After all, I am running a garden--in the spring. Another reason for the lack of posts here.
(Why is it that stress for something you love is still just as...stressful? I love Fall Creek Gardens. I am so often grateful and amazed to be doing this work, turning a vacant urban space into a source of beauty and food and wildlife and art. Loving it all as I do is even more wearing in some ways, though, and I am overwhelmed by the amount of work I need to do, most of the time.)
So spending a glorious spring day harvesting dandelions and violets...is a gift. Just for me. And I spent it with a bit of my friend Frederick the mouse in mind...soaking up the beauty of a warm, sunny May day and preserving it in jars.
Dandelion & Violet Jelly
I will not resume my diatribe against weed-free lawns. I will, however, tell you that we brought dandelions with us from Europe. On purpose. They didn't exist here prior to the mid 1600s. Dandelion greens are a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A & C...and they are good for the liver and urinary tract. The sap of the leaves and stems can be used to treat warts, and the roots can be dried, roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. And then there is wine and jelly from the blossoms..... It is a similar story with violets--some varieties immigrated, brought along for their medicinal qualities, while others are native.
So anyhoo, boo on chemical lawns. Here's how to make the jelly:
The general methods are the same for both flowers: pick the blossoms in the morning, after the dew has dried and once the flowers have opened up fully to the sun. For the dandelions, snip the yellow petals off of the little green sepals--the base of the flowerhead which holds the petals together--discarding as much of the green as possible, but not getting too crazy about it. Pick & snip until you have 2-3 cups of this exquisitely downy, golden fluff, if not more. For the violets, make sure to remove stems, but don't worry about removing the sepals.
Put the flowers in a mason jar or other heat-resistant container and cover with boiling water--for the following dandelion recipe, around 3 cups is good. Cover the jar and let sit for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
Gently but thoroughly strain the liquid from the petals, using a sieve, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter. Use the back of a wooden spoon to gently push the liquid from the flowers into the bowl. The better job you do straining, the less cloudy your jelly will be.
Next, you want to prepare to your canning supplies:
- Heat water in a water bath canner to a rolling boil--1/2 to 2/3 full is best; you need 2" above the height of your jars once you add them after filling.
- Wash your jars and rings and brand-new lids in hot soapy water, then sterilize jars in either boiling water, a hot oven, or dishwasher, and leave them there until you need them.
- Put the rings and lids in a saucepan and fill with just-boiled water.
- Clean all utensils and get clean towels and washrags.
Your jelly ingredients will be:
3 cups dandelion tea
4 1/2 c white sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 packet (1.75 oz) powdered pectin
2 cups violet tea
1/4 c lemon juice
1 packet powdered pectin
2 cups sugar
When I was ready to start the dandelion recipe, I couldn't handle using that much sugar (I mean good god, people), so I looked up low-sugar adaptations. For the dandelion jelly, I used around 2 cups of the sugar (still awful) and 2/3 cup stevia, and this meant that I needed low-sugar pectin.
(Which I didn't have, which lead to jelly that didn't jell enough, which lead to a very delayed second blog post...which lived happily ever after. But I digress.)
SO. The moral of the story is: if you use the sugar as indicated, you can use regular pectin. If you want to cut it down, do not use regular pectin unless you want syrup rather than jelly. The violet jelly recipe above calls for a reduced amount of sugar anyway, and it didn't jell well either until I low-sugared-pectined the bejeezus out of it the second time around.
Once you've figured your stance on the sugar/pectin question, pour the flower tea into a wide saucepan or pot--the wider the better. Add the sugar, pectin, and lemon juice and whisk over med-high heat. With the violet tea, be prepared: when you add the lemon juice, the mixture immediately turns pink/magenta. Chemistry is cool.
Cook until bubbling, whisking frequently, then cook for 3-5 minutes allowing the syrup to reduce a bit and begin to thicken.
Skim off any foam and ladle into your clean, hot jars. Leave 1/8" head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean rag, put on lids and tighten rings until you just reach resistance. Process in hot water bath with 2" of water above jars for 10 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool for 24 hours without disturbing. Then remove rings, wipe off lids, and check that everything sealed. If any jar failed to seal, refrigerate and eat first.