I love dandelions. I have a yard full of them, and it truly gives us so much joy to see that little bit of sun popping up in the yard in late winter and early spring. I would much rather have a bouquet of dandelions over any flower any day! Plus it is good exercise to go out and run through them when they go to seed (yes, I know it happens overnight and absolutely ruins your freshly mowed lawn).
This is a great jelly recipe AND activity to do with your kids. Because you are going to need a lot of dandelion petals, and kids love to pick them! This is a recipe you will need to make in the spring, so if you are like me and freeze the summer harvest to can in the fall, you’ll need to plan accordingly. This is also at least a 2 day process since you will need to steep the petals overnight. The dandelion jelly by itself tastes very similar to honey, but feel free to make it your own by adding fresh orange juice, blackberry juice, strawberry. . .whatever your heart desires! This also makes a beautiful clear pale yellow jelly and adding a tiny bit of fruit juice will also change the color.
First and foremost, be mindful of where you are picking and how much you take from any certain area because this is one if the first foods for bees. Avoid picking right away in the spring for this reason, but don’t wait too long because the abundance of dandelions will diminish fairly quickly. Secondly, be sure you are not collecting dandelions from any location that has been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Try to pick a sunny day since dandelions are open all the way, and pick the biggest ones you can.
Using an empty pitcher or large plastic container, collect enough flower heads to equal about 1-1 ½ loose quarts. Next you will want to remove the petals. You’ll need approximately 2 cups petals. You do not want any green part as this will make it very bitter. You can either use sharp, small scissors to cut them off, or just pull the petals out. If you do the latter, you might wear plastic gloves as it turns your fingers yellow. Kids can do this part as well. Rinse and strain through fine sieve or coffee filter.
Next, place in a good sized pot with 4 ½-5 c water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, allow to cool, and transfer to the fridge overnight. You are essentially making a tea or infusion. The longer you allow it to steep, the stronger the end color and flavor. Fair warning, this process does not smell the best!
The next day, you’ll want to strain the tea through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth. If adding other juice, add ¼ cup and combine with tea to make 4 cups total. I find this can make a thinner jelly, so I cook a hair longer and add more pectin. If you add juice (such as apple) that already has natural pectin, you won’t need to do this. Make sure your jars (you’ll need at least 6 half pints) are sterilized and sitting in hot water along with your bands and lids.
Have your cooking area set up so you aren’t reaching or walking off to get anything. Have the boiling water canner ready to go. Measure out 5 cups of sugar and set aside. Add tea infusion and pectin to large saucepot. At this point you can also add ½ teaspoon butter to diminish foam at the end. Bring mixture to a rolling boil (a boil that you cannot stir down) stirring constantly on med-high heat. Stir in sugar and return to rolling boil. Stir constantly and boil one minute. Remove from heat and skim foam.
Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims and cover with two-piece lids, screw on tightly. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. (note –make sure water is 1-2 inches above the top of the jars and adding ½ cup white vinegar to the water bath will remove the white film from your jars due to hard water.)
Allow to cool on a towel and check seal after 24 hours. If the lid is not inverted, you’ll either need to put it in the fridge for consumption or reclean the rim and process again.
Yield – 6 half pints
3 ¾ – 4 c dandelion infusion tea
¼ c fresh juice of your choice (optional)
1 box powdered pectin
½ t butter (optional)
5 c sugar