Each week, the backcountry hills around WildSnow HQ in Marble delight us with a new wave of wildflowers. Bluebells and red columbine in early spring start a cycle that makes the uncultivated foliage by our port-a-hut a lush beautiful garden. We’ve cleared dead aspens and thinned the choked forest but done little else to encourage the delicate blooms. In the clearings the flowers are prolific, happy to spread their leaves and feel the sunshine on their faces.
A friend from Alaska recently pointed out flowering fireweed and mentioned it makes a tasty jelly. I thinned a waist high grove, leaving some to reseed, and walked away with a large bag of blossoms. I cut the flowers and buds from the stems with scissors, careful not to include any leaves or stems which add a bitter flavor. While rain misted outside, I spent a pleasant afternoon with bright fuchsia blossoms littering the counter.
Most of the recipes I found called for a little lemon juice and a whole lot of sugar. I prefer to use honey or agave for a sweetener but having neither in the pantry, I used sugar. I based my brew on a recipe from the Cooperative Extension of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but found it too sweet so I quadrupled the amount of lemon juice.
2.5 cups hard-packed fireweed petals and buds (no stems or leaves)
2.5 cups water
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon butter
One 3 oz. packet of liquid pectin
Place fireweed in pan and cover with boiling water. Stir over heat for 1 minute. Let cool. Add lemon juice, pectin and butter and bring to boil, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add sugar and boil for 3 more minutes, still stirring. (If you want to make jelly instead of syrup, boil for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and place a few teaspoons on a cold plate in the frig for 5 minutes to test the set. If you want it thicker, add 1/2 cup of sugar and boil for 10 minutes more.)
Place liquid in clean jelly jars. Instead of boiling the jars to make the seal, an Austrian friend recommends simply inverting the jars of hot liquid and placing them in a cool cellar. Since we don’t have a cellar, I left them inverted on the counter. After they cooled the lids were indeed vacuum sealed. To be safe I’ll store them in our fridge.