Monday, August 8, 2011

Homestead Experiment #28-All Alaskans Drop What You're Doing...

...and go get some Fireweed before it's gone!  Seriously. About 8 cups worth of blossoms to be exact.  Why? For amazng Fireweed Jelly of course!  We made a second (much more successful!) attempt at making Fireweed Honey in HE #25, but wanted to try something entirely new.  This jelly was such a victorious event that it may even knock my precious Salmonberry Jelly out of my #1 fave jelly spot. It's that good!  Plus it's much quicker and easier to get/make than Salmonberry.  If you can pick flowers and boil water, you can make this jelly!
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Here's the recipe I found:
Marylin's Fireweed Jelly Recipe
8 Cups fireweed blossoms
1/4 Cup lemon juice
4 1/2 Cups water
2 pkgs Sure Jell (or other powdered pectin)
5 Cups sugar

Pick,wash, and measure fireweed blossoms (flower part only, no stems). Add lemon juice and 4 1/2c water. Boil 10 minutes and strain. Take the strained juice and heat to lukewarm. (Mine was still very hot after straining, so I just went straight to the pectin. No need to cool it to lukewarm or anything.  I think that step is for if you leave a gap of time in between the straining and pectin and need to reheat the juice.) Add pectin all at once and bring to a boil. Add 5 cups sugar and return to full boil.
Boil hard for 1 minute. Pour into hot clean jars , wipe rims, and seal w/ lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

My sous chefs assembling the ingredients

7 jars in and ready for a bath!

This is my little 'half-bath' canner that my sister brought me from Oregon. It's actually a vintage pressure canner. (see the flipped up latches on the lid?).  It has a little rack in it, and is perfect for half-pint and pint jars. I can totally understand how people used to have explosions pressure cooking with these, now that I've seen how thin the aluminum is and how there is no way to regulate the pressure. Yikes!  It's great for a non-pressurized water bath, but scary for anything else :S

The result:  it set up immediately and is a beautiful dark violet color.  That struck me as interesting since I was expecting it to be golden or light pink like other floral jellies I have had. Nope, the blossoms leached all their color during boiling.  As to the taste? Well, how do I describe it? It's as if you took cranberry juice from the store shelf and sweetened it a bit and then made jelly from it. It's not super floral-y tasting; more fruity tasting.  It's a little tart but not as tart as local cranberry jelly I have tasted in the past.  it's really just a lovely, full flavor without any bitterness.

Since my kiddos helped me pick the blooms and make the jelly, they were triumphantly parading around the dining room like a bunch of crowing roosters.  in fact they loved it so much (homestead confession here) they were apalled I was going to throw away the foam I'd skimmed off the top! I finally agreed to put it in a jar in the fridge for them to eat like jelly. We promised to only serve the pretty jars to company. :P

Note: 8 cups of blossoms is exactly what I ended up with after picking a large stockpot full of clusters from the top of the stems.  Because I needed the pot, I ended up dumping the contents into a plastic shopping bag. So now I can confidently say that the same amount of clusters tightly filled a Fred Meyer shopping bag as well.  Pick your container of choice, but err on the side of picking too many clusters rather than too few.

So, get out there and quickly get your flowers. I don't know about the rest of the state, but the fireweed in Juneau is about a week shy of going to seed.

Hillary At Home

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