Last year I finally tried making fireweed jelly, and I can not believe I haven't done that before. Now, when I am not in Alaska, I regret it even more. Anyone who has ever ventured out in the far north has probably seen these majestic beautiful and colorful signs of summer, Fireweed. Although Forget-me-not is officially the state flower of Alaska, I personally think they should have picked Fireweed as the flower.
When you live in Alaska you become a different person, physically and mentally, weather you want to or not. Along with all the skills I have acquired comes the joy of preserving the summer. Summers in Alaska are so short, and you better catch it in a jar before it's over. They say, when the fireweed start to bloom, summer has official arrived. On a more sad point, when the last flower of the fireweed has bloomed, summer is officially over. Fireweed bloom from the bottom up and the top flowers are the last to bloom before they too fall off.
Before the end, the end of summer and short life of fireweed, you can take opportunity to pick the petals. It's tedious, but oh so delicious in the end, and they are beautiful. You want to pick the petals when the flowers are in bloom, which means that you'll probably start to pick the bottom ones. You don't want to pick the petals from the flowers that are already past full bloom, the flavor wont be as spectacular. You also don't want to pick the buds, of course, because they will give the jam/jelly a bitter taste. And YES, ONLY the petals.
Fireweed usually appears after a disturbance, like a fire, and it grows really well, like a weed. Step one is definitely to find a place where fireweed grows, far away from pollution of course as always when you are going to eat something from nature. They grow all over Alaska, and of course the circumpolar boreal forest, including Sweden. The best would of course be to find a whole field full of fireweed, so you can spend some time at one location. After that, you just have to be patient.. As I mentioned, picking the flowers is very very tedious, but extremely relaxing.
The Boreal Herbal
I have a gorgeous book named "The Boreal Herbal", that's where I get all my recipes that includes ingredients from the far north. I made quite a lot of fireweed jelly, and man it was good. That on a piece of cracker or bread along with some brie. YUM! I tweaked this recipe a bit, because it called for quite a lot of grape juice, and I didn't really want the grape juice itself to take all the control. Fireweed jelly is actually really interesting, you definitely get the flowery taste at the end. What you'll need is obviously a lot of fireweed petals, at least 2½ cups. You can also google the internet and there will be quite a few recipes of this, not many, but a few.
Boreal Herbal, original recipe:
- 2½ cups (625ml) of fireweed petals, fresh or dried
- 2 cups (500ml) of water
- 2 cups (500ml) of cane sugar
- 1/2 cup (125ml) of white grape juice
- 1/2 cup (125ml) of red grape juice
- 1 package (57g) of powdered pectin
- 2 tbsp (30ml) of rosewater (optional)
You want the lovely fragrance to leave the petals, and to do this you have to:
- Take about 2 1/2 cup of petals and put them in a pot.
- Add at least 2 cups of water. If you do less the flavor will be more concentrated and more, well the flavor will be more dilute.
- Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you want it and also what type of pectin you will be using in the end)
- Bring to boil, and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes before you remove the pot from the stove.
- Leave the mix in the fridge over night.
The flowers will change colors so don't freak out, they will become more bluish.
- Strain the mixture to leave out the petals from the liquid. Add the liquid to a pot, add the grape juice. I used less grape juice than what the recipe called for, about 1/2 cup in total of the white grape juice (If I remember correctly)*.
- Add the pectin (here you need to follow the recipe on the pectin bottle, because it is important that you get the amount of sugar to liquid correct, there is a "less sugar" pectin you can buy too).
- Boil hard for about 1 minute
- Add the rest of the sugar and stir. (the recipe calls for a total 2 cups of sugar, you add some of this to the first step when you get the fragrance out of the petals, and the rest to the second step).
- Boil the mixture for about 1 minute again before you remove it from the heat.
- Test the jelly. Take a teaspoon of the jelly and put it on a plate, let it cool down and watch for "wrinkles" on the jelly, or rather is the jelly jelly like? You can continue to boil 1 minute at a time until you get the perfect jelly softness for you.
I did not add any rosewater to my jelly, so I don't really know how it tastes with it.
*The original recipe called for 1/2 a cup of white and 1/2 cup of red grape juice. Now, why grape juice? Honestly I never tried it without the grape juice, but I have tried the liquid, and it's very flowery. This is why you need to balance the flavor a bit. Now, if you try the liquid and like it, by all means, DON'T add the grape juice, add some water instead, but remember that it will dilute the flavor a bit. Yes, the grape juice will almost take over the flavor a bit, but after a few seconds in your mouth you'll get that wonderful flowery taste to it.
- Sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water in a large pot,
- while they are still hot pour the jelly into jars, not too much
- wipe the rim and add the lids, screw on the screw top finger tight,
- down into the boiling water again for about 10 minutes or so,
- take the jars out, let them cool and wait for the magic "snap"
I still have two jars of dried fireweed, it still smells like an Alaskan summer. Do you have a favorite recipe of any herbs, jams or alike?