Big Blue, is my huge vintage immersion canner that I picked up very reasonably last season. I love being able to put food by for the winter months. There is something very satisfying about opening a jar of cherry pie filling at Christmas and having the cherries actually taste like cherries and not red colored flavorless canned glop.
I didn't have to go far to find our first fresh produce of the season. In fact, I just had to look outside my door to see the wonderful harvest awaiting all those little helper hands.
If the post title didn't give it away, my first jelly of the year is dandelion jelly.
I love dandelions! I love seeing a yard full of these beauties rather than a nice manicured lawn.
So, the kids and I started the season by gathering buckets of dandelion flowers in order to make tea and jelly. The best way to gather flowers is when they are in full bloom around the noon hours. Trust me, they just taste better this way.
For those of you who are concerned about eating Dandelions, don't be. They are completely edible from root to flower. I personally love dandelion greens, dandelion root tea, and dandelion flower tea (although the root and flower taste different and have different uses). Just make sure that you harvest your flowers, roots, and leaves from a site where they have not sprayed with herbicides or pesticides, and also avoid harvesting near the side of a road.
To make dandelion jelly you first need to gather at least half a pitcher of dandelion flowers (about 4 cups).
I've got a lot more than four cups in my colander because I made a double batch, but four cups is enough for a single batch. If you have a little more or a little less, it is fine. More flowers just means that you are making a stronger "tea" base for your jelly. Now you need to clean and de-stem your flowers for the tea.
There seems to be some debate in the dandelion jelly world about if you should leave the green base on your flower or not. Really, it's just a matter of taste. Leave it on for a jelly with a bit of good bitterness to it or take it off for a lighter flavor. I like it both ways, and so I make both versions. Dandelion Jelly tastes a lot like honey. It is very sweet and the kids just love it.
To clean your flowers you need to rinse them well in luke warm water. Not hot, not cold, but room temperature. This is so the flowers do not completely close while you're rinsing them. It's much harder to de-stem closed dandelion flowers.
I've seen instructions for de-steming dandelion flowers that involves scissors, knives, and even tweezers to get every bit for green off, but honestly the easiest way to do it is just with your own two hands.
Gently pinch the petals in one hand and grip the green base in the other.
Pinch the green base and pull the two sides apart.
Seriously, it's that easy. You might have to give it a little twist and adjust where you hold the base, but after about 4 flowers you'll find a rhythm.
Don't worry if you don't remove every speck of greenery from the petals. It will not ruin your jelly or drastically change the flavor.
To make the tea pour 6.5 cups of boiling water over your prepared flowers (or your whole flower heads if you chose not to separate the petals). Cover your pot, bowl, or other container (not plastic), with a lid and let it steep for a few hours or even overnight.
Strain the tea using a jelly bag or a strainer so that you remove the petals. You'll need 6 cups of tea. If you don't have enough, just add water until you do.
Dandelion Jelly recipe:
6 cups dandelion tea
5 cups white sugar
2 pkgs of pectin
The juice of 1 medium lemon (or 3T pkged lemon juice)
*1/2 of a finely grated lemon rind or orange rind
At this point I'm assuming that you've canned before. If not, please look up more detailed instructions on sterilizing your jars and lids and just a good overview of the ins and outs of immersion canning. Put a few saucers in the freezer now so they will be cold enough to test the set of your jelly later.
In large pot add dandelion tea, sugar, and lemon juice and *grated rinds. Heat until it comes to a full boil that can't be stirred down (around 8-10 minutes). At this point add your pectin. Because all brands of pectin are a bit different, how much you need is going to depend on your type. I use 2 packs of gelfix 2:1, which is a European brand that I have not seen in the states. I think a good US equivalent would be a less sugar pectin like sure-jell's. Add pectin and stir for 4 minutes (for best results, check your pectin's recommended cooking time and adjust accordingly). Test the set of your jelly with a frozen plate. If it's not set enough, cook the jelly a bit longer and retest. If it's still not setting, you may need to add a bit more pectin to the batch.
Once the jelly is ready, pour it into your jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space and process them for ten minutes (higher and lower altitudes will need to check the recommended processing times on their pectin packages).
Let your jars cool down and check to make sure that they all sealed. Your jelly should be the color of honey. Make sure that you leave out a jar for the family to sample and hide the rest otherwise you'll find empty jars and crumbs in odd places around the house :)
Don't forget to add a nice label to your jars listing all the vital jelly information that you'll want to remember. I've been having a lot of fun designing my own labels this year.
I hope that you found this post helpful, and I would love to hear if you decided to make some dandelion jelly using my recipe.
Next it's watermelon jelly!
What jams and jellies are you planning to make this season.