Making a jelly from flowers has an alchemic feeling to it. It ‘s not the same as making a jam from fruit. It’s more like making a perfume, except you can eat it.
Flowers are ephemeral creatures and so is their scent.
The scent we so love is not made for our own pleasure. Actually, it ‘s designed to vaporize into the warm spring air in order to attract pollinators. When its function is accomplished it will disappear together with the flowers.
A flower jelly is a way to capture this evanescent pleasure inside a sugar syrup. To collect the scent you need to follow your senses more than a measuring cup. Here is what you need to know:
- Pick flowers that are fully opened with petals still firmly attached to the stem. Full bloom will assure maximum emission of scent.
- Choose flowers away from roads and dust and keep them in a large container so they are not crushed. Washing and mechanical damage will remove most of the scent.
- Be gentle with heat when extracting, otherwise the scent will boil away. Dip flowers in hand-warm sugar syrup and cover to prevent evaporation.
- Don’t over-extract. After more than a couple of days the flower-syrup mixture will start fermenting and you will have to discard it as it has a foul taste.
I have been given this rare and wonderful recipe of elderflower jelly by my pal Giulia of Locanda della Valle Nuova.
Here is her original recipe. She uses dry flowers while I use fresh ones. Either way I can assure you this is a spectacular jelly, with a flowery fragrance similar to honey. It’s lovely on toast, on my ricotta mousse but also with some aged pecorino. Or just out of the jar, if you must.
For the syrup:
1/2 liter ( 2 cups) water
200 gr (1 cup and 3/4) sugar
15 elder flowers
1 organic unwaxed lemon
For the jelly
800 ml (3 and 1/2 cup) elderflower syrup
800 gr (3 and 1/2 cup) sugar
liquid or dry pectin according to package instructions
Using a large shallow pan bring the syrup-water and sugar to near boiling point to dissolve the sugar, then cool until warm but not scalding. Add the flowers head down, the juice of the lemon and the two squeezed halves as shown in the picture above. Cover and let them soak for 24 hours.
Filter the syrup into a tall pan making sure to squeeze off any liquid from the soaked flowers and lemon. You can use some warm water ( 100 ml/ half cup) to remove additional syrup from the flowers.
Follow package instructions to make a jelly using pectin, the syrup and the additional sugar. Transfer into clean jars and seal.
Use after at least one month.
Makes approx. 2 and one half 1 pint jars.