Last year, I finally decided to make Alaska Fireweed Jelly. Alaska is abundant with fireweed and I saw so many posts about everything you can make with it, like honey, syrup, and jelly.
After making jelly for the first time, I was so shocked to see how easy it was. The best part that it was so tasty as the fireweed flowers create a unique flavor.
Since fireweed season is upon us in Alaska, it means it’s time to prepare for harvesting. In this post, I’m going to share my experience harvesting fireweed and how to make Alaska fireweed jelly!
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What You Need to Make Alaska Fireweed Jelly
- 8 cups wild fireweed flowers, packed
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 packages Sure-Jell pectin
- 5 cups sugar
The most important ingredient in this jelly recipe is the fireweed flowers. Luckily, fireweed is abundant in Alaska and you can find it almost everywhere.
What is Fireweed?
Fireweed, scientifically known as Chamerion angustifolium, is a common plant in Alaska that blooms in July and August. It gets its name from often being the first plant to return to an area after a wildfire. The flower petals are pink and purple and fields of these flowers create a beautifully-colored landscape.
Alaskans symbolize fireweed with the changing of seasons. Fireweed blooms from the bottom of the stem to the top, so when it fully blooms to the top, we know that summer is over and winter is just around the corner.
How to Harvest Fireweed For Jelly
We decided to harvest fireweed from a large field of flowers that we found in Cooper Landing. It was August 1st and the flowers were bloomed about 2/3 of the way to the top, which is normal for this time of the year.
When harvesting fireweed flowers to make jelly, you’ll want to only pick the flowers off of the main stem of the plant. Avoid picking the seed pods, shoots, leaves, or anything green as these can cause the flavor to taste bitter (unless you plan on using these parts for something else).
You’ll notice some of the flowers towards the bottom of the stem look a little sad. These are flowers that have already been pollinated. We decided to leave these ones behind and only picked fresh blossoms.
It took us about an hour to harvest eight (packed) cups worth of flower blossoms. It’s can be really fun to pick fireweed in a field because their stems can grow up to six or seven feet tall, so some of the blooms towered over our heads.
During our harvest, we encountered bees, bugs, spider webs, and got lots of pollen everywhere! Keep these things in mind when choosing a good place to harvest.
- Avoid harvesting from patches close to busy roads
- Watch out for bees and bugs
- Wear bug spray
- Bring a paper bag or basket to place your flowers in
A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 30% behind of anything you harvest!
How to Make Alaska Fireweed Jelly
This recipe and instructions are mostly based off of a recipe created by Maija L. You can see her cooking instructables here.
Begin by rinsing off the flowers with water and straining them. Place your clean flowers in a large pot and add water and lemon juice to pot.
One lemon will provide enough fresh-squeezed juice for this recipe. Lemon juice is actually what changes the color of the jelly, so if you add more lemon juice then the brighter the color will be.
Bring pot to a boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Strain the “fireweed tea” into a large bowl. It’s best to use a cheesecloth for this part to avoid getting any little bits into the jelly. Discard strained flowers.
Pour the fireweed tea back into the pot and bring it back to a boil. Add both packages of powdered pectin and stir.
As the tea is boiling, add 1 cup of sugar at a time until dissolved. After all sugar is added and dissolved, continue to boil for 1 more minute. Turn off heat.
Once you remove the jelly from the heat, you’ll notice how quickly it thickens and starts to settle.
Now, you can use a ladle to pour jelly into clean and sterilized canning jars. I used 4-oz jars, which was perfect for sharing and storing.
Make sure the tops are clean, add a new lid, and close jars “finger tight.” According to Maija, there is no need to water bath this jelly because it’s hot enough to seal itself.
However, we still ended up giving them a water bath.. just in case. We placed all jars on a cooling rack and waited to check the lids, which tells you if they were sealed safely. You’ll basically wait about 24-hours.
This recipe made about 6 4-oz jars and can be stored in a cool dark place for up to two years. Once opened, jelly should be refrigerated and can be stored up to six months. Since we split the jars, the three I took home lasted about three months… It’s so good.
Tips For Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is the easiest way to make jars of shelf-stable jelly. There are a few steps to know to safely prepare jars.
- Properly clean canning jars and prepare ring and new lids
- When adding jelly to jar, leave 1/4 inch of headspace
- Make sure rims of jar are clean and don’t touch them as it will interfere with the final seal
- Close jar with ring and lid and seal it “finger tight”
- Place a rack in the bottom of a pot
- Add water to pot (1 inch higher than jars) and bring to a boil
- Place closed jars on top of rack
- Boil for 10 minutes
- Carefully remove jars from pot and place on cooling rack
- Leave jars undisturbed for 24 hours
- Check to see if lids are sealed
Why is it important to properly seal your jars?
Sealing canning jars prevents air from re-entering the jar so that no microorganisms can enter the jar to re-contaminate the food. Any bacteria not destroyed during the canning process can grow out during storage and cause botulism poisoning, which can be deadly.
That’s all there is to it — enjoy!
I like to spread fireweed jelly on toast. It’s such a unique and delicious tasting jelly and you’ll be glad you have enough of it to last a while.
Print Alaska Fireweed Jelly Recipe
Alaska Fireweed Jelly
- 1 Large Pot
- 1 Strainer
- 1 Stirring Spoon
- 1 Cheesecloth
- 1 Ladle
- 6 4-oz jars
- 8 cups Fireweed flowers
- 4 1/2 cups Water
- 1/4 cup Lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 2 packages Sure-Jell pectin
- 5 cups Sugar
- Harvest wild fireweed flowers.
- Rinse flowers and strain water.
- Place clean flowers in large pot.
- Add water and lemon juice to pot.
- Bring pot to a boil.
- Boil for 10 minutes to make a tea.
- Strain tea into a large bowl using cheesecloth.
- Discard flowers.
- Pour tea back into pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add both packages of pectin and stir.
- Add 1 cup of sugar at a time until dissolved.
- After all sugar is added and dissolved, boil for 1 more minute.
- Turn off heat.
- Carefully ladle jelly into canning jars.
- Close jars 'finger tight'.
- Seal jars in a water bath.
- Let set for 24 hours.
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Did you try this Alaskan Fireweed Jelly recipe? Let me know how it tasted in the comments!