Thursday, September 4, 2014

Put It Up (Winter Preparations) Part 2: Fireweed Jelly

Last year was my first year making things out of the prolifically growing flower (at least in the summer) that we know as Fireweed here in Alaska (and elsewhere).  When I realized all the uses for Fireweed, I got excited and made Fireweed jelly for the first time.  While a BIT of work (you have to harvest 8 cups of densely packed blossoms for the recipe I make), the jelly comes out a beautiful pink color and if done RIGHT (which I totally screwed up last year, listening to a recipe I found online and ended up with little crunchy bits of pectin in the jelly...not good eats by any means) it comes out with a taste that reminds me a bit of cranberries.

This year I decided to make fireweed jelly with one purpose.  Gifts for teachers for my son and daughter.  I figure it is a really nice gift that is classy and costs next to nothing to make.

The recipe I ended up tweaking and coming up with makes four 8 oz jars of jellly when done, but I've seen recipes that call for 8 cups of blossoms (make sure you use wet and packed blossoms to get that 8 cups so it turns out well) to make juice and you end up with a LOT more jelly, so use your judgement on how much you'd like to make, how strong a flavor you'd like, etc.

I use no sugar or low sugar added pectin for this recipe, but still use a typical amount of sugar in the recipe.  I've found this is kinda a fail safe for me (not a natural jelly maker am I) so that the jelly gets a nice hard set to it.

I also use refined white sugar for this as it's safe to use in canning and all agree it's okay to use.  If you want to make refined sugar free you could try using palm sugar or some other sugar for this, but I'd go for freezing it (use freezer pectin instead in place of the pectin called for in the recipe) as I'm not sure how well it'd can with other sugars involved.

So, here you go folks.  My recipe for fireweed jelly.  Enjoy!

Fireweed Jelly (adapted from  Makes 4, 8 oz. jars)
  • 2 1/2 cups fireweed juice (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 3 TBS low sugar or no sugar pectin (or use one box of the pectin instead)
  • 3 cups sugar 
Combine pectin, lemon juice and fireweed juice (room temp) in a pan and whisk to combine (it takes a while to get the lumps of pectin worked out, but keep at it!).  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar all at once and whisk to combine (once again, this is going to take some arm muscle, but it will combine, just keep at it).  Switch out your whisk for a wooden spoon (less heat conduction) and stir frequently until mixture comes back to a boil.  Boil hard for one minute (or, until the mixture sheets off the back of a spoon).

Fill hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Tighten lids to finger tight and place in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat under canner and leave sit for five more minutes.  Remove jars to a dish towel or other insulated surface (to stop thermal shock...breaking jars are bad) and let sit until completely cool.  Check jar seals.  If a jar doesn't seal place in fridge and use immediately, but otherwise store in your pantry for up to one year.

Fireweed Juice
  • 8 Cups wet tightly packed fireweed blossoms (only the blossoms)
  • Water
Place fireweed blossoms in a saucepan and fill up water level right below blossoms.

Boil until blossoms turn grey.

Strain mixture through a cheesecloth lined wire mesh strainer.

NOTE:  The juice should be a deep purple, not brown.  If your mixture is brown you used too much water.  Once you have a decent amount of juice you can then freeze it to use later or use to make jelly (I honestly like to freeze mine in a freezer bag to use later as it lets you harvest fireweed throughout the summer and get a large amount of jelly made at one time, if you want and I've also found it really helps to deepen the color of the'll be amazed how purple the juice gets in the freezer).

Add juice to measuring cup large enough to read 2 1/2 cups.  If there isn't quite enough juice, add water to bring up juice to the proper mark (this is where making a strong concentrated juice comes in handy, like with this recipe).  Use to make jelly.

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