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Old 12.04.2011, 10:03
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Dandelion Honey - fake but delicious

Dandelion Honey

As mentioned elsewhere, this is not real honey but a honey-like bread spread. By definition, honey is a nectar product made by bees. This, however, is a honey-like man-made product.

WARNING: It contains a lot of sugar and may cause addiction, overweight, tooth decay, diabetes, you name it. It may contain traces of liquid manure or body parts of little insects. Don't say you weren't warned.

A lot of scientific research went into the development of this recipe, after I had to find out the hard way that the figures given in a Betty Bossy book on Swiss cuisine were pretty wrong. Yes, Betty Bossi, the fictional Popess of Swiss cooking, got it wrong.

I know that the whole procedure sounds complicated. It's something that cannot be done based on gut feelings, unless you want to end up either with dandelion syrup or hot-melt adhesive. However, it is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance.

Ok, here we go:

Pick about 230 dandelion blossoms; that makes about 200 gr (7 ounces). Pluck the petals and discard the green parts. Add one liter (roughly 1 quart) of cold water and the grated peel of one lemon. Bring to a nice boil and keep boiling for about seven minutes. Let it sit for several hours, preferably over night.

Sieve it and discard the solids. Pour the infusion in a big pot (I said big for a reason!). Add the juice of the lemon and 500 gr. sugar (that's 17.636684 ounces -- oh never mind, take a good US pound then). Measure the level using a ruler or the like. Bring the liquid to a boil. Brace for several hours of boiling, stirring frequently. Make absolutely sure it does not boil over, otherwise you'll turn your stove top into a desaster area.

During the first hour, the risk of boiling over is not big, but then you'll notice a strange phenomenon: Whenever you stir the liquid, it will start foaming and rising, quite the opposite of what you would expect. Find a good balance of heat and frequency of stirring. If you boil a bigger quantity, for instance by doubling or tripling the figures mentioned above, expect the times mentioned to increase quite significantly.

Between stirring, prepare glass jars the way you would for canning jam, with boiling water and such, then putting them upside down. Prepare enough jars for about 0.8 ltr (27 fluid ounces).

When the liquid is down to about 40 % of the initial level (yes, some math is involved), start making saucer tests at 10 minute intervals or so. This means, you put one drop of the syrupy liquid on a saucer (which has to have room temperature). Hold the saucer vertically, immediately dip a finger tip in the drop and pull it away horizontally. When the thin thread breaks at a length of about 17 - 18 mm (about 22/32" or 0.68897", if you like), it's time to shut the heat down. That may be at roughly 35 % of the initial level, but the length of the breakage of the thread is more important than the level.

Now you will think the stuff is still way too liquid, but don't worry. It will thicken while cooling down. Pour the syrup into the jars. You may use a soup ladle or the like, sterilized in boiling water beforehand. Put the lids on the jars, tighten them and let everything cool down to room temperature.
If stored in a dark place, the fake honey can be kept for a year or even much longer. I have a few jars from 2008 that still are fine. I think it is way too sugary to ever grow mould.

The spread can used on buttered bread (or toast), a simple Sunday brunch treat. I also use it for certain marinades and for my world-renowned dandelion ice cream, which is delicious together with fresh blueberries or the wild blackberries we harvest in the hills of the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan. For that purpose, we have taken quite a lot of the sticky stuff to the USA. It always raises the eyebrows of customs officials, because real honey is on their terrorist list. When I tell them that it is not made by real bees, it's okay.

Of course, said dandelion ice cream might go nicely with billberries from our Swiss mountains too, but I must admit that I never tried that, although the forests around here are full of them in early August. But that's when I'm in the USA anyway, sailing the Great Lakes and picking wild blackberries.
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