are such smiley, happy little flowers. Like little bits of sunshine sprinkled throughout the lawn. And I know they are a weed, okay? I get that they have no place amidst his carefully cultivated lawn! This is just how far I’ve fallen.
Are you ready for this?
Sometimes, I … I … make wishes and blow the whispery white little seed pods into the wind.
STOP JUDGING ME! I can feel the hate! But I … Just. Can’t Stop.
Fortunately for me, my sweet son loves to pick them for me. He’s been bringing me dandelion bouquets every day.
And since I hate for wonderful things to go to waste, I use them up. When life gives you dandelions, make dandelion jelly.
In my book MOTHER MONA, my protagonist travels to Spruce Island near Kodiak, Alaska, where life is totally off the grid. Mona’s family basically has to can or dehydrate everything so it won’t go bad. Mona’s family would have canned blueberries or salmonberries, which grow abundantly on Kodiak and its surrounding islands. We make jelly out of the berries on our property in Alaska also – mostly golden raspberries and cranberry/rhubarb. But dandelion jelly is a light and delicate alternative that is perfect for topping toast or biscuits – if you can keep your kids from eating it straight out of the jar. (It’s also a killer addition to a glass of herbal tea).
Here’s how to make it:
1. Send the kids out into the yard to pick a heap of dandelions. You’ll need a bucketful in order to end up with the 2 cups of petals needed for the jelly – about 5 cups of flower heads. (Note: make sure your yard or wherever they’re picking from has not been sprayed with pesticide or is not right off the road, because … yuck). Pop the heads off, and wash them well.
2. Now pull the yellow petals out (a wee bit of green and/or white is okay) and put them into a sauce pan with 2.5 cups of water. Bring the whole thing to a boil for about 10-15 minutes, or until the water turns bright yellow.
3. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Strain the petals out and measure to make sure you have 2 full cups of dandelion water left. If not, add more water.
4. Pour the dandelion water back into the saucepan and add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 4 cups sugar. (Yes four cups. If you think sugar is the devil, well you’re probably right but in the meantime go have some broccoli with chia seeds and please ignore the rest of this blog post.) Bring it to a boil again and add in 3 ounces of liquid pectin. Boil another few minutes or whatever the directions on your liquid pectin tell you, and then ladle into jars and can in a water bath or label and put whatever you don’t eat immediately into the refrigerator.
5. Now, I will tell you that I often have to add another 1/2 packet of pectin (with the corresponding amount of additional sugar). It is a difficult jelly to gel sometimes. In any case, you’ll want to make absolutely sure it has set up before going to the trouble to can the jars in a water bath. Ask me how I know (by canning 24 jars of dandelion syrup, that’s how).
Here’s the recipe in full:
- 2 heaping cups of fresh dandelion petals (that’s about 4-5 cups whole flowers)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 ounces liquid pectin
Boil petals in water until water turns yellow and equals 2 cups. Add lemon juice, sugar and pectin and bring to a boil for two minutes. Let cool, then ladle into jars.
So that’s that! Let me know how it goes!