Capture the fragrance of spring with lilac jelly!

Nothing says spring quite like lilacs in bloom. For seven years, I enjoyed the lilac perfumed air that our single bush provided and now we have an entire hedge. I enjoy them so much in the yard, I have always been hesitant to cut them so it is perhaps a little odd that we have spent two days harvesting the delightful little flowers.

Except that I’m dying to plant something. . . anything. . . in my garden. We have so many plans for our little acreage but only so much money and time. Patience is proving my great test as I look at my untilled garden and wait.

And that’s when I discovered lilacs are not only beautiful and aromatic, they are edible. We went out for a sample. “Blech,” was the unanimous opinion. I think the children were expecting the sweetness of honeysuckle nectar. Instead, it was bitter. Reminding them of the sweetness of lemonade after the sugar was added, however, sent them scrambling for paper bags for the harvest.

After my initial hesitation to pick them passed, I found harvesting the tiny lilac flowers quite enjoyable. No matter how tall or short you are, there are flowers at eye level. No stretching or bending required. Pulling off all the green parts to discard proved a little tedious, but standing in the midst of that aroma made it more than worthwhile. Even the baby enjoyed pulling off handfuls and his little spot in the grass soon turned light purple with the shower of buds. Working alongside the fluttering of the butterflies and the buzzing of the bumblebees while the chickens occasionally peeked out of the hedge to see what we were up to proved rather enjoyable.

I began thinking what a lovely spring tradition this could become as I went inside with the first batch to start some lilac muffins. Heavenly, from start to finish. I always enjoy cooking with new ingredients, but the beauty of the blossoms when my four year old dumped them into the batter surprised me. We took a small taste and were pleasantly surprised. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, exactly, except that it is one of those subtle flavors. You know something is there but you can’t quite identify it, making the muffin interesting as well as flavorful.

I was surprised that the flowers turned brown while cooking, and that they turned the muffins a deep yellow, almost like saffron. Again, the flavor was subtle but intriguing. The children scarfed them down and decided this was definitely worth the work. They grabbed the MP3 player and spent the rest of the afternoon gathering lilac buds.

L.E.Fant and I made lilac sugar. I started making plans for a lilac tea when the sugar finishes in a couple weeks. Then I started the piece de resistance, the lilac jelly.

Lilac Jelly

4 cups lilac blossoms, green parts removed
4 cups boiling water
8 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Rinse lilacs and place in a large glass or stainless steal container. Cover with boiling water, cover with a lid and let sit for 24 hours. This will make a nice lilac infusion which smells nice but doesn’t look anything like you would expect. It is murky and either greenish or brownish.

Strain the lilacs, squeezing out the excess water, and discard. Add lemon juice to the infusion, stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Add the sugar all at once and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, skim and pour into jelly jars.

Process like you would any other jelly. Here’s a great tutorial from Owlhaven.

Mom’s homemade lilac jelly scored rave reviews with the children. They all wanted seconds, Bear said it was 300 times better than any store bought jelly and Mouse said it was definitely worth the work of picking all those tiny flowers.

It isn’t quite the color you’d expect. I’ve read that some people actually add blueberry juice to their lilac jelly to make it more that light purple color normally associated with lilacs, but that seems so. . . I don’t know. . . artificial.

Did I mention how wonderful my kitchen smells? All fresh and springy and lilac-y?

I’ll definitely be making this again next year. Actually, I may be making it again as soon as I refresh my sugar supply!

0 thoughts on “Capture the fragrance of spring with lilac jelly!

  1. We have one poor little lilac bush. My plans are to start a few hedges as wind breaks around my garden. Can’t wait to try out a few of your recipe ideas!! We made Mulberry jam one year when we lived in a house that had a Mulberry tree. It was not a very successful effort. But it was fun!! As long as your learn from your mistakes they become worthwhile!!
    .-= Teresa Smith´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

    • Ooh, mulberry jam sounds delicious! A neighbor had a tree where we used to live but we never collected any extra. Just enough to turn the children purple from the juice!

      I hope your hedge works out. It is the most wonderful windbreak in the spring when the breeze carries their fragrance to the entire property!

  2. I didn’t know those were edible!
    We live in the pacific northwest which is very lush most of the year. I’d like to learn more aobut edible plants. Do you have any good books you recommend? Or maybe I should look for some specific to our area.

  3. What a great idea! I knew the flowers were edible, but have never really tried them. We’ve only used them as a garnish.

    Last fall DH cut our two lilacs back all the way and we took shoots off to replant, so this year there were no lovely flowers. I’m going to post these away for next year to remember as they all look super yummy!

    Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Independence Days – April 20-27 =-.

  4. I so miss the lilacs, they just will not grow in Florida. