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Posts Tagged ‘jelly’

When I was a little girl, there was a big lilac tree at the side of the house, as well as a little lilac bush in the back yard. For a couple of weeks in springtime, we would gather big armfuls of flowers for the kitchen table, and I just loved that smell. I loved it so much that I experimented with ways of preserving it to enjoy later. I dried flowers to make sachets, but the scent faded very quickly – a few weeks later, they just smelled dusty. Another year, I tried soaking flowers in alcohol and almond oil in an attempt at making perfume, but that didn’t work, either. Eventually I just gave up and enjoyed them for a couple of weeks in the spring time.

 

lilacs

 

We have lots of lilacs here at the acreage. When I say lots, I mean probably a half-mile or more worth of lilac hedges – they run along the driveway, plus a long hedge out front of the house, as well as a random lilac hedge north of the goat barn. In springtime, I gather armloads of flowers, stuff them in quart jars, and put them in every room.

 

A couple of years ago, I canned up a batch of wild rose jelly. While I find it too strong to just eat on toast, it’s lovely in baking, in, say, thumb prints in shortbread cookies. Every time I open a jar, I get a whiff of June! This year, I thought I would try preserving the lilacs that way, as well. I gathered a few extra armloads of flowers, and made lilac jelly and lilac simple syrup.

 

For both recipes, you need to pull the lilac flowers from the stems, and make sure no green parts remain, or apparently they will make the finished product bitter.

 

lilac flowers

 

Watch for beetles and worms, too!

 

worm in lilacs

 

The color is quite pretty when you’re ladling into jars, but for some reason, it fades in the processing. Nevertheless, the final products taste great! The jelly is less overpowering than the wild rose jelly was, and the flavor reminds me of tutti-frutti. The simple syrup is already in steady use as a sweetener for home-made iced tea, for a novel flavor twist in our favorite summer drink.

 

lilac jelly and syrup, before and after processing

 

Lilac Jelly:

Really, this is just an adaptation of the recipe for Rose Petal Jelly;  you could use any edible flower you liked, and someday, I will try other variations, I am sure!

 

1 quart (4 cups) slightly packed lilac flowers, green parts removed

1 quart water

juice from 2 lemons

1 packet pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar

 

Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain out the flowers. Add lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a boil (as per pectin packet instructions), add sugar, return to a rolling boil, and boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Process jars in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes for pints.

 

lilac flowers

 

Lilac Syrup

 

1 quart lilac flowers green parts removed

1 quart water

4 cups sugar

juice from two lemons

 

Simmer the lilac flowers in the water for about ten minutes. Strain, return to pot, and add lemon juice and sugar. Return to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar. Ladle into jars, and process fifteen minutes for pints.

 

lilac flowers in jar

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Last night, for supper, we had green beans and broccoli, fresh from the garden, steamed with a shake of hot pepper flakes, and topped with a bit of butter and salt.  It was fantastic, and a nice change from potatoes.

 

We’ve been harvesting and eating potatoes for maybe a week?  Ten days?  They and the onions had been the only produce that was far enough along to consider eating, though the peas started coming a couple of days ago.  With the garden starting to get going, we’ve been trying hard to eat at least one meal a day that was mostly, or completely, produced right here at the Acreage.   We’ve got several flavors of very local jellies – wild rose, dandelion, saskatoon, but that doesn’t cut it for supper.  Instead, we’ve been eating potatoes with fennel and chickpeas, curried potatoes, boiled potatoes with butter, creamy dilled potatoes with beet greens, and, quite frankly, I am glad to have a garden meal without the things!

 

However, I am not looking forward to the glut of beans that I can see developing on the plants.  They, along with the peas, will probably be the bane of my existence in about a week.  I plan to blanch and freeze a lot, dry a few, eat a lot (peas and beans fresh from the garden are favorites for me), and even feed a bunch to the chickens, but I suspect we will still be doing some drive-by produce drops on a few neighbors’ front steps…

 

Having said that, though, Hubby thought I was insane when I came home with 400 onion sets to plant (I wanted to try several varieties, and the sets came in bags of 100).  I thought I was insane, too, especially when we decided to plant the whole lot of them (no point leaving them go to waste…).  Now, though, as I am using 2 or 3 onions for almost every meal I cook, Hubby has started to wonder aloud if 400 onions is really going to get us through until next year.

 

I’m pretty sure there will be no wondering with the beans – four rows (!) was probably a little enthusiastic…just like the rest of the garden, I suppose.  I do have a back-up plan, though.  Once I’ve frozen enough for the year (20 pounds?  30?  I’ll probably just keep going until I am sick of dealing with them), We will designate one or two rows for fresh eating, and leave the others to go to seed.  Just quit picking, and let them grow and grow.  We can pick those beans in the late fall, and shell them in the winter, once they’re dry, and have them for use in soups and chili.  Should save some guilt and heartache with the general harvest, too…

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It felt like a day to accomplish something, though we did not really get going in very good time.  I managed to sleep in until 7:30, then we lingered in the barn, playing with the goats.  We decided to try to get the buckling drinking from a bucket instead of a bottle, which was an entertaining process that ended with me wearing considerably less milk than I had really expected. We will be weaning him in earnest sometime in the next couple of weeks.

 

After chores, we went for a little wander around the forest behind the house.  I found a thicket of wild roses that were still in bloom – I thought all the flowers had all come and gone here, and had been quite sad about that, as I had really wanted to try making rose jelly to go with the dandelion jelly I made a few weeks ago.

