Monday, July 18, 2011

Goldilocks Finds Her Honey! HE#25

Up in my neck of the woods, we have a beautiful flower called Fireweed. It derives its name from being one of the first living things to sprout up after a wildfire. Local lore also heralds it as the 'beginning of the end'-of the summer season, that is. When a fireweed goes to seed in August, the white fluff blowing around is definitely a reminder that snow is only a short time away...However, while it's still in bloom, we can enjoy its beauty as well as its taste!  There are many recipes for fireweed jellies, and wines. What I was after in this experiment was the perfect recipe for fireweed  honey (sometimes called "Homestead Honey").

This is not a true honey in that it is not poured from a honeycomb, and it is cooked. However, the end product is so honey-ish that I completely understand the reasoning behind the name. I cook with it and use it just as regular honey without issue.  When my intrepid niece was here two years ago from the far away land of South Texas, we attempted to make the honey using this recipe:

45 pink clover blossoms
25 white clover blossoms
100 fireweed blossoms
1 tsp. alum
10 Cups sugar
2 Cups water

Wash blooms in cold water. Put all ingredients except water into pan, then add water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and boil until fireweed turns gray and water is a purple color. Strain through cheesecloth or jelly bag. Put in clean canning jars and water bath process for 10 minutes.

The result: My family agreed that it was too thick (had to microwave it to get it out of the jar), and too flowery tasting. I was still able to use it in my bread recipes without fail, but it was impossible to drizzle into tea. Bummer.

This year I impulsively decided to give it another go. I happened to be driving on a backroad and found a city lot that contained all three floral ingredients in one small area.   When I saw that, I couldn't resist the urge. I rapidly parked my suburban by the side of the roadway, and the kids and I piled out to gather blossoms.  (I just wish I would have had my camera to take pictures of the fun, but oh well, I was too busy herding and picking anyway!)

I knew I did not want to repeat the previous recipe and hunted the web for another version. I found the following recipe and decided to thin it down by adding an extra 1/2c of water.
 Would it be too runny? Would it still be too floral tasting?  Or would it be "just right"?

50 pink clover blooms
10 white clover blooms
18 - 25 fireweed blooms
3/4 tsp alum
5 pound bag white sugar
3 Cups boiling water  (I made it using 3 1/2 cups)

Wash blooms in cold water (gently rinse) to remove little critters. While rinsing blooms, boil water. Put all ingredients except water in pan, then pour boiling water on. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or jelly bag.
Put in clean canning jars and water bath process for 10 min.

The result: Success! It is a great consistency and the taste is not overpowering. It still has a hint of the unique flavor without making me feel like I'm drinking soap. It is thin enough to pour and drizzle while still being a thicker gel.

Three batches later, I am feeling pretty confident about this year's honey supply.  And this is a great recipe in which to involve small children.  There were no squished berries, stains, or scratches from thorny bushes.  Next up:  fireweed jelly!

Blessings to you and your homestead,
Hillary At Home