After reading Ava Chin’s Urban Forager column in the New York Times the other day I was inspired to make Dandelion Jelly.
This has been in the back of my mind for a while but I always seem to have some other use for the hard-won yellow petals: bread or muffins or wine. And it’s not like one just has flowers to burn (despite what my neighbors think about my “lawn”). Harvesting the petals is definitely not in the same league as plucking a few leaves for a salad or buds for an omelet. It’s a commitment. Luckily I went a little overboard during my wine-making foray, collecting a cool eight cups of petals rather than the six cups the recipe called for—giving me exactly the two cups needed for Ms. Chin’s recipe.
Always the pranksters, the dandelions weren’t done with me yet. My unruly petals refused to submit placidly to the domestic arts. On the first go-round the jelly didn’t want to set, resulting in a syrup instead. The next day I poured all the syrup back into the pot and added 4 more teaspoons of pectin. This did the trick, though I lost a significant quantity cooking down the syrup and even then I wasn’t convinced it would set. But after returning from Olympia that night (which is like a trip in the Wayback Machine to the Seattle of 20 years ago, pre-tech boom, pre-Starbucks, pre-WTO but definitely not pre-grungewear or pre-dive bar…I liked it) I discovered that my measly 3/4 of a pint had set most gracefully.
The flavor is really quite wonderful. It’s kind of like a gelified honey. (Did I make up that word? Apparently not.) After enjoying—no, gobbling down—my first taste of gelified honey aka dandelion jelly on an organic wheat English muffin, I felt like one of those drunken bumblebees you see in the dandelion fields. There was nothing to do but flop down and take a mid-morning nap.
Here’s the recipe, with the caveat that your mileage may vary. Don’t forget: pectin is your friend when it comes to Dandelion Jelly.
* Maybe more, maybe less. This jelly operates on principles beyond our ken.
1. Bring 2 cups water to boil and add dandelions. Boil 10 minutes over medium heat.
2. Strain dandelions and return liquid to pot.
3. Add sugar, lemon, and pectin, then bring to boil again before reducing heat to a simmer. Stir with wooden spoon until syrupy. This may take little time or lots of time, depending.
4. Pour into sterilized jars, seal, and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about a pint.