I have been working on my knowledge of Wild food and foraging over the past year or so. I began to do this partly out of curiosity and also out of necessity. I have been looking for home remedies which I am able to make on a limited budget, in my own small kitchen, from things which are growing outside my front door or close by. This is to try and help my own health along, but also because I am also trying to live more sustainably, by using the things that I have already and recycling. It has also encouraged my family to save jars for me to use, rather than recycling them via roadside collections. This enables to me to stretch both the imagination and my creativity at the same time and even when I have been out of the workplace I have turned my hand to doing something useful.
With that in mind, I stumbled upon a recipe to use up the swathe of dandelions in my garden and set about making Vegan Honey. I am not a vegan, but I do have food allergies and intolerances and try to eat healthily. Having found the delights of the humble dandelion last year, I decided to delve further into its uses both culinary and medicinal.
This is a Bee Free Sweet Preserve, which resembles honey and can be used in exactly the same ways.
So on a sunny afternoon, the day before the lawn was due to be cut I thought I would save the dandelions from the garden, I picked about half a colander of them. Since there have been blooms for a month now and the spring flowers are also out, I have no qualms about using them. As always, I leave some for the bees since it is one of their first foods of the year. There are plenty in the garden but they would be going to waste on this particular day.
I have also noticed the thing about Dandelions is that once you take the flowers, they produce so many more blooms the next day they are abundant.
Fortuitously I found a recipe for Dandelion Honey, which got me thinking. I do like to adapt recipes though it helps me figure out what works and what doesn’t in them. It’s all trial and error, but sometimes it goes well. So as I did not have all the ingredients to hand, I searched online for other recipes that I might adapt. I also searched the freezer, where I had stored some apples.
Thankfully my friends and family are getting used to my concoctions these days and either wrinkle their noses up when I describe things, or alternatively agree to give them a go. Some have even come back for more, asking me to make them again. I must be doing something right.
If you would like to make your own “Honey” You will need time on your hands and patience. It is time consuming, but the taste is very pleasing and you will have your own little taste of sunshine for your morning breakfast, or afternoon tea if you prefer.
Here’s the equipment you’ll need:
A Large Pan, Knife, Wooden Spoon, Muslin Cloth to strain, Jug and Scales to measure, Sterilised Jars. I used 9 small jars.
Dandelions – ½ Colander collected is equal to around 4 cups petals once split.
2 Cooking Apples
Water 2.5 Pints or 5 Cups.
Sugar Approximately 1.2Kg
Collect Dandelions on a Sunny Day from a place which is free from insecticide.
Rinse them in cold water, this gives any bugs a chance to escape.
Water the plants with the excess water, thus releasing the bugs to freedom again.
Remove all the petals and separate them from all the green stems and flower base. You need to keep the petals for your honey. Warning – This is very fiddly and time consuming, you may actually lose the will to live!
Once you have petals, I ended up with about 4 cups of them.
Wash and Peel the Apples and slice them.
Wash and Cut the lemon into quarters.
Add 2.5 pints or 5 cups of water,
Bring to the boil and then continue to fast boil for 30 minutes.
Allow to steep overnight in the pan. If you do not want a really lemony taste, then at this point I would remove the lemon pieces and crush to retain the juice in the mix since it helps the setting process. But since you are adding sugar, the end result is sweet.
The next day, measure the liquid and weigh it, heat in a pan adding the same weight in sugar.
I ended up with around 2 pints of juice at this point which weighed just about 1150kgs.
Boil until it reaches setting point, to test this take a spoonful, pour it onto a plate, leave it a few minutes and if it has a crinkle to it, or does not run, then pour into sterilised jars and seal.
It can take up to 2 days for the mixture to set apparently, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed at this point. But since I like Runny honey anyway, I’m generally pleased with the result and it has a pleasing Honey colour to it. Not real honey, but with all the goodness that Dandelions and Lemons can provide, I bet it will still soothe a sore throat and who would know?