The discovery of Dandelion Syrup

Syrup

Dandelions, dandelions and more dandelions. They seem like they are everywhere in the spring. Last time I talked about making Dandelion Jelly, but I wanted to do more. I started exploring the uses of dandelions and there are many, but one in particular jumped out for me.

Dandelion syrup – it sounded good and seemed fairly easy to make, although a longer process than with the jelly.

Once again I set out to pick some of those yellow blossoms. Just one note of caution: Watch out for the bees. There were a lot out this time, so I just let them keep their dandelions and picked the ones that were free of bees. We all were happy that way.

Once I had about 150 dandelions, I headed back in to begin the process. First rinse the flowers and let them dry for a while. Then again pluck the petals from the green leaves. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to get around this process if you are going to be eating the end product. With the petals plucked and in a bowl, bring four cups of water to a boil and pour it over the petals, making sure they are all immersed in the water. Cover the bowl and leave it on the counter as it cools to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, strain the petals from the water and discard the petals. In a large pan, mix the petals and 3 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Simmer this about one hour 25 minutes. It has a wonderful rich flavor, with a definite hint of honey.

It’s best to store the syrup in a glass jar, but other containers will work as long as they are not metal. Cover and keep in the refrigerator. This was great poured over some buttermilk pancakes. (I warmed a portion of the syrup in the microwave before using it. I wasn’t sure what reheating over and over would do to the syrup, so I didn’t heat the entire bottle.) It also would be good drizzled over some warm biscuits right out of the oven. One other use I found is for a sandwich. Growing up I never liked peanut butter and jelly, so my mom made me peanut butter and syrup sandwiches. I know it sounds strange, but it tastes really good. I recently purchased a bowl of freshly made peanut butter from the store and decided to try it. I mixed about a third cup of peanut butter and 2-3 tablespoons of syrup together and spread that on some homemade bread. It was delicious! I can’t wait to have another sandwich.

Now as I enjoy my dandelion jelly and syrup, it’s time to try something easier – a recipe for dandelion and rose soap. At least this time you don’t have to pick out the yellow petals, so it should be a piece of cake.

Until next time, happy garden fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener. Send your comments to her at julieclements75@gmail.com.

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Enjoying the taste of dandelions 


While many people fight an ongoing battle to remove dandelions from their yard, I have always viewed them as a sign of spring. They are some of the first hints of color after a long, cold winter.

But they are more than just something to look at. Knowing they were edible, I set out to find ways to use dandelions, besides the soap I had made from them last year.

Dandelion Jelly sounded good and looked good from the information I found about it online.

So I set out to gather my dandelions. After a couple of times of picking, I soon realized the best time to pick is late morning. The dandelions are fully open and easy to spot at this time. This year, my yard has been covered with the bright yellow flowers, making picking fairly easy. For one batch of jelly, you will need to collect four cups of tightly packed dandelion heads. Then rinse them and let them dry for a bit. This will make the next step a lot easier.

You have to remove the yellow petals from the green leaves surrounding them. Some have said they use a knife and cut off the bottom of the dandelion, then remove the petals, but I found simply grasping the bottom of the flower in one hand and then plucking the yellow petals from the middle works pretty well. Sometimes you have to go back and pick a few of the leaves out if you got several, but a few doesn’t seem to make a difference. (I read that too many green leaves will make the jelly bitter.) You will have sticky, yellow fingers at the end of this process, but it’s worth the effort.

Once all of the petals are “plucked,” place them in a jar or bowl and pour four cups of boiling water over them. Place a lid or saucer across the bowl or jar to keep in the steam. Let this set for a minimum of two hours or even overnight, letting the petals steep.

After this is done, strain the liquid into a pan, removing all of the petals. Add one box of pectin and one quarter cup of lemon juice. Heat the mixture to boiling, then add three cups of sugar. Stir constantly and boil for one minute. Then pour the jelly into sterilized jars and process for five minutes in a water bath.

The jelly looks a bit like the Sunflower Jelly I made last summer, only a little darker and with a much richer and different taste. There is a hint of honey flavor in the jelly.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener. 

Warming up with a bowl of homemade chili

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Cold weather brings a craving for warm, tasty food. One favorite for many people is chili. There are a variety of chili recipes out there, but using home-grown vegetables and peppers adds a fresh taste you just don’t get elsewhere.