 

We went and grabbed buckets to pick into, then got right at it.  Despite our best efforts, however, we came up short of the quart of loosely packed petals the recipe called for.  That’s when Hubby commented that we had seen some roses still in bloom in the ditches around the Acreage, and maybe we should go have a look around the provincial forest just down the road, in case there were any there.

 

resized IMG_4871

 

Hubby’s idea was inspired.  We hopped in the car with our buckets and bug spray, and Hubby brought his camera with the macro lens.  In just an hour’s picking, we came home with well over  a quart of petals, plus Hubby got some fantastic pictures of the local insect life:

 

resized IMG_4904

 

Anyhow, we came home, and I made my peace with the Jam Gods.  I started out with a recipe, then modified it beyond all recognition, and it even worked!  Here is what I did:

 

I simmered one quart of (loosely packed) wild rose petals in one quart of water for about 15 minutes, until the petals had gone all clear and gobby.  I strained the petals, and added the juice of two lemons, which, incidentally, took the rose water from an unappetizing brownish color to an incredible shade of pink that I did not believe occurred in nature, but I digress…

 

I topped up the rose / lemon liquid with water, to make an even 4 cups, added a pectin packet (regular, not low-sugar), and brought it to a boil.  Once boiling, I added 5 1/2 cups of sugar, brought the whole mess back to a rolling boil, and boiled it for one minute, as per the pectin packet directions.

 

After taking the jelly off the heat, I ladled it into jars, then water bath processed the lot.  Some people just sterilize the jars, but I just don’t want to run the risk of losing a whole batch of jelly, especially when the wild rose petal-picking took so long, and is only really an option for a few weeks out of the entire year.  That is the upside and the downside to seasonal fare, I suppose – it is short-lived, then you get to anticipate it until next year.

 

The jelly did not set up right away, but after a couple of hours, was plenty solid enough.  It is not overly sweet, which is nice, and I think it would be good with cream cheese (maybe on a cheesecake?)  or in jam cookies, as well as on toast.  This one will be a novel addition to some future gift baskets, for sure!

 

resized IMG_9445

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…Actually, it’s not just the Jam Gods.  It’s also the Chicken Coop Gods, the Hitting Yourself in the Knee with a Hammer gods, and the Sore Back Gods.  I think they are having a good old laugh at my expense.

 

We got going on the barn at about 6:00 this morning, as we wanted to get things finished up before the chickens arrive…tomorrow.  Things went fairly well until about 11:00, when we ran out of nails.   It all got pretty frustrating very quickly after that.  Hubby moved some straw bales around and was off doing useful things, but my back was too sore to contemplate most of the useful stuff that I could reasonably tackle.  With my back being so messed up, I can’t reliably work the clutch in the car, so I couldn’t even drive into town for more nails.  It’s probably for the best, as it would be an awful waste to spend $10 in gas to buy $5 in nails.

 

I was leaning in the doorway of one of the stalls, contemplating the goats’ million dollar view, when I noticed the dandelions getting thick again, even though Hubby just mowed the lawn.  in the spirit of good permaculture, I decided to try to make a resource out of something that is otherwise a nuisance.

 

I wandered inside and googled ‘dandelion recipes’, and came up with some interesting ideas for a batch of wine.  Unfortunately, they all seemed to call for about four gallons (!) of dandelion flowers.  I decided I had nothing better to do, and at least crawling around on all fours doesn’t aggravate my back.  It was interesting getting down there with a bucket – I noticed all sorts of bugs that I would never normally see, as well as really looking closely at dandelions for probably the first time.  Once you get past the ‘noxious weed’ mindset, they are actually quite pretty.  I was even kind of enjoying myself, but after about two gallons’ worth of dandelion heads picked, the knee I smacked with the hammer earlier (don’t ask) started to protest.  I couldn’t keep picking, but I did not want to have wasted all that effort.

 

I eventually found a recipe for dandelion jelly that looked pretty good, and only used ingredients I happened to have on hand.  It was fiddly, as you have to cut the petals off of each flower, enough to make a quart of petals (which takes about two quarts of flowers), but again, I had lots of time.  I cut the petals off the couple gallons of flowers I had, and got to work.

 

The first batch of jelly, I got over-excited, and put the sugar in before the pectin.  That one may just be syrup.  The second batch, I used low-sugar pectin, because I had run out of the regular stuff, and the whole thing set into a solid mass the second I added the sugar.  I am not sure what I did wrong there, as I followed the directions exactly.  Panicking, I added more dandelion broth and sugar, but it just turned into a lumpy soup, even after bringing back to a boil.  That used up almost all of my dandelion broth, so the planned third batch did not happen.  This really sucks, as it actually tastes great, even if neither batch gelled properly.   I am already looking forward to having some on pancakes.

 

So, in case anyone else wants to tempt the Jam Gods, here is the recipe for Dandelion Jelly:

 

1 quart dandelion petals (takes about 2 quarts of flowers.  I just used scissors to cut the petals off)

2 quarts water

Boil these together for about 10 minutes.  Strain through several layers of cheesecloth, or a jelly bag.  Add the juice of one lemon.

 

Measure out 3 cups of dandelion juice, and put it back in the pot.  Return to heat, and add one box of (regular!) pectin.  Following the directions on the package, add 5 cups of sugar (my packet said to add the sugar once the juice has come to a boil, then return to a boil for one full minute before removing from heat).  Ladle into pint or half-pint jars, and process for ten minutes.

 

Hopefully it will work better for you than it did for me, but by all means try it – it really does taste great!

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