Once upon a time, there was a big red barn, five sisters and some dandelion wine. Smack dab in the middle of the North Dakota prairie, we sipped, sat and shared secrets. It’s funny how tight lips will loosen after a glass of dandelion wine. Every summer, without fail, our Grandparents would bus all six of us kids out to visit our relatives in a 40 ft. motorhome. There was always an anniversary, wedding or reunion to go to, making it a nice reprieve past daily life and our parents death back home. Most of our relatives were second-generation German farmers who worked hard and celebrated even harder. Their immigrant parents and grandparents upheld and passed on many traditions they continued to celebrate and weave into the fabric of their farms. One of those traditions was the practical use and preservation of dandelions. They flowered everywhere on the farm, retaining a Spring-through-Summer life span.
Not only do dandelions herald the sun back and into the lives of the frozen prairie flora and fauna, they contain some of the best cleansing properties within the plant kingdom. Farmers and herbalists alike are keen to use them medicinally, kickstarting their first step out of a winters hibernation. Their leaves and stems can be blended into a nutritious, detoxifying smoothie, and their bright yellow petals can bring a welcome vibrance to any muffin. Our Great-Aunt Margie was famous for her welcoming tray of goodies, which always included “something” dandelion. Our favorite goodie, second to the wine, was her dandelion jelly with cream cheese on crackers. YUM!!
Late Spring is the perfect time of year to harvest these little pockets of golden goodness. They are popping up in farmers fields and neighbors lawns just waiting to be put to good use. Inspired by Great-Aunt Margie, we gathered, stewed, bottled and labeled our basket of sunshine into a dozen pint jars with this coming Christmas in mind. Wouldn’t it feel great to spread a little sunshine around in the dead of Winter, when all of us are craving something a wee bit brighter then the dull, cloudy sky? Its bright golden hue and honey-like taste make it the perfect addition to any table of celebration. It could very well become YOUR families next tradition! Check out the recipe below!!
(Makes one dozen pint jars)
1 gallon bright, freshly cut dandelion blossoms
2 qts boiling water
1/2 c lemon juice
11/2 c or 4 pkg. fruit pectin
2 qts sugar
Using a tightly woven, larger-size basket, forage for one gallon of dandelion blossoms. Select a larger area that has been protected from herbicides, pesticides and/or any roadside exhaust.
Flowers should be harvested in the morning when their water content is high and their bloom is full, before the heat of the day arrives. Dandelions tend to gradually fold into themselves as the day progresses. So catch them early!
Rinse the blossoms under cold water as soon as possible to retain freshness.
Carefully snip the green parts away from the yellow petals. This ensures a sweet jelly, as the green parts are very bitter.
Using a larger saucepan, pour boiling hot water over the petals. Cover with lid. Steep overnight to create a dandelion tea.
In the morning, strain the petals through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. This tea is now ready to make into jelly.
Measure out 2 qts. dandelion tea. Add lemon juice and pectin. Bring mixture to a boil. Add sugar and mix well. Continue stirring constantly and boil for 2 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat and skim off foam with slotted spoon. Helpful tip: using a pat of butter during the boiling process helps reduce the foam.
Fill canning jars with mixture leaving a 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a canning bath for ten minutes.
Have you ever made dandelion jelly? Foraging for and using wild flowers, such as dandelions, can be a fun way to sophisticate your culinary skills and create something beautiful. The warm glow that a “jar of sunshine” exhibits is unlike any other jelly. Especially, when it’s sitting on your winter windowsill as the snow is falling. We’d love to hear about your latest “foraging for” or “making of” anything that calls for dandelions in the comments section below.