Dandelion easily is one of the most versatile nutritional and medicinal plants that can be harvested in the wild in North America. Root, leaves and flowers of the dandelion all can be consumed, for both health and culinary benefit.
My last blog provided a few recipes for the flowers (including calyx) and leaves. This blog continues with the various ways that the flowers can be used, focusing on making wine and syrups. Both are quite simple, but both also have myriad optional recipes.
Wine, for instance, can be made in as short a time as four weeks (the recipe in this article) or as long as twelve months. Syrups can be fairly thin, or processed with pectin into jelly or marmalade.
This month, I made a syrup that is thick enough to use in the place of honey, or, when warmed slightly, is a perfect topping for pancakes and waffles.
Begin by picking two quarts of packed flowers. I include the calyx, as I like the slightly bitter taste of the green parts. Boil two and one half quarts of water, pour over the flowers in a large vat. Let the infusion stand for fifteen minutes or so, drain the water, reheat and pour over the flowers once again. Let this stand until the water has cooled to room temperature, then drain off the water, being sure to squeeze out the liquid before discarding the flowers. (I compost these flowers, as they will not produce seeds)
Pour the liquid into a large pot, add eight cups of sugar (I use two cups of brown sugar to replace two of refined sugar, for a more syrupy final product, and for a slightly healthier syrup), as well as one half cup of lemon juice and two tablespoons of crushed mint. Boil at medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is rendered down to roughly three cups. Pour into containers and store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
My wine recipe starts off the same as the syrup, by infusing two quarts of flowers. However, use four quarts of water instead of two. Bring the liquid to 32C (90F).
Add eight cups of sugar, one half orange and one half lemon (sliced thinly), and a handful of mint leaves (crushed). Stir in ½ ounce (two packets) of yeast. Pour the mix into a fermentation container (I use a plastic water jug, with good results), place in a cooler, dark area, and let the mix ferment for two weeks, or until the bubbles stop. Strain the liquid into four sterilized quart jars with lids, and store for a minimum of another ten days to two weeks.
This wine tastes best when chilled, and has an alcohol content of approximately 10-12%.