A friend told me recently that she uses spruce tips to make jelly.
But then I got to thinking about the giant spruce tree in my backyard, and decided to give it a try. Harvesting them was easy. I enlisted the boychild as my helper and together we picked about six cups of the small, tender tips. I chose only the light green ones that still had their sticky, papery cover at the end, which I removed. We also were careful to not take all the tips from the same spot, in case the tree ended up lopsided ten years down the road.
A warning: there are going to be spiders. Decide in advance how comfortable you are with that. I decided I was not very comfortable, and spent quite a bit of time shrieking and flinging spiders off my hands while the boychild rolled his eyes at me. There are two steps to making spruce tip jelly. First you have to make the juice.
- Measure out six cups of spruce tips. Make sure all papery ends are discarded.
- Rinse the tips and chop them roughly.
- Dump them into a large pot and add 7 cups of cold water.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let the tips simmer for 30 minutes. The spruce tips have a faint citrusy aroma, and it was while I was sniffing the steam wafting from the pot that I knew what I wanted to add to enhance the basic flavour of the jelly.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and with a tea infuser, steep three tablespoons of Earl Grey looseleaf tea in the pot for 4-5 minutes.
While the tea was steeping, I tried to think of a joke that would end with the punchline “Spruce Wayne,” but the best I could come up with was “who is the forest’s favourite superhero?” which is a pretty sucky joke. Once your juice is ready, the second step is to make the jelly. I use Pomona’s Pectin, but another low-sugar pectin would work as well. The instructions that follow are for using Pomona’s.
- Strain juice through a jelly bag or cheesecloth, and measure out 4 cups into a clean pot.
- Add 4 tsp of calcium water to the juice, and heat to a boil.
- While juice is heating, measure out 1.5 cups sugar and mix with 4 tsp pectin powder.
- Once juice has reached a boil, stir in sugar and pectin and return to a hard boil, stirring vigourously.
- Remove pot from heat and ladle juice into sterilized jars. Wipe rims and place lids.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (add 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
Makes six half-pint jars of a very complex-flavoured, yellow topaz-coloured jelly.
I was honestly terrified that this wouldn’t turn out. The weirdness of the ingredients made it impossible to imagine in advance how the jelly would taste, but after my first taste, I’m totally sold on it. It’s the perfect accompaniment for high tea with crumpets, or if you’re not quite that high-brow, toast and a nice cuppa.