I heard about Lilac Jelly from a friend and was just as astonished as anyone else - you can EAT lilacs????? I'd never heard of that before and couldn't wait to try it myself. You can read her lilac post here: Farmgal's Blog Lilac bushes are one of the only bushes we don't have on our farm but no worries the side roads are covered with them! Lilacs come in white and many shades of purple. The most common is a light purple and as I was working with them I realised that they were not all the same either. What I REALLY wanted were the deep dark purple but I couldn't find any on the roads nearby. I'll have to do some scouting for next year.
DH and I had an appointment in town and on the way back we picked one "green box" of heads with some leaves. It was probably half leaves and stems by the time I was done.
When I got home I stripped the flowers off the stems. I started by picking them off - that took WAAAAY too long so I just ran my fingers along the main stem and stripped them instead. You want to avoid the green bits as much as possible but don't worry if some get in there.
I used 1.5L jars and packed them almost full - tamping them down several times as I worked. I ended up with three jars full. I did NOT rinse them first as I made sure to pick the flowers on the opposite side of the bush from the road when possible. Once filled I poured a kettle of boiling water over them. You can see the progression in the jars as I waited for the next kettle to boil. I left them overnight and by morning there was no colour left in the petals and lots of lovely purple "juice" in the jars.
Since I had so much juice to work with I decided to experiment a little with the sweeteners.
- 8 cups of lilac water
- 1 cup honey
- 2 packages No Sugar Needed Pectin by Bernardin
- 4 cups of lilac water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 package No Sugar Needed Pectin by Bernardin
- 6 cups of lilac water
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 box Pomona's Universal Pectin
The No Sugar Needed Pectin is becoming more available in regular stores like Canadian Tire and Home Hardware. I hope I am able to find more of it because it does allow for more experimenting than regular pectin. It is used exactly like the regular or low sugar pectin most people are familiar with. I found Pomona's in a health food store after searching for years. It is available on line but I didn't really want to pay shipping. Both worked equally well to gel the jelly. Pomona's is made from a citrus extract and uses calcium to activate the pectin - it comes in the box along with instructions which were easy to follow. A box of Pomona's will set two recipes so the price works out about the same.
So the results:
Batch One tastes terrible! I was very disappointed. The combination of honey and the floral flavour was not a match made in heaven!
Batch Two: was much better. The lilac flavour was MUCH stronger than I anticipated and DS said no thanks.
Batch Three was the best of all of them. I'm not sure of Pomona's has anything to do with the taste but the quality of the gel was much nicer. That could also be the extra sugar I used. The flavour was intense but not overwhelming. I know you want to know how it tastes and the best I can do is: like a lilac should taste - like flowers. ha ha! Next time I am going to try half lilac water and half apple juice.
My friend suggested this over lemon cake or on a very light tasting bread - it would not go well with heavy-duty rye bread. She also suggested using it as a glaze for meatballs... I'll let you know.
For the how-to part just follow the instructions for grape jelly on the pectin packages. I water bath canned for 10 minutes.
The only sad part was when I water bath canned it I lost all the colour. I'm not sure why. Here's a before and after picture.
The lilacs are still blooming - if you try it let me know!!