Last weekend, compelled by a curious smell coming from the kitchen, I arrived there to find my teenage daughter engaged in that sincerest form of flattery: imitation. She, in fact, was in the process of turning the largest mound of dandelion petals I have ever seen into dandelion syrup. Besides the petals, she was accompanied by water, a lemon, and an equally impressive mound of sugar.
I’ve written about the taste of dandelion syrup before. That was in another off-season, beyond-maple post. In that post, I described the tastes of elderflower, rhubarb, blueberry, raspberry rhubarb, apple cider, birch, black walnut, spruce tip and sweet sorghum syrups.
Silver Lake Syrups made the dandelion syrup I tasted before. I described their award-winning dandelion syrup as “honey-colored and smell[ing] just like a field of the eponymous flower would without its friend-and-neighbor green grass.” I found the taste “light, delicate and evocative of the classic honey-lemon combination.” It was, I concluded “clearly absolutely perfect for teas.”
What I learned then but did not share was that dandelion syrup was a popular substitute for honey in Europe during and after World War II. Now, as any old Google search will show, dandelion syrup is a popular vegan substitute for honey. Here’s how to make it:
Pick a large amount of dandelions from places you know are herbicide and pesticide free. Remove all the greens. This will take a while.
Place in a large pot, add one sliced lemon, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Turn off the heat and leave, covered, for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Strain through cheesecloth into a smaller pot. For every 2 1/2 cup of liquid, add 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to disolve the sugar. Boil to desired thickness. You can achieve a syrup-like consistency by boiling until you reach the syrup reading on a maple syrup finishing thermometer. Alternatively, boil until reaching about 219 degrees Farenheit on a candy thermometer.
For a honey-like consistency, you will have to boil a bit more. Test the thickness by cooling small bits and evaluating for spreadability as you go.
When you taste your dandelion syrup, you will see that there is something in the combination of sweetness and this common flower that evokes honey. Enjoy!