August 11, 2016 by bridgitgillis
8-10 cups Fireweed blossoms
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 cups sugar
4 boxes Sure-Jell Pectin
Paper Towel or Cheesecloth
Stock Pot or Canning Pot
Tongs or Jar Lifter
Dish Towel or Jar Rack
Large bowl or measuring cup with spout
Canning funnel (Optional)
This recipe makes 12 8-oz jars
Fireweed is a tall flowering plant that grows throughout Alaska. It got its name because it is the first plant life to appear after areas have been devastated by fire or clear-cutting. The stalks range in size from two feet up to around seven feet tall. In the picture above, the fireweed is well over my head, and I am 5’9″!
Fireweed begins to bloom mid-summer, with the first blooms appearing at the bottom of the flower head. As summer progresses, the blooms move upwards. It is a common belief that when the last of the fireweed has bloomed, winter will soon arrive.
Many people harvest the blossoms for honey or jelly. I have lived in Alaska 11 years, and this is my first time making fireweed jelly. I actually have never made any kind of jam or jelly before, but after 3 successful batches of fireweed jelly this year, I forsee this being a yearly end of summer tradition.
Some people I’ve talked to have had mixed results in their jelly setting or sealing, but I made 3 batches following this recipe exactly, and they all turned out great. I’m confident that if you follow this recipe yours will turn out just fine.
Gather 8-10 lightly packed cups of blossoms. Rinse the creepy crawlies off (ewe!) and put them in a large pot. I rinsed my blossoms off in a colander with my outdoor spigot to keep as many bugs outside as possible.
Aren’t they so pretty?
Add 8 cups of water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Put a lid on the pot and let it cook until thee flowers have no color left. You want all of the flavor to cook out of the blossoms. It’s okay if your water boils while cooking. I cooked mine 10-15 minutes.
While your blossoms are cooking, you will need to get your canning items ready to go. In a large stock pot or canning pot, put a dish towel on the bottom (skip this step if you have an actual canning rack) and add water to the pot. (Some people use jar rings on the bottom of their pot. I tried this and it didn’t work well for me, plus it was super awkward when I needed my rings and they were at the bottom of the pot!)
Remove the lids and rings from your jars, and put them in the pot so the water covers them completely. If you have a smaller pot, you might need to add a second or split the recipe into two batches.
Turn the heat up and let the water and jars come to a low boil.
Once your blossoms are cooked, put paper towel or cheese cloth in a colander and drain the liquid into a large bowl. Feel free to squeeze every last drop out of those cooked blossoms.
The juice is a gorgeous purple/red color! It smells good, too!
Rinse out your pot and add 4 boxes of Sure-Gell Pectin. Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.
While you’re waiting for your Sure-Gell to boil, get your counter space ready to pour the jelly into jars. I used a large measuring cup with a spout and a canning funnel. I placed a dish towel on the counter and covered it with wax paper. The towel will protect my counter from the hot jars, and the wax paper will make spills easy to clean up. (Trust me- you want the wax paper!)
The counter is ready to go!
Once your Sure-Gell has boiled for 1 minute, add 8 cups of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. (It will look like a lava lamp for a while- it’s okay! The sugar will dissolve as it heats up.) Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat or pour into large measuring cup/bowl with spout.
Quickly and carefully take your empty jars out of the boiling water, using tongs or a jar lifter/rack. Use a paper towel to quickly wipe out the insides of the jars getting any large amounts of water. (Jars will be HOT!)
Use a canning funnel if you have it, pour your jelly into the jars. Leave 1/4-1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar.
Place the lid on your filled jars, and add the rings. The rings should only be tightened to what you can do with your finger-tips. I left my jars on the counter and screwed the rings on without holding onto the jar, and only used light touch to screw them on.
Using tongs or your canning rack, place the jars in boiling water. This is called a hot water bath. Leave them in the boiling water for 15 minutes.
The water should be over the lid of the highest jar. It is okay to stack jars- I managed to fit 10 in my pot by stacking them on top of one another.
Once your jars are in their bath, take a look at the leftover jelly in your pan or mixing bowl. It should have started to gel. If not, keep a eye on it over the next few minutes. Mine usually started to gel within 10 minutes, and I knew what was in my jars would turn out fine.
After 15 minutes, carefully remove your jars and place them in a safe place out of drafts, where they can sit for 24 hours.
They will be hot, so I put mine on a dish towel. Within a minute or two they started popping, which is them sealing. What a satisfying sound!
After 24 hours, remove the rings and check that your lids have sealed by carefully lifting the jar by the lid. It should stay intact. Some people recommend storing your jars without the rings, but I didn’t want to lose them so I stored them with the rings on.
Make cute labels! (Why not?!)
I got some round, craft-paper brown Avery jar labels for my jelly. I went to Avery’s online design site, created the labels, and printed them from my printer. They add a nice touch to the jelly jars and make them more appealing as gifts.