I’ve always been fascinated with jelly making as long as I can remember. My Momma would make the most beautiful and clear jellies. Her process was perfection and time consuming.
She would take the berries and crush them and put them into a sterilized curtain sheer. She would tie that up like a little sack and tie that onto a stick or rod of some kind and let it drain into her enamel water-bath canner overnight.
One thing Momma told me you never do is squeeze the “berry sack”…the juice won’t be clear. My berry jellies and my flowers get “squeezed” to get every speck of goodness out of em. Once she made the jelly she would sit it where the sun could shine on it and it would sparkle like jewels. So I combined my love of jelly making and my love of flowers.
What Flowers to Start With
Using flowers in some sweet form is not something new. Mountain people have always known that there are plants that have the ability to cleanse, uplift, heal and so on.
I start my process with the first early (Native) flowers of Spring. Red Bud bloom (from tree) which is high in Vitamin C, Violet (we call them Johnny Jump Up), Dandelion and Forsythia.
Finding the Essence...Making the Infusion
I get at least 2-3 cups of the flower (petals or flower cut up into small pieces) to be used and put into a glass or stainless steel container. My preference for making infusions is the quart size canning jar. Boil 3 ¼ cups of water and pour onto the flowers and stir. Let sit until cooled. After it has cooled put it into the refrigerator (put lid on) for 12-24 hours to continue the infusion of essence. After this time take out and strain saving only the liquid infusion. Some people leave flower parts, that is up to you. I have found that it can mold in the jar. The infusion can be used right away in making jelly or you can freeze it (put into a different container not in the glass jar…sometimes they break) for later use (Winter).
Allergies and Health and Safety Issues
Some people ask if the pollen should be removed from the flower before using. I say that is a personal decision. If you have severe allergies you should ask your doctor.
I leave the pollen, because I have severe allergies and I feel it is beneficial for me. Like eating local honey, I feel it builds up immunity.
Never ever use a flower that you have not identified with certainty! Don’t use flowers that are by a main roadside, flowers that are from a florist or that has not been grown without chemicals. These flowers take all this in like a sponge — what goes into the flower goes into you.
Also, be aware that some flowers and plants are phytoestrogens, and if you are someone who should not take anything estrogen-related, consult your physician before eating.
Acidity and Jelly
When making the jelly, I always use at least a tablespoon of lemon juice for several reasons. One reason is that jelly needs a degree of acidity to keep it from spoiling (mold growth), and secondly, it sets the color (naturally) for the jelly. This part is what is fun to watch: colors!
Do not add too much acidity or the jelly will just taste like lemons…you don’t want that. You want to keep the flower as natural and true as possible.
After I have the infusion and I have added the lemon juice, I continue as with any jelly recipe. The jelling factor: I use sure-jell for this — just like making regular jelly. Some people prefer to use natural fruit pectins, such as apple or quince juice. This does change the flavor of the flower itself.
If you’re looking for flowers that can be used for the jellies and food, Nasturtium and Daylily are the two main flowers that I use. Surprisingly, the Nasturtium does not have a bold “peppery” taste. The Daylily is so versatile and amazing. It’s so much fun to play with the daylilies because of the different kinds — so many flavors and colors!
Daylily Jelly Recipe
Ingredients for Infusion:
• 3 cups Daylily petals (stem end removed)
• 3 1/4 cups water
Directions for Infusion:
1. Bring 3 1/4 cups water to boil (in glass or stainless steel pots only).
2. Remove from heat. Add all 3 cups Daylily petals to the water and let steep.
3. When cool, cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
4. After this time remove from refrigerator and strain. Discard petals. You should have at least 3 cups liquid. Liquid may appear "syrupy"...this is the Daylily tea/infusion.
Ingredients for Jelly:
• 3 cups Daylily tea/infusion
• 3 cups cane sugar
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice (this will set the color and add acidity jellies need)
• 1 pkg. sure-jell
Directions for Jelly:
1. In stainless steel pot add the Daylily tea/infusion, lemon juice and pkg. sure-jell and set to med-hi/hi heat and stir.
2. When mixture reaches full boil add all sugar and stir constantly.
3. When mixture reaches full boil again, boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
4. If there is foam on top just skim off and then ladle into sterilized jars. Depending on color/scent of Daylilies the jelly can turn out to be a range of color and taste! Enjoy!
Other flowers I have used: Lilac, evening primrose, Queen Annes’ Lace (must make sure it’s not the look-a-like), hops, hibiscus, rose, peonies and Yucca. With Yucca, you must be careful since it contains saponins (used in soap making and can used as a digestive for cleansing) and cut off all the end parts before using. With all flowers, make sure you cut the green stem parts off and with peonies and roses, cut the white part off. These parts will make the infusion bitter.
The Flower Essence jellies that we do here are flowers that are grown here on the farm so we know exactly what is going into the jellies. We don’t usually grow a flower specifically for the jelly…we use what is available and in season.
So, go out and squeeze the essence out of something!
Susan Tipton-Fox uses continues the farming and preserving practices that had been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, North Carolina, and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm (extending the farm experience). Find Susan on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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