Organic weed control you can eat - you have to see it to believe it...
This jelly is actually made from an herbal tea. You make an infusion of the blossoms using hot water - just like regular tea. It's one of my favorites - Dandelion Jelly. If you've never canned before, this is a great recipe to start with. It is pretty simple - if you can boil water, you can make jelly and properly preserve it.
Let me put on my food safety hat here for a few minutes. If you intend to give these IMMEDIATELY (like within 24 hours), you can reuse clean old food jars and lids. Think salsa for pints, old jam/jelly jars for half-pints or smaller, and also reusing jars, rings and old canning lids. Yes you can reuse the lids, but only when you don't ABSOLUTELY NEED them to seal. These jars will not be processed, and MUST go in the fridge as soon as they are cool enough to handle. They are good for a week.
If you intend to process your jelly (i.e., can it), you can reuse jars and rings, but you will need NEW lids. NEVER REUSE OLD LIDS FOR THIS PURPOSE!!!!! Absolutely, with no exceptions. You want the tightest seal possible to protect your food from microscopic critters.
**IMPORTANT UPDATE** Speaking of food safety, be sure to use plants that have not been sprayed with any kind of chemicals - whether that's an herbicide, a pesticide or a fertilizer!
You will also need a canning kettle. You can find them at some hardware stores and at WalMart. These are those big black speckled pots. Do not confuse them with pressure canners - that's a horse of a completely different color. Like zebra stripes.
While purchasing your kettle, get a pair of canning tongs. These are grippy things with a plastic/rubber type coating on the bottom. They might be called jar lifters. When you are moving hot jars of hot jelly into boiling water, they are ESSENTIAL.
So is a canning funnel. These have a wide opening at the bottom which is perfect for food to slide neatly into jars. Neatness counts here to ensure a perfect seal.
Also nice by not necessary: a rack for your jars for inside the kettle - I've never had good luck with these, but it may be easier for you; a lid rack (a handled base with slots for your rings) or a magnetic lid lifter. I use ice tongs to carefully pull my lids from their pot. Whatever works for you. Just remember everything you will be working with is approximately 200-ish degrees, and if you are not careful, you will get burned. I can promise. Because I've done it. Ouch.
Clean and sterilize your lids, jars and rings, and keep them hot. I run my jars and rings through the dishwasher and keep them inside until ready to use. If my timing is off (based on water boiling in canner), I have also put them on a cookie sheet in a 250 F oven. This keeps them hot and sterile. As for the lids, I handwash them in hot soapy water, rinsing well. Then, they go into a small pan of simmering water.
So let's start with our recipe:
SPH Dandelion Jelly
2 cups dandelion blossoms, yellow part only (remove from green part with scissors)
1 quart boiling water
1/2 cup fresh, strained lemon juice (no pulp or seeds - and use the stuff that actually comes from the fruit, not the bottle)
2 packages powdered fruit pectin (Sure-Jell)
9 cups sugar
2 tablespoons orange extract
Start by filling your canner about half to two-thirds full. Mine has a big groove about 2/3 way up, so I just call it the fill line. For me, that's about 3 gallons. Use either distilled water, or tap water with a tablespoon or two of white vinegar in it. This will keep your pretty glass jars from getting mineral deposits on the outside.
My canner also takes up 2 burners on my stove. I set both of them at about medium high heat. It takes about 40 minutes for room temperature water to come to a boil. Read the rest of the recipe below and PLAN ACCORDINGLY! Canning is like a dance, where timing is everthing. You need to keep your product (in this case jelly) hot, your jars, lids and rings hot, and then get them into the boiling water ASAP after you fill the jars and put on the lids and rings. I usually start my water when I start my dishwasher with the jars and rings.
My recipe above made 6 half-pints and two pints. That's 10 half-pint jars if you want all half-pints, or 5 pints if you want all pints. This is the number of jars you will need, so have that many jars, lids and rings available. I reused a salsa jar for one of my pints because it is going to a friend's house, and I know the friend and his family will eat it within a week.
