Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Canning Cookbook- Spring is just dandy!!

The dreaded enemy of yard fanatics everywhere, the bouquet of love presented by a chubby child's hand, a weed to some, a flower to others, the beautiful and sunshiny spring dandelion is one of the first signs of warmer days ahead. I so loved the days when my kids were little and they would bring me little bouquets of "flowers". No they were not weeds- they were bouquets of love, and always made me smile.

These days dandelions are so much more. They are also a valuable food source. Yes! Your common yard dandelion is a delicious treat in disguise. Young leaves are a delicious addition to salad mixes, and the blossoms are used for all sorts of things. Today I'm going to be using them for jelly, but we have tried dandelion wine as well- it was too sweet for me, but it was a first try.... I noticed this year that even some seed catalogs offered dandelion seeds in the section of salad greens- imagine that! 

Harvesting dandelions for jelly is fun. The Chef and I, on a warm sunny day, took a box across the street to the park, sat down in the grass and picked. We filled an entire copy paper carton before we knew it and barely had to move from our spot. ONE IMPORTANT NOTE: Pick your dandelions from a location you are 100% positively sure has not been treated for weeds!!!! Once you have a nice big pile, it's time to head in the kitchen.

Wash the dandelion blossoms gently with cool water to help get rid of that bitter "milk" and any extra friends with many legs you might have gotten. I'm not a big fan of friends with THAT many legs- yuck.  Drain them well- a salad spinner works great for this, and spread out onto a towel-lined tray to start working on them. You will be separating the yellow petals from ALL the green parts. It's a little time consuming so pull up a chair at the kitchen table and put on a movie while you're working.

Go ahead and pick as many flowers apart as you can. You will be measuring PACKED petals for the jelly and it can take a lot more than you think. You can pick and pack as you go too- whatever works for you. So let's get busy making our Dandelion Jelly. You will need:

2 cups packed dandelion blossoms
4 cups water
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin

Bring the water to boil, pour over dandelion petals in large pot or pitcher. Allow this mixture to steep for a couple hours or overnight. When it has steeped, strain into a clean pot using a jelly bag. DO NOT squeeze the bag- let it drip for a half hour or so on it's own. If you don't have a jelly bag you can line a small strainer with coffee filters and strain- slow process but it works in a pinch.

Next, measure out 3 cups of liquid and place in large pot. Combine with pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil while stirring the entire time. Add the entire measure of sugar at once, and return to boil, still stirring. Boil exactly one minute, then remove from heat. Ladle the hot jelly into prepared jars and fix lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool. 

A lot of people wonder what it tastes like- well, it tastes amazingly like honey! It kind of looks like honey too. It's great on toast or biscuits and I've also melted some and used to make pan sauces and glazes for different meats by adding herbs and spices. It's very versatile and looks so pretty in the jar- it makes a great gift. I have experimented with other flower petal jellies as well, so maybe this spring we will do some more- just make SURE the flowers are non-toxic and pesticide-free. Have fun playing!!

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