We reached out to Darra Goldstein to ask about seasonal recipes. Here, she generously shares her spring-time recipe for Dandelion Blossom Syrup from her recently released cookbook, Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore.
Dandelion Blossom Syrup
Мёд из одуванчиков
Makes three 8-ounce jars
I have to admit, before tasting this syrup I had a bad attitude toward dandelions. I can’t get rid of them. The yellow blossoms overrun our lawn every spring, their cheerful beauty lasting only a week before their seeds float off into my gardens, where I have to literally root them out. But then, in the northern Russian village of Oshevensk, I tasted this syrup. The old woman who taught me how to make it insisted that I pick exactly 350 blossoms. I could have picked 10,000. But that would make too much syrup.
The Russians call this thick syrup “honey.” Be sure to use blossoms that are ecologically clean. Just nip the blossoms from the stems with your fingers—it’s fine to leave the sepal attached. This syrup is very sweet. You can cut it with a bit more lemon juice but don’t use too much or it will mask the lovely dandelion flavor.
Serve dandelion syrup on pancakes or Russian blini or use it to sweeten oatmeal. I like it best over tart strawberries and yogurt, though in Oshevensk it was presented very simply, like preserves, with tea.
350 dandelion blossoms
6 cups cold water
4 cups turbinado sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon (or more, to taste)
Rinse the dandelion blossoms in cold water. Turn them out onto paper towels and let drain for a minute to encourage any bugs to escape. Pick through the blossoms to make sure there are no blades of grass among them.
Place the blossoms in a large saucepan with the water. Cook at a slow boil, covered, over low heat for 1 hour.
Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing down on the blossoms to extract all of the juice. You will have 4 cups of juice. Stir in the sugar and bring the liquid to a boil, continuing to stir until the sugar dissolves. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then add the lemon juice and cook for 15 minutes more, until the syrup is viscous and a drop on a saucer holds its shape. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep almost indefinitely.
Reprinted with permission from Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore by Darra Goldstein, copyright© 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit: Stefan Wettainen© 2020
Darra Goldstein has been immersed in Russian culture and cuisine for more than forty years. She served as the spokesperson for Stolichnaya Vodka when it was first introduced to the US and consulted for New York City’s Russian Tea Room and Firebird restaurants. Darra is the Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of Russian, Emerita, at Williams College and the founding editor of the James Beard Award-winning journal Gastronomica. She has authored and edited more than a dozen books.