Here’s a fun fact: dandelions are pretty tasty! It’s curious how I managed to spent so many years of my life without this knowledge, especially that I was – quite literally – surrounded by the dandelion bloom every spring when I was a kid.
Anyhow, this year marks the first ever dandelion foraging and jelly making, and I tell you what – as labour-intensive as the process of dandelion preserving is, I’m definitely going to do it next year also.
The resulting preserve is more of a thick, honey-like syrup than a jelly, and this is precisely how I’ve been using it – in the same same way in which I’d use honey: with tea, pancakes, on bread with butter.
I know you won’t be able to make it this year (sorry!), as the dandelions are only a memory now. Nonetheless, I am sharing the recipe here, so you can save it for the next year’s dandelion craze, if you like! :)
Dandelion and Lemon Jelly
500-600g freshly picked dandelion flowers (which will then result in about 3 cups of dandelion and apple juice)
1 lemon (or 2tbsp bottled lemon juice)
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 pouch of powdered pectin (2tbsp)
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Pick dandelion flowers. As they have to be processed n the same day as they’re collected, make sure you’ll clear enough free time in your schedule for foraging and then jelly making. Pick only not damaged and fresh flower heads, leaving some behind for the bees and butterflies.
2. At home, spread the flowers on a towel and leave for 15-20minutes – this will give enough time for the bugs to escape and leave your (almost) harvest insect-free. Prepare a clean bowl, and start separating the flower petals from the dandelion heads: the goal is to get only petals in the bowl, and discard any green parts (and bugs). You can do it either with your fingers or a small, sharp knife.
3. Once you have your petals, move on to jelly making. Add dandelion petals into a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel works well), together with peeled and thinly sliced apple and juice of half a lemon. Add enough water to cover (about 500ml) and bring to a boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your jars. Wash each jar with soapy water, set aside on a clean towel to dry. Soak the lids in boiling water: it will both, remove any dirt, and soften the rubber. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius, and place the jars inside to warm up and dry well. Put a small saucepan in the freezer, we will use it later to check the set of the jelly.
5. Once the dandelion stock is ready, prepare a mesh strainer or a cheesecloth, which we’ll use to filter the liquid. Do not press the flowers to squeeze the juice as it will result in a cloudy jelly.If you do, you’ll have to strain the juice again, using a a cheesecloth. It’s always best to let the gravity do the work, and let the juice to separate from solids overnight, or a good few hours at least.
6. Measure your dandelion stock. To make jelly, you’ll need your sugar and dandelion stock ratio to be 1:1, meaning, that if you have 3 cups of dandelion stock, you’ll need three cups of sugar to make jelly.
7. Add the dandelion stock to a non-reactive saucepan, together with 2tbsp of lemon juice and sugar, stir well but gently to avoid adding air bubbles. Once boiling, turn the heat down and add sugar, stir well and return to boil. Sugar should dissolve quite easily.
8. Bring mixture back to full rolling boil. Add in pectin. Stir gently to dissolve evenly. Once it reaches full rolling boil again, let it boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Let it rest for a few minutes before testing the set. Meanwhile, fish out the lids from the water and dry them well with a kitchen towel.
9. Take out the saucepan from the freezer and add a teaspoon of hot jelly onto it. Watch if the jelly runs or stays in place, and how it looks: shiny? We might be on track. You can place the saucepan with jelly in the fridge for a minute or two to cool down completely, and then do the so-called Moses test: run your finger through the middle of the drop and see if the jelly falls back on path or if there’s a clear passage. Can the Moses pass through the sea of jelly? If yes, we’re good to go.
11. Put a big pot filled with water on to boil. We’ll use it as our hot-water canner. The water has to be very hot and in full boil when we start canning.
10. Take out the jars from the oven, and fill them up with hot jelly (I strongly recommend using a jam funnel – it costs a negligible amount and it will save you a lot of burns and incorrectly canned jars). Remember to leave about a centimetre of headspace in each jar. Wipe the top rim of each jar, removing any droplets of jelly, and screw the lid on. Repeat until you run out of jelly.
11. Time for canning. As the jars should not be touching the bottom of the pot, I use a clean kitchen towel at the bottom of the pot and it does the job. Place it there with tongs, and then add the jars. Make sure to keep the jars upright at all times. Once the jars are in the hot water, cover the pot with a lid and set the timer to 7 minutes. We want to process the jelly for long enough to be safe but not for too long, as the heat and pressure can undo the delicate jelly structures.
12. Remove each jar carefully from the hot water, using tongs and still keeping each jar upright. Resist the temptation to tilt the jar to see how the jelly looks, and do not wipe the water that might have stayed on top of the lids. You can do it all later. For now, calmly and peacefully take each jar out of the hot water, place it upright on a kitchen towel (do not turn them over), and leave it there for at least 48h to cool and set. Some jellies can take up to 72h to set!
Happy jelly making!