Making jelly using dandelion flowers is a commitment, no doubt about it. But if you enjoy tedium and working with lovely flowers, this is the jelly for you! And there is a real feeling of satisfaction you get from making a delicious food from what some call a weed.
My recipe is not straight-up dandelion jelly. To me, dandelion jelly deserves to be elevated a bit to reflect what I think of as its sunshine status. I wanted to layer flavors with dandelion’s honey-like flavor so the jelly tastes more like dandelion than just jellied flower parts. Because of this, I use honey as the sweetener to accentuate the natural dandelion flavor, lemon juice and zest for brightness, and cinnamon for warmth. This is a lovely, light, tasty jelly to serve on toasts, with cheese and crackers, or as a glaze to a baked ham.
Makes 2 pints
3 to 4 cups dandelion petals
3 to 4 cups water
2 cups honey
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tbls lemon juice
4 tbls low-sugar pectin
The hardest and most time-consuming part of the process is collecting enough dandelions and plucking the petals off of them. I suggest collecting a good gallon of flowers, but make sure those flowers are from an area that has been chemical-free for several years. I’m lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where very few residents use chemicals on their lawns, and they happily gave me dandelion-picking rights.
The petals need to be removed from the flowers as quickly as possible after picking them; the flowers close up quickly after harvest and after that happens, collecting the petals becomes much more difficult.
It is very important not to get any green parts (sepals) mixed in with the petals. The sepals will not only affect the color of your jelly, they also affect the taste, and not in a good way. Dandelions contain a milky sap, and you don’t want any of that bitterness to contaminate your jelly. It takes a long time to get just the petals off of the flowers, but if you’re going to make this jelly that is what you have to do. Make yourself a nice relaxing beverage and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Most bloggers making dandelion jelly use scissors to remove the petals. I personally find it easier to use my finger nail. It not only greatly reduces the amount of sepals that make their way into your petal pile, I find that it is quicker than clipping carefully.
To remove the petals, I first cut the entire flower in half. Then I use my thumb nail to pull only the petals off the flower. It’s pretty easy to avoid the sepals with this method, and in two or three pulls, you’re ready to move on to the next flower. And, your petal harvest quotient per flower is much higher than multiple clips. I find this to be important unless you have quadruple the amount of dandelion flowers you need, and have the luxury of only clipping the very top of each flower once.
You can stop this tedious process when you have between 3 and 4 cups of petals.
There are two ways to get your dandelion juice from the petals: simmer ‘em or steep ‘em.
To simmer them, combine your petals with an equal amount of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag or dish towel to remove all of the dandelion liquid. Measure out 3 cups of liquid for making the jelly. If you don’t have quite enough for 3 cups, add a bit of plain water to top it off. (Make sure you squeeze the juice from the petals, too.)
At this point I like to filter the juice through a coffee filter to remove any bits and pollen that sneak through. This also makes a clearer jelly. Once you’ve done this, proceed to Jelly Makin’!
You can also get the liquid by making a tea out of the petals. To do this, place your petals in a bowl and cover them with boiling water (use the same amount of water as you have petals). Let them steep overnight, then strain in the morning through a jelly bag or dish towel into a bowl.
As with the “Simmer ‘em” method, I suggest running your dandelion tea through a coffee filter to fully remove any petal bits and pollen. It makes for a nicer looking jelly product. And, again, if you don’t have a full 3 cups of dandelion juice, just top off with water.
A note on color: Dandelion juice will oxidize with time. Fresh juice will be yellow in color, but the longer you wait to make your jelly the color will darken to the russet color shown at left. I don’t mind this as I am adding cinnamon and honey, which darken the color.
Wash your lemon and zest it. Cut the lemon in half and juice half, which will end up being about 1 tablespoon of juice. Set the zest and lemon juice aside.
Take your 3 cups of dandelion juice and pour it into a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and add your lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the cinnamon. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Slowly add your pectin. But watch it…if you add it too fast it won’t mix in well with your juice and will be clumpy. I use a whisky to stir briskly after I put a bit of the pectin into the mixture.
After all of the pectin is incorporated bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Make sure you stir constantly.
Add your honey and return the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for one minute, again stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
Immediately pour your jelly into clean, prepared pint jars. If you are canning the jelly, process the jars
in a hot water bath for 10 minutes at normal elevation, and 15 minutes at high elevation, following normal canning protocols as outlined at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.