Queen Anne's Lace Jelly


If making queen anne's lace jelly sounds appealing to you, but you don't know how to correctly identify poison hemlock, walk away. I mean it. This isn't a pair of plants you want to confuse because of the toxicity of poison hemlock. If you'd like to learn more about telling the difference between queen anne's lace (Daucus carota, also known as wild carrot) and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), please start by reading this previous post I've written that has lots of pictures. The next step is to spend another year or two making certain you can tell the two plants apart. Only when you feel confident you can correctly identify both poison hemlock and queen anne's lace should you begin to cook with wild carrot plants.

I started making queen anne's lace jelly a few years ago. I've never thought it tasted like much more than sweetened water, to be honest. I mean, I wanted it to taste special because yay eating weeds and yay effort, but the reality of queen anne's lace jelly is always sweet and dull. However, the fact that the herbal infusion goes from a swampy shade of green to a delicate pink is entertaining, and makes it a popular recipe in the classes I teach.

If you look around the internet and even books, you will notice that every recipe for queen anne's lace jelly is identical. It makes me wonder if people actually like the nearly-nonexistent taste of the end product, or are just charmed by the idea of making a wildflower jelly. I will be the first to admit that I'm hesitant to mess around with the jam and jelly recipes because ending up with a non-set recipe, which I then have to pretend to happily pass off as syrup, is annoying. This year, I decided to take the plunge and start tweaking the recipe in hope of coming up with something more flavorful. Maybe next year, I will continue the experiment and further reduce the sugar and perhaps work with my preferred pectin, Pomona's.

The first step was to make a stronger infusion. Most queen anne's lace jelly recipes instruct you to carefully snip off flowers alone for the infusion. I went outside and munched a few flowers, then a leaf. They were both parsley-ish and nearly indistinguishable aside from texture. Alright, so I'm not gonna mess around with using flowers alone for the infusion.

The next step was to cut back on the sugar. The sweetness in a normal queen anne's lace jelly is enough to make this salty snack-lover cringe. Here, I cut it back by a full third, and the jelly still set.

The last step was to add a bit of flavor insurance. On the day I made the queen anne's lace jelly I spontaneously decided it would be fun to have a layer of strawberry jam in the bottom of the jar. That way, if the queen anne's lace jelly was still too boring (I really know how to sell a recipe, don't I?), I could reach down and get a little strawberry goodness as well. I like how this turned out, and like how it looks even more. After about a week, the intense red of the strawberry jam migrated up and made for a gorgeous jar of layered preserves. The downside is that this recipe isn't properly canned, so it must be kept in the refrigerator. I'm OK with that, as it makes a fairly small batch, around 6-7 cups total.

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly with a Layer of Strawberry Jam


1 lb. of strawberries made into jam (use whatever recipe suits you, I used Mrs. Wheelbarrow's)

25 queen anne's lace umbels (whole flowering heads), snipped into pieces
5 c. boiling water
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 pkg Sure-Jell low-sugar pectin
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1. Place your queen anne's lace into a large bowl, cover it with the boiling water. Stir it around and try to get all of the herb submerged. Then cover the bowl and let it sit at least until it has cooled to room temperature, but overnight is fine. Letting it cool complete insures the strongest-possible infusion.

2. Pour an inch or so of your strawberry jam into seven half-pint mason jars. Let it come to room temperature so that it sets up.

3. Strain out the queen anne's lace, and pour 4 1/2 cups of the infusion into a large non-aluminum pot.

4. In a small bowl, mix the Sure-Jell and 1/4 cup of sugar until they are evenly combined.

5. Use a large whisk to stir the Sure-Jell and sugar into the queen anne's lace infusion (this is where it will magically transform from green to pink), then bring it to a full boil. Once it is boiling, stir in the remaining sugar and let it boil for one minute.

6. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Skim off any foamy scum that is sitting on the surface and discard (and by discard, I mean let your kitchen helper eat it).

7. Let the jelly cool for a few minutes, enough so that it is not molten, but isn't starting to set, either. My hope here is to keep is from totally melting the layer of strawberry jam. Carefully pour the jelly into your waiting jars, then lid 'em up. Again, since this jelly hasn't been canned, you should probably keep it in the fridge once it has cooled.


Comments

  1. I have always wanted to try this. Then I chicken out and ending up not doing anything at all. I have fields and fields of the flowers on my property. They are so pretty and definitely hairy and smell like carrots. Darn it, so afraid of it, though. I look out that window and think about how much my mother would have enjoyed putting up those wild flowers.

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    1. You'll know when you feel comfortable enough to cook with wild carrot. Since you look at queen anne's lace in your yard every day, go look at some poison hemlock and observe the differences. I don't know about where you live, but here, the poison hemlock flowers are starting to dry out and turn brown while the qal flowers a still peaking.

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  2. Queen Anna's lace jelly is the pale pink one? If so then it really is very delicate. I could see why people might want to make it even if it is flavorless. Just looking at that jar makes me want to have a tea party. Am I too old for tea parties????

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    1. Yep, it's sort of the color of pink grapefruit juice. And I'm pretty sure you are never too old for tea parties, so long as you don't forget to invite the bears.

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    2. Agreed. Not too old for tea parties.

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  3. Wow! I had no idea you could use Queen Anne's Lace for anything besides looking at it. We used to have a ton in my childhood backyard.

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    1. I actually prefer the roots and fruit to the flowers. I also trot out to my garden and grab qal leaves anytime I need parsley for cooking. It substitutes pretty well.

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  4. Too funny. I always thought the same thing. I taste QAL jelly and wonder what it is people are raving about. They say things like the flavor rolls out at the end, or that it is subtle yet complex, and I just wonder if their taste buds are broken or if mine are.

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    1. I always give away the batches I make, and people seem to really enjoy it. ~shrugs~ I guess you and I just have dull taste buds.

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  5. can't do it. won't do it. too scary.

    likes jelly.

    sad panda.

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    1. You know what's really dangerous, Renny? Driving on the highway. Foraging is so much safer because you are in control. You get to make decisions, and can always walk away. So, if you really want to make this jelly some day, go get to know queen anne's lace and poison hemlock. Once you spend some time with them, I think you will be surprised at just how different they appear. It just takes time to learn plants, so give yourself some time.

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  6. "Because yay eating weeds and yay effort." Ha ha, love that. You are too funny. And why did you have to call me out for getting excited about syrup when the jelly set fails? Tee hee. Just kidding. But that totally IS me;)

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  7. I think I have solved the "meh" problem -- for me, anyway. I made a batch with some cardamom seeds for added flavor. I cracked the first jar over the holidays and it is yummy. The slightly carroty flavor of the QAL is set off by the cardamom. It made all the difference and so worth the effort.

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  8. And the umbels of hemlock don't curl in on themselves as the flowers die and seed, whereas qal umbels close up as the dry. Here hemlock grows much taller than qal (MD) too.

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