A while back, I came across a preserve called Cramaillotte. This is French jam or honey substitute made with dandelions, originating from the Franche-Compté region. Cramaillotte (sometimes spelled crameillotte) comes from the region’s vernacular name for dandelion. Cramaillotte might be well known in France, and I’ve read that people like to make dandelion wine or jelly in North America, but this isn’t a common preserve in the UK. I can’t find information on exactly how old Cramaillotte is, but it’s certainly a traditional recipe, and was used as a sore throat remedy. In this post, I share how to make a mini batch of dandelion jam, also known as Cramaillotte!
Save the Dandelions!
Dandelions might be considered a weed by some, but they are an important food source for pollinators, and are part of biodiversity. Their leaves can be used in salads, and the plant is a natural diuretic. Plus, they’re so cheerful! Rather than getting out the herbicide (which isn’t good for us or the environment), why not embrace your golden lawn, and harvest some to make jam this spring?!
When to Harvest and How Much
I decided back in February that I wanted to try making Cramaillotte. However, I had to wait until April for dandelion season here in the UK. Now, most of the recipes call for hundreds of dandelion heads, and I didn’t want to commit to making several jars of jam, in case I didn’t like it. Rather than harvesting hundreds, I collected around 30-40 full bloom dandelion heads, and adapted a recipe to make a mini batch (one small jar) of Cramaillotte.
Once I got the blooms home (collected with Wilbur’s help in a clean poop bag), I washed the flower heads, and let them dry. I then plucked only the yellow petals and added them to a saucepan. You don’t want any green bits, because they’re bitter.
If you want to go whole-hog and make a full batch, you can follow the recipe I adapted from La Vie du Château Culinary Holidays. Otherwise, you can follow my recipe below!
What does it taste like?
Cramaillotte has a fresh floral flavour with a hint of citrus. Since you make it with orange and lemon, I would say this is reminiscent of either a very light marmalade, or elderflower syrup. No, I wouldn’t categorize this as a close honey substitute, particularly as it’s made with sugar and has a different consistency to honey. Nonetheless, it’s still delicious.
Dandelion Jam (Cramaillotte)
- 35 Dandelion Heads full bloom
- 150 ml Water
- 1 Mandarin Orange (or 1/2 a small navel orange)
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 100 grams Sugar
- Collect 30-40 dandelion heads when they're in full bloom. It's best to collect these from lesser polluted and low pedestrian traffic areas to avoid dog pee!
- Wash your dandelion heads and let them dry for 1 hour.
- Pluck the petals and put them in a saucepan. You only want the yellow and white parts, not the bitter green leaves.
- To your small saucepan, add one mandarin orange, cut in thin slices.
- Add 1 tsp. of lemon juice, which acts as a setting agent.
- Simmer this small quantity for 25-30 minutes on low heat. You want the liquid to be infused with the citrus and petals. Let cool.
- Using a jelly bag, nut milk bag, or dish cloth, strain and keep the liquid. Discard the infusion mixture.
- Return the liquid to the clean saucepan and add 100g. sugar. Simmer this for approximately 15 minutes, or until the temperature reaches the jam stage 220°F.
- Carefully pour the liquid into a sterilised jam jar, add the lid loosely, and let cool before sealing.
- See Technical notes for how to fix jam!
Although this post is how to make dandelion jam (successfully), I want to be transparent about how this jam making process went for me! My jam and jelly making knowledge and skills are slim to none, but that’s only incentive to try new recipes and improve my technique. See my post on apple harvest recipes where I recount how my crab apple jelly boiled over and burnt on to the stove.
When making the Cramaillotte, I made the rookie error of going by the timings to simmer the liquid into jam. Bear in mind I made 1/10th of the recipe, and had to adjust my timings. I should have used a candy thermometer. A temperature of 220ºF will give you jam, and 250ºF is hardball stage, or boiled candy. I ended up with a jar full of solid, delicious candy!
Not wanting to be defeated, I microwaved the jar until the candy liquefied. Next, I added this liquid back to the saucepan with a bit more water, and simmered until it reached 220ºF. I now have a substance that is at least spreadable, but it crystalized. Although I definitely didn’t succeed at making perfect honey/jam, I have a nice sauce that can be warmed and poured over vanilla ice cream, or spread on toast.
My recommendation is to use your candy thermometer, and get to the jam stage the first time round. You can test the liquid using the cold plate test. If the drop of liquid cools and wrinkles on the cold plate, it will set. Mine turned to stone, which is how I knew I had a problem!
Will I make Cramaillotte again? Yes, I think so! I’d very much like to get into foraging, benefiting from what I can find in nature for free and for the health benefits. It’s also a great way to learn about the ecology of my local landscapes and the importance of conservation. On that note, if you’re foraging, it’s important to only take less than 10% of whatever patch you find. We must leave enough for the wildlife and preserve the habitat.
For more Spring recipe ideas, check out: