As I’ve discussed before, sometimes I think my neighbors must hate me for harboring a yard of unwanted pests and dingy weeds. We encourage our yard to be an eco-system, rife with native plants and insects…which in our neighbor’s world means “unmowed and disgusting!”
The truth is that we DO mow around the house to ensure that the native insects are at a decent radius from our doors and windows, but that we leave the edges of the yard a lunatic fringe of tall grasses, red clover, chicory, burdock, happy daisies, the tall, bobbing heads of Queen Annes Lace.
I’ve only recently come to know Queen Annes Lace as a plant with uses other than being homes for many tiny crab spiders and aphid-farming ants. I have read of her seeds’ efficiency as an alternative birth control method, learned that her tubers are edible in early spring, and that infusions of her leaves can be taken for kidney and liver assistance, but none of these have been tried and tested in my home as of yet.
So I was terribly intrigued when I learned that you can make a delightful jelly from the flower heads of Queen Annes Lace, and I decided that I would make it as soon as I could.
I chose a lovely day, and after playing in the yard and tweaking the recipe to suit my mood and limited canning equipment, I made myself some lovely jars of pinkish flower jelly! I have already thought of many potential adaptations for this simple, citrusy, floral jelly the next time I prepare it. Maybe a couple of pink peppercorns thrown into the mix, or perhaps grapefruit, grated carrot or ginger.
The following guide assumes you have at least some knowledge or experience of canning with a hot water bath method.
Queen Annes Lace Flower Jelly
First, find you a good patch of flowers. Make sure it is really Queen Annes Lace, and not her cousin, Poisonous Water Hemlock. Queen Annes Lace has a hairy stem, and the distinct, piney scent associated with aromatics in the carrot family. Poison Hemlock is smooth, and smells gross when you rub the leaf. (Here’s more identification tips!)
You’ll likely be competing with many insect friends whilst gathering the blossoms, so be prepared! You’ll need at least 20 flower heads to make 2 packed cups of Queen Anne’s Lace Flower heads.
Give the flowers a good rinse (or soak for five minutes, if you need to) to ensure all of the buggies are no longer in residence.
Boil four cups of water in a medium to large pot. While the water is heating, trim the stems of the rinsed flowers all of the way to the base of the flower head. Breathe in deeply and enjoy…but note that the finished product is not as pungent as the fresh sap smells.
Toss in the flowers when the water is at a boil, stir, cover with a lid, and remove from heat. Allow the flowers to steep for as long as you wish. I left mine for over an hour while I had lunch and a cold beer.
Strain the infusion. I used a layer of cheesecloth in a standard colander to make sure the little bits of petal and bug were all out. Toss out the spent flower heads.
Sterilize your jars! At this point, I placed my six 8 ounce jelly jars and their lids in a boiling water bath to sterilize while I prepared the lovely jelly.
Prepare the following ingredients so that all is at hand:
3 cups of the strained Queen Anne’s Lace Flower infusion
3 1/2 cups of sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice
1 packet of pectin (I used standard Sure Jell)
Pour the infusion into a medium sized cooking pot, and turn it up to a medium-high heat.
Add the lemon juice and the packet of pectin to the pot. Stir the mixture well, and often.
Pull out your jars, lids, and rings to dry while you allow the pot to come to a full, rolling boil.
Add the sugar and stir constantly until it returns to a rolling boil. Let it boil for one minute, and remove from heat.
Pour or ladle the very hot jelly into the jars carefully.
Wipe the rim with a clean cloth, and top each one with a sterilized lid.
Process your jars as you wish. I use a hot water bath using the instructions given in the pectin box. Make sure to follow instructions carefully, including adding extra time due to your altitude! My jars were in for ten minutes instead of five.
Let the jelly rest for 24 hours before you pick them up and wiggle them around! After that, it’s open game on flower jelly. It tastes like a light floral lemonade, or grapefruit juice! It is excellent with a cup of tea and a toasted English muffin.
Recipe adapted from:
Foraging Foodie: http://www.foragingfoodie.net/index.html
The Wild Carrot – Queen Annes Lace: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/queen.html