Chili also gives me the opportunity to use a lot of frozen foods I have saved from the summer.

There are several options for the homemade chili. One is made with a chili base.

Unfortunately, I didn’t can any of this last season, so I have run out. Instead, we created the following recipe.

You begin by preparing one pound of dry beans. First, sort and rinse, then boil the beans two minutes in 8 cups of water. Cover and let set one hour. Then drain and rinse the beans, return to pot with 6 cups of water and simmer 2 hours. You can use any variety of beans. I usually grow three or four different kinds, mixing some red beans and pinto beans.

When the beans have been simmering about an hour, you can start browning a pound of hamburger. Drain that, then add a bag of frozen onions (one cup), and chopped frozen peppers. This is where you can get as creative as you want.  My freezer is stocked with frozen poblano peppers, serano peppers, jalepenos, garden salsa peppers and more. Our traditional way of making it calls for two large poblano peppers and two jalapeno peppers, but do anything you want. Hungarian Wax peppers are another favorite I like to add. Cook the peppers and onions until softened.

Once the beans are done, drain off any excess liquid, then combine the beans; two pints of tomatoes, drained and chopped; the hamburger mixture; and 1 tsp. cumin.

Even with the peppers, this makes a pretty mild chili, so if you want a little more spice, add a half teaspoon of red chili flakes.

Let that all simmer for 1-2 hours, then serve with your favorite toppings.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Homemade Vegetable Soup

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I’ve talked about several methods of preserving a variety of vegetables from your garden. My newest experiments have been with dehydrating and I’m continually looking for more to do with that.

Dehydrating offers a variety of benefits, including long-lasting storage and saving space over freezing the vegetables. It also makes combining various foods easier than once they are frozen or canned.

With the ease of grabbing a handful of carrots or green beans whenever they are needed, I wanted to do more than just add the ingredients to a recipe I was cooking. With a variety of vegetables dehydrated, the perfect use was to create a garden-fresh dehydrated soup mix.

This was a fun creation because there are so many options. I decided to start with a beef img_4029vegetable mix in a pint jar.

To fill the jar, I added a quarter cup each of carrots, green beans, potatoes, onions, corn, celery and sun-dried tomatoes. To complete the jar, add 1 tsp. garlic powder, five beef bullion cubes and 30 dried basil leaves.

There are several fun things about this recipe.

One is simply creating the mix. I like to layer mine in the jar, mixing up the colors. You also could mix everything together then fill the jar for a colorful mixture throughout.

Another fun thing is you can experiment with it as much as you would like. Don’t like corn? Add peas instead. Want more tomatoes? Put more in and reduce something else. img_4031

You also can adjust how much seasonings are in there. I started with three bullion cubes, which was good. But I wanted a richer beef flavor so I increased it to five. You also could try making it with chicken bullion for a different flavor.

Other herbs also are an option. Thyme or rosemary seem like they would be good substitutes for the basil. It’s all up to your own personal taste.

Another fun thing is this makes a unique and personalized gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative. Tie on a bow and attach the cooking instructions, and you have a tasty present ready to give.

Uimg_4023ntil next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Making home-made peanut butter takes some effort

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Last winter when I was going through preserving withdrawal – it usually happens about December – I decided to try something new.

I have always loved peanut butter, and recently had purchased a hand grain mill, that just happened to come with a wheel to grind nuts.

With lots of nuts available around Christmas time, I had as many peanuts as I needed.

Wanting to start from scratch, I got peanuts still in the shell. It did take a long time to shell all of those peanuts, but it was a sense of accomplishment as I took off that last shell and was ready to get going. It was amazing that a huge sack of peanuts only made four cups, shelled.

I looked up a recipe online and started grinding the peanuts. This was definitely a workout, and I enlisted any help I could find, such as my husband as he was walking through the kitchen. By the time I was done, I had a large bowl of ground peanuts.

At the point you can add a little bit of canola oil to make it creamier if you want to, as well as sugar or honey. I added just a little bit of honey, stirred it in and stored the peanut butter in a bowl.

