Did you know that you can make jelly with flowers? That’s right! You can make jelly with pretty much any liquid, so anything you can use to make a herbal infusion, you can use that to make jelly! I can’t wait until next Spring so I can try this with all the flowers, but in the meantime, Queen Anne’s Lace is in abundance right now, so that’s what I’m using.
It’s also delicious. Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as Wild Carrot, is a common wildflower in the carrot family with a delicate flavour similar to elderflower.
I found a lot of very similar, but slightly different recipes online and it was a bit of a toss up as to which one to try, so I’ll tell you what I found and what I did. This is the one I followed most closely.
QAL has a poisonous look-alike, so it is very important that you have a positive identification, BUT it is very easy to differentiate if you know what you’re looking for. The most obvious difference is that QAL’s stem is hairy and solid green, while poison hemlock has a smooth stem with red splotches. Just remember “Queen Anne has hairy legs.” There’s a good description of the differences with images over at Prepare and Protect.
- 2 tightly packed cups of Queen Anne’s Lace flowerheads
- 1 package no-sugar-needed pectin
- 3 1/2 cups sugar (( used Just Us organic, fair trade cane sugar)
- 4 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
I saw a lot of recipes that used regular pectin instead of the no-sugar-needed kind, and I wouldn’t recommend it. I know of a professional preserve-maker who ended up with a syrup instead of a jelly, and it is a soft jelly even with the no-sugar pectin.
To make this recipe you will need basic canning supplies, including:
- mason jars and rings
- new lids
- magnetic lid lifter
- jar tongs
- canning pot with rack
If you’re new to canning, you can get a kit like this that includes the lid lifter, jar tongs, headspace gauge, and funnel. There is a bigger kit that includes the canner, rack, pectin and a few jars, but since I didn’t need the jars, I found it cheaper to buy the canner and the utensil kit separately. I used these tiny jars because flower jelly seems so special that it should be enjoyed in small quantities. (Let’s just forget that Queen Anne’s Lace is an abundant roadside weed. It’s special when it’s jelly.
Harvesting the Flowers
Plan to harvest when you have time to make the tea immediately afterward to get the most flavour. The delicate flowers wilt quickly.
Bring scissors and a basket. Inspect each flower head thoroughly for insects and give it a good shake before cutting the stem right under the flower head. After harvesting, I did another insect inspection on each flower head. Also, check out my post on wildcrafting for general foraging tips.
You’ll need 2 well-packed cups of flowers, which was about 25 for me.
Make the Infusion
Often called a “tea,” an infusion just means herbs steeped in boiled water. Boil 5 cups of water and pour over flowers. Steep at least 1 hour and as long as overnight. I steeped mine for about 2 hours. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer to remove all tiny flower bits and insect debris.
Boil the Jelly and Process
This was the complicated part for me, because I am new to water bath canning, but it came off without a hitch. It was a little intimidating to try it by myself for the first time, because a few things have to happen at once. You have to use three burners for this, as you’ll start boiling the water in the canner, boil the lids, and cook the jelly at the same time. And you need to have your clean jars warming in the oven while you’re doing all of this. At least the canner, lids and jars don’t need your attention once you get set up, so you can focus on the jelly.
I followed the basic instructions for water bath canning in Saving the Season by Kevin West, and the most important advice I read in there was to start boiling the canner while you get everything else going because it takes a long time to boil.
For Queen Anne’s Lace jelly, you only need to cook the jelly long enough for the sugar to dissolve, so put the infusion in a pot, add the sugar, and bring it to a boil for one minute. Then remove from the heat at stir in the lemon juice. Pour into the hot jars, leaving 1/4″ airspace. Make sure the rims are clean. Put on the tops and rings and process for 10 minutes.