Dandelion syrup has a flavor similar to old-fashioned horehound candies, but lighter. You will either love it or hate it. Making it requires a few steps, but picking the dandelion flowers will probably take more time than any of the preparation.
4 c lightly packed dandelion heads
4 c water
4 c sugar
juice of ½ lemon
This recipe makes about 3 ½ cups of syrup. It can be doubled, and if you decide you like the syrup, I recommend that you do double it to cut down on pan shuffling and washing, etc.
Pick clean dandelion heads around mid-day, when they are dry. Just take the head with the sepals, but break off any of the stem with the milky juice. Try to avoid getting extra grass and chaff in with the heads. Lightly pack into a quart measure. Use 1 qt (4 c) for the recipe.
Place the dandelion heads in a metal saucepan (not aluminum) with 4 c. water. Slowly bring to a boil and boil gently for 30 seconds. Steep overnight in a cool place.
The next day, strain, but keep the liquid! You can squeeze the juice out of the wad of wilted heads, then you may need to strain the liquid again because you don’t want any bits of leaves or plant material in the juice. At this point it will be a somewhat unappealing greenish color.
Put the liquid back in a clean pan, add 4 c. (about 2 pounds) sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Heat just to boiling and simmer gently for about an hour until the liquid is reduced by an eighth to a quarter. This does not have to be very exact. The liquid should begin to become thicker and more syrupy. Skim off any foam that forms with a metal spoon. If desired, you can wipe down the sides of the pan with a clean, damp cloth to reduce crystallization. Cool. I don’t know why there is this second cooling, but the recipe calls for it.
Heat again and simmer until syrup stage. This is slightly below thread stage. You can test it by lifting a bit of syrup out of the pan on a wooden spoon, and letting it cool just enough to be able to touch it. Then touch it with your finger, then touch the finger to your thumb. When you pull them apart it should try to form a thread. If using a thermometer, I would say stop at around 220- 225 degrees F. (105-107 C).
If you are familiar with jelly making, the canning process is just the same. If you don’t want to do all this, and suspect that you will use it quickly enough to avoid crystallization, you can just pour into a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
Meanwhile prepare canning jars- I use half pints. Wash and sterilize the jars and rings by placing in a boiling water bath. Place the lids in cool water to soften the seal. Place a clean towel on the counter.
When the syrup reaches the correct stage, turn it off. Work as quickly, yet carefully as possible. Remove one jar from the boiling water and place it on the towel. Fill to 1/8 inch from the top with hot syrup. If ANY syrup got on the rim of the jar wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel- even one crystal of sugar can prevent a seal.
Put on the jar lid and ring. Tighten. Invert and let it sit on the towel for about 10 seconds. This will kill any organisms on the inside of the lid. I usually let it sit inverted while I prepare the next jar, and then turn the previous one right side up again.
Let the jars sit without disturbing them until cool and sealed. If you have used the proper head space and worked quickly enough the jars should seal just fine. If one doesn’t seal just store it in the refrigerator. Sealed jars are shelf stable.
As you can see, the final product is a soft golden color.