Fermented Dandelion Delights
There are sooooo many dandelions out there right now. What can you do with all of them? You can eat the greens, if the late spring bitterness doesn’t bother you. And there’s always dandelion wine. Or, if you like jiggly yellow sugar, you can make dandelion jelly. But I like to be a little more creative with my dandelions. Since they have a naturally occurring yeast on them, they are really easy to lactoferment. You just have to put them in the right conditions and let the yeast do the work. So I like to turn my yard full of dandelions into cordials and pickles. (The leaves are also good in kimchi, but I’m just going to focus on the flowers for now.)
The first step is to pick the dandelions. For the cordial, pick flowers that are freshly opened with no signs of fluff starting to form or browning on the edges. For the pickles, you want the unopened flower buds. Make sure you get them while they are still closed up tight, otherwise you will have mushy pickles. I find late morning to be the best time to get both flowers and buds that are in prime condition.
You need your dandelion flowers and a 2 quart mason jar. You also need a lemon, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a cup of sugar.
I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, but don’t worry. The sugar is for the yeasts, not for you. You can use any type of vinegar, it doesn’t need to be live. In fact , if you use live vinegar your cordial will taste more vinegary because you added live vinegar producing culture. I personally prefer plain white vinegar in my cordials. Pluck the yellow parts out of the flowers. You need about a cup of yellow parts, which is maybe 15 flowers. Wash the lemon and cut it into lemon 6-8 slices. Put all of the ingredients into the jar, fill it with water, and cover it with something breathable, like a towel, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter. Now wait 1-2 days for the yeasts to do their thing. The hotter it is, the less time you need to wait. You can’t really screw it up, though… if you don’t wait long enough you will have dandelion kool-aid, and if you wait too long you’ll get dandelion vinegar.
After it has fermented for a couple of days, strain everything out of it. There may be a bit of mold on the surface. As long as it is not pink, just strain it off (if it’s pink, throw the whole thing out). Rinse out the jar and put the liquid back in. Since you removed all of the solid stuff, you will need to add a little bit more water to fill the volume to 2 quarts. Now seal it air tight and wait another day or 2. Again, the warmer it is the faster it goes. You need to be a little bit careful here, because the yeasts are producing carbon dioxide and you don’t want the jar to explode. Your cordial is done when there is enough pressure inside the jar that you can push on the lid and it doesn’t flex. That’s it. You’re done! Just chill and serve.
These are even simpler than the cordial. You will need a wide mouth pint jar, a half pint jar with cap, a cup of water, 1/4 cup of vinegar (again, white vinegar is fine), and about 2 teaspoons of salt. You can also add pickling spices. In this case I used peppercorns, allspice, spice bush berries, and prickly ash pods.
Put all of the ingredients into the wide mouth jar, then use the half pint jar to keep everything submerged. In this case I had barely 1/2 cup of buds because I didn’t beat the lawnmower to the dandelions. But you can use up to a cup. In fact, the easiest way to do it is to take your half pint jar out and pick the buds directly into it. That way you know exactly when the jar will be full.
Now wait for (you guessed it) 1-2 days. Then dump the entire contents- bring, buds, and spices- into the half pint jar and seal it. The liquid should fill the jar. If it doesn’t, add more brine. The pickles are perfectly good at this point, but I prefer to let them sit for a week or so in the refrigerator before I use them. They get more flavorful over time. I like them on salads, in mixed drinks, or with spreadable cheese on crackers. Basically, anyplace you might use a caper.