As a homesteader, you may realize that one of the most important tasks for you during the growing season is storing your own food for later use. A lot of “non homesteaders” look at us with this dreadful image of us sweating over a stove steam rolling up from the pot into our faces, hair going crazy. And maybe half of that is true but they leave out the birds chirping and singing in the background, sun shining, tea sitting on the table next to you, spoon tastings. This is our life, and in between the jams or tomatoes processing away we’re writing this or some other article to share how beautiful this step in a homesteader’s life, or anyone’s life looking to add a bit of simplicity and the safety of knowing where your food is coming from and whose hands grew them.
Right now we are boiling up some apple blossom jelly and dandelion jelly. Not your usual food preservation, but in our household it is. We try to preserve any nutrients and little taste of spring and summer any chance we get, when you have 6 months of cold you tend to really appreciate the warm weather. There is so much food around us, we’d be fools to let it all go to waste! Dandelions alone are tiny powerhouses full of Vitamins A, B6, C and K along with magnesium, potassium, and calcium. There are many ways to preserve dandelion, you could roast the roots or dry the greens, both for tea; you could pick the greens all summer long; infusing the leaves or flowers into oil for medicine; but our favorite way is to make jelly from the flowers.
The jelly is a bit more of a process than some of the others methods of preservation, but floral jellies are some of our favorite ways to store the taste and memories of bright and fragrant flower blossoms for a cold and gray winter day. They are delicious on a warm biscuit or a piece of toast, with honey, or by the spoonful for a sweet craving. This is a wonderful way to use dandelion blossoms and to utilize the abundance of free food that grows everywhere! Not to mention, you’re working with flowers, what could go wrong there? Note: do not consume plants foraged from areas that have been treated with chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or from less than 30-50 feet from the road to avoid potential health risks.
For dandelion jelly, we want to make sure that we remove all of the green parts and use only the yellow petals/white fluff (not the seeds!). The green parts are full of alkaloids that while aren’t harmful can be unpalatably bitter. This is more easily accomplished as soon as they are picked, if you let them sit for too long they will wilt and it will just be a bit harder to separate the petals from the green. We want at least 4 cups — loosely packed — of dandelion heads per 4 1/4 cups of water. We usually just break the flower open and pick/scratch the petals off, but play around with it and see what works best for you! It may seem like a lot of work, but if you have some music or a good friend, this is a great way to practice being present!
After separating the flowers, we will make an infusion from them. We use about 4 1/4 cups of water for the amount of dandelion we have picked out. To make an infusion, pour hot (not boiling) water over the dandelion petals and steep for at least 30 minutes, and up to 8 hours (24 hours max). The color will become darker the longer it steeps, and a short steeping time will cause a lovely light yellow color. We prefer to let it steep longer for more of a concentrated jelly. After steeping the tea, you must strain out the solids, then put on medium heat. Now, you’ll start making the jelly. Prepare your water bath canner and sterilize jars and lids in boiling water. In a bowl mix 1 cup of sugar with 4 1/4 teaspoons of pectin powder, make sure these are thoroughly mixed.
Next, add 1 tsp of citric acid, or 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice (we used 1/2 cup of juice from fresh lemons, and 1/2 tsp of citric acid and it turned out fine — you just need a certain amount of acidity for it to store, and bottled lemon juice has a set amount of acidity) to the tea along with 4 1/4 tsp of calcium water (this comes with Pomona’s pectin which allows you to use less sugar in a recipe). Allow the tea mixture to come to a boil, once it does, slowly add the sugar and pectin mix and stir as you add the mixture. Skim what you can if foam forms on the top, it’s not a big deal if you can’t get all of it. Then let the mixture return to a boil once all sugar is dissolved. Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove from heat.
The next step is to put the jelly into jars. Once your jars and covers have been in the boiling water, remove them and ladle the jelly into jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. After ladling the jelly into the jars, wipe off the rims with a napkin or towel and put the covers on, screw rings on until they are finger tight, no need to crank them. Place the jars back in your water bath canner and process them for 10 minutes at sea level at a rolling boil (consult canning processing charts for increased time as altitude increases). Remove after the 10 minutes and let sit untouched for 12-24 hours after processing to cool. Check the seals by looking at the button on the lids, make sure they are sucked in.
After that, you should have some beautiful jars of tasty dandelion jelly for your pantry! Store these in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight and they should keep for at least a year — even longer in most cases. We hope you decide to make some, and let us know how it comes out! Check back for more recipes as the growing season rolls along!
Dandelion Jelly Recipe
- 4 cups loosely packed dandelion petals, greens removed
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 1/4 tsp pectin powder (Pomona’s Pectin brand)
- 1/2 cup bottled or fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 to 1 tsp of citric acid (see information above pertaining to acidity)
- 4 1/4 tsp calcium water
- Make sure you remove the greens from the petals and use the petals of the dandelions.
- Pour 4 1/4 cups of hot (not boiling) water over the dandelion petals and steep from 30 mins to 24 hours.
- Start your water bath canner and place 5-6 jars, rings and lids in it.
- Strain the tea to remove the solids.
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix sugar and pectin powder.
- While the tea is heating, add the calcium water and lemon juice or citric acid and make sure everything is dissolved.
- Allow the tea to reach a boil, once it has, slowly add pectin/sugar mix and stir thoroughly to make sure it has dissolved.
- Skim off whatever foam you can if it forms, you don’t have to get all of it unless you want to.
- Allow to return to a boil and then remove from heat.
- Ladle the jelly into jars, wipe the rims and put on covers.
- Process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil (longer for increased altitudes).
- Let sit for 12-24 hours and check seals.
We hope you have fun making this, and let us know how it turns out!
Michael Perry and Schikoy Rayn operate Sacred Circle Homestead, a small-scale, low-tech perennial nursery focusing primarily on medicinal and edible species utilizing principles of permaculture and indigenous wisdom. Learn about the classes they teach at their website or at The Trillium Center, a healing center where they hold workshops in Burlington, VT. Read all of Michael and Schikoy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.