Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dandelion Honey

Nothing is a fail. Let's remember that, shall we? I'd like to have you think that I made up the idea of dandelion honey, but I didn't. It was a miracle of mishap. The way great things happen. By mistake.

I wanted to use all these lovely flowers that dot the grass. When you get down on your hands and knees and start picking them, you remember how special they are.

And why you were enthralled with them as a child. Bright yellow and fuzzy. A special and important name. They were everywhere, and your mother would let you pick them. All of them, if you wanted. There were games to play with them. There were wishes to be made with them.

It really didn't take that long to pick a lot of them. And, of course, I didn't need a scissor.

Dandy Lion. I know that's not where the name comes from, but isn't it perfect? It comes from dentes de lion, french for lion's teeth.

Here's the hard part. Taking the petals from the flower. Make sure no green gets in! Which I didn't. There were a few in there. It's hard, meticulous work. And I didn't mind a little bitterness. Isn't that what dandelions are all about? Bittersweet.

Initially, I had intended to make a jelly. But after a long day, my mind was wandering, and as the temperature of the mixture grew higher and hotter, I wondered to myself, why isn't this jelling? I used an apple jelly base and knew it should work. I was staring at the bubbling pot wondering, wondering. Then it hit me like a smack on the forehead: you forgot the lemon juice! That's like a baker forgetting the salt. A little detail that is so important but easy to overlook.

So, immediately I poured in a tablespoonful of lemon juice and it bubbled up furiously, and I let it boil (now at 224 degrees) until it threatened to boil over the pot. It wouldn't simmer down even with stirring. I turned it off and let it settle, hoping for the best. What happened was this: the set was thick and viscous, not a syrup, somewhat jellied, but not a firm jelly. Not even what they call a "tender" set. The next day when I tasted it cooled it took a while to let the thick sweet sunniness of it settle on my tongue, and I realized that what I had was dandelion honey. Sweet!

The only problem? How to recreate it? You could add the lemon juice at the end and hope for the best. Or maybe cook it to 218 or 19 degrees, though I often find that you get just a thick syrup. Here is my initial recipe for the jelly. I do think it would've been a great jelly had I followed my own recipe! But I'm pretty happy with dandelion honey.

2 cups apple pectin stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup dandelion petals (only the flowery fluff, no green bracts!)

Add sugar, lemon and apple in pot. Heat to dissolve sugar. Add flowers. High heat to boil. Reach jell stage, or 220 degrees. Ladle into hot half-pint jars and process for ten minutes.

N.B. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Well Preserved's great post on dandelion wine, jelly and coffee. You would be remiss if you didn't stay there and check out all the spring preserving entries they did for Edible Toronto. It's jam-packed with great ideas and stylish graphics. And do peruse a great post on the beauties of dandelion jelly by Yummy Supper.


  1. That sounds so delicious!

    Also, I can definitely relate to the forgetting. I make so many pies and have left out the salt from my dough before, somehow. It's funny how we get into routines and get a little spacey.

  2. Sounds lovely. Bet it will taste fabulous in one of your quickbreads.

    I thought about dandelion wine; but strangely enough, we don't actually get many dandelions in our yard, only a couple here and there. We have so many trees that only the shade-loving mosses and cowslips thrive. (I also thought about meticulously pulling the yellow petals off of hundreds of dandelions heads and decided I would sit on the back deck and enjoy someone *else's* wine instead).

  3. I love the look of the jelly in the jar with the petal squiggles settled towards the top. The canjam seems to start us off on new ways of thinking and opens up more and more possibilities.

  4. Beautiful post. Makes me want to go right out and roll in the grass. I never thought of doing dandelion anything before the can jam. Like Gloria, I'm loving the way it's opening my eyes. And to me, dandelion honey sounds like something you'd totally want to do on purpose, so nice job on the nonfail!