Put blossoms into a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to steep. I put mine in my Pyrex measuring cup and fill the cup with boiling water. Then, I put on the lid to one of my pots that's a similar size. I let mine sit for about 2 hours. You can do as little as 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Strain through a fine meshed sieve, keeping 4 cups of dandelion tea. If you will not be using this right away, refrigerate for up to another 24 hours.
Pour tea into a large soup pot. You'll see why you need a large pot in a bit. Add lemon juice, and bring to a full boil. That's the boil with the really big, loud bubbles. Boil for 5 minutes, then add pectin. Return to a full boil, stirring constantly, and gradually add sugar. I add mine into the pot in about 4 or 5 portions, stirring each time until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble again. I also use a whisk for this, then switch to a large spoon when all the sugar is in. When all the sugar is dissolved, allow to boil for 5 more minutes. Add orange extract. It will bubble like mad and sputter and fuss, so be warned! That's because the alcohol in the extract boils at a lower temperature, so it will boil and evaporate quickly. Boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat. Skim jelly if desired. I don't because I like how the bubbles look like glitter, and skimming the foam takes product away, so I will have less jelly. If you plan to show your jelly at a county fair, skim it. If not, who cares. It tastes the same regardless. If I'm guilty of jelly blasphemy, so be it!
Also, as your jelly is boiling, you'll see why I said large soup pot. It will easily double in volume. It will also bubble back up when you put in the extract.
Ladle the jelly into the jars CAREFULLY, and wipe all the tops with a clean, damp cloth to remove any drips. Then, top with a lid and a ring. Hand tighten the ring just until you feel the ring grab the jar. You'll know when. It should be firm and secure, but not death-grip tight. Make sense?
If you are not processing your jelly, you can stop here. Place jars onto a cookie sheet, set the sheet on a hot mat of some kind, and allow to cool enough to handle. Then, place jars in fridge.
If you ARE processing, read on!
So using your tongs/lifter, place the jars into the boiling water of the canner. You should have enough water to cover the tops of the jars by at least 1". Put the lid on your canner. When the water comes back to a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes. Then, after the 10 minutes, let the jars boil in the canner for another 5 minutes with the lid off.
Remove jars from canner. I place mine on a cookie sheet, and set the sheet on a hot mat on my dining room table. Allow them to cool, and listen for the characteristic POP. You'll know it when you hear it. Try to count the pops (there should be the same number of pops as you have jars). Jars that didn't seal properly need to be kept in the refrigerator. Sealed jars are good for 6 months.
This jelly has a soft set, meaning it won't be as solid as Jell-o, like a grape or apple jelly typically would be. And that's ok. It still looks gorgeous in a jar, and tastes almost exactly like honey. Put some on hot fresh biscuits.
Cooled jars need to be labeled with product name (Dandelion Jelly), and the date you processed it (4-9-2012). Then feel free to embellish your jars any way you wish: crochet, sew or knit a topper; use scrap fabric and bakers' twine; decorate with scrapbooking paper and embellishments. You can also buy fancy lids and rings, but they are really expensive. Whatever you'd like to do. With the dandelion jelly, I don't usually add to my jars. The color is such a lovely pale yellow, it speaks for itself.
By the way, if you need MORE - there are two ways to approach this, and you'll have to decide how each will best fit your personal situation. You can double the recipe - be sure to have appropriate number of jars, rings, lids available and also use a really big pan. Or, if you have the time over a few days, make individual batches. Whichever works for you.
Want less? Divide the recipe accordingly, but ALWAYS use at least one full package of fruit pectin. This will ensure that your jelly sets.
Now that you've gotten your feet wet with this, here are some other jellies you might like to try:
Red Clover Jelly
Rose Petal Jelly
Give them a go, then give them as gifts. Tuck jars into pretty thrifted baskets with other homemade goodies, a lace doily that you crocheted (and yes you can make a doily by now if you've played along at home with all of our crochet tutorials - aren't you so clever and talented!). Maybe add some herbal teas and a tea cozy or mug mat. What a nice gift for a teacher, a scout leader, a new neighbor.
Recipe linked up at Joybilee Farm