Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Small Yet Satisfying #2: Making Dandelion Salve

A whole lot of Dandelion Salve!

I set myself a little goal this weekend: I've decided to take a cyber-free day once a week all summer - most likely on Sundays. When I've taken completely unplugged days before I've found I can be really productive or really relaxed (whichever I had in mind for the day) as I don't have the constant mental pull towards checking my email/Facebook/the internet in general.

While my main purpose in doing this is to feel like I'm getting more downtime to read, ride my bike, chill out on my front porch and spend time with my family, I also thought it would be a good time to focus on getting a few more "Small Yet Satisfying" projects completed as it's amazing how much more time I seem to have in a day when the computer stays off!

My project for this past Sunday was to make myself some Dandelion Salve. I've been meaning to get around to this for ages! I saw this recipe on the Nerdy Farmwife blog when she posted it back in April and was immediately intrigued. I'm always a fan of a recipe that uses a main ingredient I can get for free! I picked a ton of dandelions when they were at their peak earlier this season, and dried them out thoroughly. I even got them infusing in some olive oil and heat-infused them for a couple of hours. They've been sitting in a jar on my kitchen windowsill ever since and it was more than high time for me to get around to actually making the salve.

I've made salves a couple of times before, and found that a ratio of 1 cup olive oil to 1-2 ounces of grated beeswax will make a salve with the consistency I like (in general, it's better to use a bit more beeswax during the summer or if you live in a hot climate, so that the salve doesn't get too soft in the warmer temps).

So, this is roughly how I made the salve:

Infusing stage:
  • Fill a pint jar about 2/3 of the way full of dried dandelion flowers
  • Pour olive oil over top until it covered the dandelions with a tiny bit to spare on top
  • Heat the jar in a saucepan of simmering water for a couple of hours
  • Remove the jar from the heat, let it cool and then let it sit on my kitchen windowsill for ages (a week or two should be more than enough if you want to get this accomplished on a quicker schedule)
 On salve making day:
  • Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a glass measuring cup (2 cup size or larger)
  • Once all the oil has drained through, wrap the cheesecloth tightly around the dandelions and squeeze firmly to get out any remaining oil - you'll be surprised how much extra you get!
  • Pour the oil into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until warm
  • Toss in 1-2 ounces of beeswax per cup of oil and stir occasionally until beeswax is totally melted
  • Quickly pour salve into prepared containers (it will start to set very soon after being removed from the heat) 
I used a variety of containers to hold the finished salve:-repurposed Burt's Bee lip balm tins
-a purchased stainless steel tin from Mountain Rose Herbs (largest tin pictured - that's an affiliate link!)
-another repurposed stainless steel tin from previously purchased salve (medium tin pictured)
-a couple of 125 mL Mason jars

Reusing tins is, of course, very frugal and environmentally friendly; however I will be the first to admit that cleaning them up is a big pain in the rear end! If your tins have previously held lip balm or salve, it can be a sticky gooey mess of epic proportions (especially if you have an old tin of salve that got pushed to the back of the cupboard for the better part of a decade to fester - not that I'd know anything about that ::grin::)

To clean up my tins:
  • I use a spoon to scoop out any old contents that are no longer useable (i.e. festering salve noted above). I then take a small piece of paper towel and rub out as much remaining salve or balm as possible. 
  • At this point I dump all the tins into a boiling pot of water for about 5 minutes, then pour out the water (which will have some oily stuff floating around in it that came off the tins).  
  • I refill the pan with hot soapy water and scrub off any remaining sticky stuff, then rinse well and reboil again for another 5 minutes. After the second boil I drain the tins then dry them thoroughly with a paper towel (there will usually be a little bit more salve/balm residue that comes off). 
It is a bit of a production and the cleaning usually takes longer than the actual salve making, but I have a bunch of nice clean tins to reuse in the end!

I now have a whole lot of dandelion salve as you can see from the photo above! The smaller tins will all be gifts and the large tin and two Mason jars will be our household supply. I am pretty sure we will not run out before the dandelions reappear next spring :)

This salve is supposed to be excellent as a gardener's balm and on any really dry chapped skin in general. It is also said to be effective as a sore muscle rub and for arthritic joints although I can't personally attest to its effectiveness for those uses. I've been rubbing it into my hands and cuticles every night before bed and it's defnitely helping my "gardener's hands"!

Anyone else out there making salves? Do you have a favourite combination of flowers or herbs to infuse in them? 

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  1. I made 2 batches of dandelion salve this past weekend. In one I put some tea tree oil and in the other lavender oil. Both turned out great! I put it in those little squat mason jars. Put some raffia around the lid with a cute label and made a great birthday gift for my sister.

    1. Oh, I bet she was thrilled! I think the next time I make this salve I will add some essential oils, too to give it a bit more of a scent (and add some more healing properties!).

  2. How do you dry the dandelion flowers? Dehydrator? hanging upside down?

    1. I just pulled the flowers right off the stems and spread them out on wicker paper plate holders to dry (it is a really handy way to dry herbs and flowers!). You could also spread them out on a cookie sheet, they probably wouldn't dry out quite as quickly but it would do the trick.


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