It was very tasty, but I overestimated how much to make by about two cups. The peanut butter has to be stored in the refrigerator and doesn’t keep as long as store-bought since it doesn’t have the preservatives. I enjoyed the peanut butter while I had it, but next time, I think I’ll try a recipe using a food processor I found that looks easier, and I’ll try making a smaller batch.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Getting creative with flavors

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One of my favorite ways of preparing meals is by smoking the meat, whether ribs, chicken, turkey. To do this, recipes often call for rubs to be used. We’ve tried a variety of them, finding several that are our favorites, but it just wasn’t home grown.

With the variety of peppers I grow, many of which we smoke and dehydrate, it seemed I could do something with them. Besides, if I just use those peppers in recipes, I’ll never get through them all.img_4176

I found some homemade rub recipes in a smoking and grilling book I had gotten for my husband and thought I’d give it a try. I found a recipe that I had most of the ingredients for and began making a few substitutions. It was fun trying to find as many homegrown ingredients as I could for each recipe.

Through a little trial and error, I made a variety of rubs and seasonings, including an all-purpose rub that can be plain, hickory or apple smoked; as well as a Steak House Rub, Memphis-Style Rib Rub and Hickory Dill Rub. The fun part about this is getting creative. Substitute peppers for an endless variety of combinations.

I used to grind all of my peppers with my mortar and pestle, but I recently made a new purchase for the kitchen – an herb grinder. I haven’t used it too much yet, but when I did it worked great, and I can’t wait to get some more peppers ground up to start creating some new recipes. If you find a new combination that you like, let me know. I’d love to try it out.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie’s All-Purpose Rub

5 T. dark brown sugarimg_4177
1 T. Hungarian Wax Peppers
1 T. Sweet Red Peppers
1 T. Serano Peppers
1 T. Mucho Nacho Peppers
1 T. Rosemary
4 tsp. onion powder
4 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. basil
2 tsp. parsley
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. ground corriander
1 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
3 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt

Grind dried peppers in herb grinder or with mortar and pestle. Then combine all ingredients in food processor until fine and store in jars or air-tight bags. For variety, smoke the peppers with either hickory, apple or mesquite smoke for different flavors.

Hickory Dill Rub

5 T. dark brown sugar
4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. pepper
1 T. dill seed
2 tsp. dill weed
8 tsp. chives
3 tsp. corriander
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
4 T. hickory-smoked Poblano Peppers

Grind peppers, mix all ingredients in food processor until ground fine. Use as a rub on your favorite foods before smoking, or use as a seasoning in your foods.
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Putting a home-made twist on pizza night

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It’s always an easy option to pick up a pizza on the way home for dinner, but if you have time, home-made is fun and delicious. Plus you can tailor it to your own tastes, no matter what combination that may lead to.

There are several key home-made ingredients in my pizza.

The first is homemade pizza sauce. I discovered this a couple of years ago as a mix to add to my tomatoes I was canning and I have not looked back since. I like to can them in half-pint jars, rather than pints because that is just the right amount for two pizzas. It has that home-grown tomato taste in the middle of winter.

I also like to make my own dough. As I’ve said before I like to use my bread machine for all of my breads, and pizza dough is no exception. There wasn’t a good pizza dough recipe in my bread machine book, so I started researching several and took the best of each to create this recipe (see recipe).

With a combination of oregano, basil, cilantro and more, the dough has so much flavor it hardly needs any toppings. But we are making pizza, not just bread, so toppings are important.

Once your dough is rolled out (and only roll it out when you are ready for it, otherwise it will continue to shrink back up), cover it with sauce and start layering on your toppings.

You can then bake it in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or cook it in the grill for 5 to 10 minutes. Watch for the dough to brown and cheese to melt, then you know it’s done.
One trick to getting the pizza to slide onto and off of the pan on which you cook it is to put cornmeal on the pan before putting the dough on it.

Once it is done, slice and enjoy!

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Herb Pizza Dough
(makes two pizzas)

1 cup warm water
3 T. olive oil
3 T. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. oregano,
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cilantro (or crushed corriander)
1 1/2 tsp. yeast (quick rise)

Add all ingredients in order to bread machine. Select dough cycle. When complete, remove dough and cover. Let rise 30 minutes. Divide in half and roll out. Then top with sauce and toppings.
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.