One of our favorite turkey hunting spots is a small ridgetop field surrounded by eastern redbud trees (Cercis canadensis). My favorite thing about the little field is that it is normally irresistible to strutting gobblers (this season being the exception), but a close second is the beauty of the fuchsia pink blossoms of the redbud trees.
Not only are the flowers nice to look at, they are edible as well. They can be candied and used to decorate cakes or salads, but where they really shine is in jelly. The method used to make the jelly is basically the same we use to make dandelion jelly. The blossoms are collected, steeped in hot water, and the resulting tea is used for the jelly.
To collect the blossoms, simply hold a large container under the tree limb and strip the flowers toward the tip of the branch to loosen them, letting them fall into the waiting container underneath. You will need 5 to 6 cups of flowers for the recipe. My wife and I collected that many or more in about 15 minutes after a recent morning turkey hunt.
Start by picking out any leaves or stems since they can add a bitter flavor to the finished jelly. Rinse the blossoms well to remove any insects that might have made it into the collecting bowl. Pour the rinsed petals into a large jar or container. Bring six cups of water to a rolling boil and pour over the redbud blooms. Use a wooden spoon to push the petals down into the water. Cover the container and allow the contents to cool. Transfer the container to the refrigerator and allow the blooms to steep for 24 hours.
Once the blooms have steeped, filter the now purple liquid through cheesecloth into a clean jar or bowl. You need four cups of this redbud tea for the recipe. Discard the leftover buds.
4 cups redbud tea
4 cups cane sugar
1 packet (1.75 ounces) Sure Jell or other pectin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon butter
1. Bring the redbud tea to a rolling boil.
2. Add the Sure Jell. Return to a rolling boil and continue stirring for 60 seconds.
3. Add the sugar, lemon juice and butter. Return to a rolling boil that can’t be knocked down by stirring and continue that boil level for another 60 seconds. Remove the pot from the heat.
4. Pour the mixture into sterilized pint or half-pint jars to within a half-inch from the top. Wipe clean the rim of the jar and screw on an unused lid.
5. If you want to keep the jelly refrigerated, simply allow the jars to cool at this point and refrigerate. The jelly will last several weeks this way.
6. If you would like the jars to seal for longer storage outside the refrigerator, prepare a hot water bath. Place a wire rack in the bottom of a canner or large pot to prevent the glass jars from contacting the pot bottom. Fill the pot half-way with water and place on a burner set at medium-high. Once your jars have been filled and capped, transfer them to the pot. Add enough water to ensure the jars are covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Continue heating to a boil. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and boil the jars for 10 minutes then turn the heat off. Remove the lid and allow the pot to cool for five minutes. Remove the jars from the hot water bath and place on clean towel to cool. After 12 to 24 hours, check each jar for seal by pressing down on the center of the lid. If the lid doesn’t flex, the jar is sealed. If it does flex, simply move that jar to the fridge and use within 3 to 4 weeks.
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