Even though the weather is typical Rocky Mountain spring (read bi-polar) oscillating between snow storms and sunny weather, it is actually spring here along the Front Range. The proof is in my backyard, to the tune of sprouting lambs quarter, fresh and ready rhubarb, flowering dandelions, and lilac blooms galore. It never ceases to amaze me how fast spring can arrive in Colorado, which means when these early producers are ready to go you had better be as well. This year I finally got my timing right and made a batch of lilac jelly – an endeavor I’ve been swearing to for years. Here’s how it went…
You’re timing for lilac jelly has to be spot on – open blossoms without withering. This year I was a tad early, so some of the flowers weren’t quite open on the clusters of blooms I selected to bring into the house. Once inside, I washed the flower clusters and shook them out for bugs (of which I found plenty).
The next step is to separate the blooms from the stems, a tedious and darn near painful process. After pinching the blossoms with my thumb nail and forefinger, I finally resorted to using small, sharp scissors to remove the blossoms. No green (at all) can make it into your jelly, so take care here and do this right (two cups took me about 45 minutes).
Let the blossoms sit under hot water for at least eight hours (see this recipe) to extract the flavor from the blossoms. Once the infused water is ready, you’re ready to make jelly. Cook your infused water, pectin, lemon juice, and butter until bubbly, then add the sugar (again, see this recipe). Once jelly mixture is cooked, add to sterilized jars and process in hot water bath.
I think I over processed this batch, as it has had difficulty setting-up. But, the flavor is still divine, and I don’t mind pouring it over vanilla ice cream or adding it to seltzer water for dry sodas. Yummy!
In addition to the lilac jelly/syrup, the same weekend I made a rhubarb crisp and a rhubarb simple syrup for sodas and/or martinis. I did not get to my dandelion blooms before they were gone – spring was just moving too fast for me this year. I am already eyeballing the lambs quarter for wilted “spinach” salad. Spring is an exciting and delicious time of year, and the beauty of this situation is that the season is just getting started.