Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Recipe For Sunshine In A Jar

make a wish
Good ole' winter is not quite ready to give up it's grip just yet. The weather turned cold, gray and windy and the temperature dropped into the 30's and 40's.  After the long run of beautiful 70 degree days this was a very unwelcome surprise.  As I milked out the does, my hands burning from the biting cold, I sat there wishing I could bottle up all that glorious warm sunshine for days like this. That's when I remembered those humble little flowers that people like to call weeds, the dandelions. Dandelions, small, bright yellow flowers that are loved and adored by children everywhere and cursed and destroyed by lawn aficionados. I think if more people knew about the beneficial qualities of the lowly dandelion they would be less likely to rid their lawns of them.
a quart of dandelions
Dandelions are wonderful companion plants for gardening, attracting pollinating insects and adding minerals and nitrogen back into the soil. They also have been widely prized for their medicinal properties and culinary uses and that is when it dawned on me. I can bottle up that wonderful sunshine...it's called Dandelion Jelly.  A beautiful yellow jelly made from the petals of the dandelion that has a taste reminiscent of sweet honey with an earthy green tea undertone. I decided then and there to gather up a bowl full of yellow sunshine and bottle it up!

                                          To make your own Dandelion Jelly you will need:

  • 1+ quart of dandelion blossoms, no stems (you want to have about 3 or 4 cups of the yellow petals) *Note: Be sure to pick your flowers from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticide and harvest the flowers early in the day when they are fully open. Also, if you can not pick all your flowers at once, you can freeze them and thaw them out on the counter when you have enough.
  • 3 cups of boiling water (5 with the stronger version, see * below)
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • zest of 2 lemons (optional, I used it)
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • 1 (1 3/4 ounce) of dry pectin 
  • yellow food coloring (optional, I did not use)  
I added the juice and zest of 2 lemons to a small glass bowl
this helps avoid seeds getting into the jelly
Gather up your canning supplies, and a word to the wise, try to use glass or stainless bowls for gathering and steeping your dandelions as they will leave yellow stains on your plastic ware (and your fingers). You will need:
  • water bath canner or large stock pot
  • canning jars, seven 1/2 pint jars 
  • canning lids and rings
  • jar lifter
  • canning funnel
  • ladle
  • bowls (preferably glass or stainless)
  • large pot
  • large spoons, stainless and wooden, the longer the better
  • towels and dish cloths
  • scissors
  • fine sieve or coffee filter
After harvesting your flowers, use scissors to snip off the base of each flower until you have only the yellow petals. You will have tiny bits of green pieces, but that is okay, just pick out any larger green pieces as they are bitter.  This part is a bit tedious, but if you have small children pass the picking job to them and they will be thrilled. Be forewarned though, there may be yellow and green flower parts all over your house and tiny yellow stained fingers to wash! Ask me how I know. :)

snip off the yellow petals
my chickens loved the "leftovers"
Next pour 3 cups of boiling water over the petals. *To make it stronger add 1 more cup of petals and add 5 cups of boiling water (I just used 3 cups of petals to 3 cups of water). I used a glass measuring cup for the steeping and it worked out well.  Wait until the dandelion tea cools to room temperature or if possible overnight, up to 24 hours ( let it steep 24 hours). If you are not using immediately, you can refrigerate for up to 24 hours after steeping.

pour boiling water over petals to make dandelion tea
I placed plastic wrap on top 
Place your clean jars on a rack in a water bath canner and fill until the water covers them 2 inches. Begin to heat the water and the jars while you make the jelly.

I used a coffee filter and a sieve, this made for easy clean-up
again, my chickens went crazy for the petals
Strain your dandelion tea through a fine sieve or a coffee filter to remove all the petals and add water to make 5 cups. 

use a large pot, it will boil up
In a large deep pot add the dandelion tea, lemon juice, lemon zest if using, and the pectin. Bring to a rolling boil (a boil that will not stir down). Add the sugar and stir to mix well.

the jelly should look thick, shiny and coat the spoon
Stir and boil hard for about 7 minutes, or until the mixture sheets from a wooden spoon, skim off any foam if necessary.

Using your jar lifter, take out your jars and pour the jelly into your hot jars with a canning funnel and ladle. Leave a 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe any jelly off the rims and place canning lids and rings onto the jars. 

Place jars back into canner and process for 10 minutes if you are below 6000 ft and 15 minutes if you are above 6000 ft elevation.  Lift out the jars and let them sit on the counter until cooled. It may take overnight for the jelly to thicken up. Check lids to be sure they have sealed. You may reprocess any that have not sealed or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Sealed jars will last up to one year in a cool, dark place.  

pretty jars of sunshine, dandelion jelly!

Enjoy your little bit of sunshine and don't forget these make lovely handmade gifts!


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