  5. So many memories of these unloved "flowers"... and this year was the first that my son picked them for me, proud to give me his little prize. I love the smell of the dandylion, and I can't say I've ever ventured to try anything made with it (other than greens in a salad). Your photos are beautiful, and descriptions of this humble thing are great as well!

  6. I am watching my dandelions, almost enough to go start collecting and make jelly. Last year was the first time I made it and my husband loved it.

  7. I would never have thought of using dandelions for a jelly. Actually, I would never have thought of using them for anything- so thank you, you have just opened my world a little wider. My eldest loves to give me dandelions when ever we are out, instant present for his mama.

  8. Kat - It's definitely that routine thing that where you get forgetful. But it's neat in that you find out exactly what happens if you leave that key item out!

    Kaela - Mmm, good idea! I was thinking of making dandelion syrup before the jelly idea took hold. I still am in love with your forsythia syrup.

    Good idea about drinking someone else's wine!

    Sarah - Really? I might just do that. Thanks!

    Gloria - It is, isn't it? It's getting so creative. I'm loving all of it. Can't wait for your angelica post.

    Shae - I was really getting into those dandelions. Just about rolling around in the grass, but it was a tad damp...everything's so green (and yellow)!

    Rebecca - Thanks! You know, after spending the day picking all those flowers my son learned to say yellow! So sweet.

    Milk Maid - We are in full blown dandelion weather. They are everywhere!

    CHFG - Isn't that sweet? Dandelions are so important! And once you make this jelly, you'll have something else to fill your lovely pantry with!

  9. I love this post! I tried to make Dandelion Jelly with the Babylady but alas it didn't set at all and was over the top sweet. But it was fun & opened my eyes to using dandelions.

    I love watching her squeal with excitement over picking them and 'saving them' in her pockets or trying to learn to blow the seeds. Dandelions are a toddlers 'gateway' flower to enjoying being outside I think =)

  10. Hey Julia, thanks for the shout-out. I am always happy to see what you are up to. Great post!

  11. Meg - Gateway flower - love it! When I had the measuring cup full of flowers my son totally squealed and stuffed his face in them. It was so beautiful!

    Yummy Supper - Welcome! Likewise! It was well-deserved.

  12. Julia, that creek bank looks like the perfect way to wile away a sunny afternoon. The other weekend two boys came over with yellow faces and they said they had decorated with dandelions. Such a great and undervalued edible! Your honey looks yummy too.

  13. Annette - So true! It makes me start looking at all the other little flowers I forget. Like violets. I think dandelions are made to attract children...

  14. You weren't really wrong with the "Dandy Lion", because the name dandelion does derive from the lion (French: dent de lion, which means lion's tooth), and in German this plant is called "Löwenzahn" which means lion's tooth, too.

  15. Andrea - Yes, I know about the French (it was in the post) but didn't know the German name for it! Cool.

  16. Oops, must have missed that line in your post...

  17. Your post inspired me to make my own dandelion honey. You can read about it here: http://wp.me/pv1QP-Eq

  18. You inspired me to make my own dandelion honey!!! It's really yummy! You can read about it here: http://ap269.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/dandelion-honey/

  19. Please delete one of my last comments, I received an error message and thought the comment hadn't gone through...

  20. Andrea- I love your honey! Yay!

  21. you are a sweetheart - thanks for the kind words :) We also made dandelion jelly that may end up being honey - it's a little half way between the two right now...I never judge a jelly for about the first 3 weeks...i have had some go from water to a firm set over a number of weeks...I'm reading your post and trying to remember if I forgot or remembered my own lemon but that was a week ago :)

    Smiles, it sounds great!


  22. Thanks Joel! Compliments to Well Preserved are always well deserved! And yes, you are right to not judge a jelly until it's had time to set. I'm always amazed that it does, but truly, it does!

  23. I don't post most of my recipes/sweet-though-technically-failed successes because I'm not sure how I'd recreate such results.

    I loved reading along with your creative kitchen in action!

  24. Kate - Thanks! There are a lot of failures that aren't quite as er, salvageable. This one worked out!