Well we’re heading into the season of preserving. Of trying any which way to hang on to the delicate, limited flavor of a summer harvest. If you’ve followed this blog you will already know I am a fan of jams and jellies. It is such a simple and effective method to hang on to the taste of freshly picked fruit, such as cherries and rhubarb. Or a unique way of enjoying a new and unusual flavor, such as dandelion, on the dreariest of winter days. This year the cherry tree’s production has been weak to say the least and I have other plans for my rhubarb. Plans of a boozy variety. But that’s a story for another day! Today I am going to tell you about fireweed!
What is fireweed? I asked myself the same thing when I stumbled upon a recipe for jelly. It was such a chance discovery. I was perusing a blog (which I have come to thoroughly enjoy) called the Alaska Urban Hippie. I stumbled on this site through some random search of some random chicken fact. (She has chickens too!) As I was exploring I saw a recipe for fireweed raspberry jelly. Naturally I clicked on it. Boy was I surprised when I scrolled down to a photo of Ashley harvesting the flowers. I knew that flower! It grows wild all over the neighborhood all summer!
The hunt was on. I dove into a Google search to see what other people had to say about fireweed jelly and just learn some facts about it in general. The flower is named so as it will usually be found growing in areas that have been cleared by fire or areas of deforestation. There are many parts of the plant that can be harvested and eaten. It is native throughout the northern hemisphere and can go by a couple different names.
Like most things I look up, everyone has a different way or method to their madness. I usually then weigh and decide what my own method should be. I didn’t follow Ashley’s recipe as I didn’t want to add any other fruit to the jelly. I wanted it to be purely fireweed with no additions to obscure the flavor. The color of this jelly is almost unnatural! It looks like some frightening list of dyes were added to create it. Absolutely beautiful. An intense fuchsia. Reason alone to try making it!
So after I absorbed as much information as I thought necessary I scribbled down some notes of quantities and measures that I would need. At this point it was still early summer. The fireweed had not bloomed so I tucked my scrap of paper away and kept my eyes pealed anytime I left the house. I should warn you. Once you’ve seen this flower you can not un-see it. I even have Curtis pointing out masses of fireweeds on the roadside when we go out. So if you live in an area that’s favorable to the growth of fireweed you will realize just how common it is and how easily you too could be enjoying this jelly!
Armed with a 4 cup measuring cup and a plastic bag I walked a few minutes down the road to where I knew a couple clusters of fireweed grew. I picked 8 cups of flowers. Now, just like the dandelion, you only want to collect the blossom. No greenery allowed. This took me about an hour tops. Not a huge chunk of your day is going to be dedicated to this! Please leave, and I’m sure you will, some flowers alone to remain for the bees and other pollinators. Never fully harvest an area, regardless of what you’re picking. Once back home (or at moms house like me) with your bag of flowers, put them in a colander and give them a rinse. You want to remove any dust or bugs.
- water bath canner
- canning jars
- canning lids and rings
- jar lifter and canning funnel
- 4 C measuring cup
- large pot
- large spoons/ladle
- towels and dish cloths
- 8 C Fireweed Flowers
- 4 C water
- 4 1/2 C sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 box pectin
Put the flowers into a pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring this to a boil for 5 minutes. (Side note here: It’s a good idea to have your water bath canning supplies ready and warm, and your jars sterilized. Once this starts boiling things can happen fast and you don’t want to end up in a panic (been there, done that!) when your tools are not ready for you jelly.) The boiling of the flowers will create a brownish colored “tea” and a bunch of dead looking grey blossoms. Don’t panic! You haven’t messed up! The “tea” is supposed to be brown at this point.
Strain the liquid through a cheese cloth lined sieve, or use a coffee filter like me, adding extra water to equal 4 cups. Add the liquid to a clean pot and stir in the pectin and lemon juice. This is when magic happens! The addition of the lemon juice changes the brown “tea” to the incredible fuchsia! Bring back up to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Add the sugar, stirring continually, and boil for another minute. Ladle the jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 to 1/2″ headspace.
Process the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes. Adjust your process time for your elevation.
Once processed leave jars somewhere, undisturbed, for 24 hours to cool and set. You will know the jars sealed if the lids are sucked down and don’t pop up and down when pressed. Any that did not seal should be refrigerated.
This recipe made me seven 250 ml jars. I only processed 6 as I fully intended to dig into a jar pronto! I did and I was not disappointed! I absolutely love the color of this jelly and it tastes delicious. Sure to be a hit as a gift or kept to enjoy all yourself. Whichever you end up doing with your jelly I hope you enjoy! I hope you learned something you didn’t already know and feel excited to try something new! Happy canning! x