Oh, dandelions. Long branded as a useless weed. I remember in second grade during a recess I picked a bouquet of them for my teacher, Mrs. Bugno. When I proudly presented the gift to her she scowled (as she did most of the time) and threw them on the ground. “These are weeds. Stupid weeds. Don’t pick these anymore, it’s a waste of time.” Mrs. Bugno made me cry on many occasions but this just broke my little 7-year old heart. I was trying to be generous!
Many years later I found a use for all of those “stupid weeds.” Actually, dandelions have many uses, including being put in salads, wines, teas, and also are sometimes used for medicinal purposes. But I’m not here to talk about those. I’m here to talk about SYRUP. Delicious, amazing dandelion syrup.
Last year I had a wonderful time picking dandelions with my friend Channa and her three adorable boys. This year I was helped by the kids I nanny for. They were enthusiastic about the idea, which was great because a lot of people make a yuck face when I tell them about it. They picked quite a few for me and then I went out by myself later when I got home and picked the rest. That batch disappeared very quickly so I went out last night to pick more for two more batches. I’m glad I went when I did because while I walked the dog this morning I noticed that most of the dandelions had closed up on their way to becoming the lovely, fluffy things that I used to make wishes on. Anyway, here is a step-by-step guide to making your own delicious syrup. It takes time but it’s totally worth it:
Go out and pick (or get someone else to pick) 250 dandelion tops, give or take a few.
I’m glad I went when I did–a lot of them were starting to look like this:
Some people end up cutting off the green part because it’s bitter but I left them on because I’m lazy. Really all you want to avoid is the stems. Just take the tops. It doesn’t make much of a difference taste-wise. To me it’s not worth the extra work!
Put your tops in a pot and cover them with 4 cups of water. Press down on the tops so that they are all somewhat submerged. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
After you’re done simmering, let the tops cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 12 hours.
The next day, using cheesecloth or a mesh strainer, strain the water from the tops back into your pot. Squeeze or push down on the tops to get all of the water out that you can. Mix in 2 pounds of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. (NOTE: I bought a pack of sugar that was labeled 4 pounds but I used a kitchen scale to measure the exact amount I needed and it ended up being closer to three quarters of the package. I would recommend actually measuring the sugar. Also, if you have no lemons on hand but you do have lemon juice, use about 3 or 4 tablespoons.)
This is what it looks like once you mix the water, lemon and sugar:
Simmer the mixture for 2 hours, until the sugar is all dissolved and the consistency is syrupy. When it is close to being done it will develop a foam on top like this:
Let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and enjoy!! You can put it on pancakes or waffles, in your oatmeal, or (my favorite) mix a couple of tablespoons with a cup of club soda and a couple of ice cubes for the perfect summertime drink! I preserved some to give to friends and family. This was how much I got from one batch. I also printed out some cute labels for the tops (thanks to Merriment Design for the label template!!).
I love the dark amber color. I can already taste it.
If you end up making any, leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it!!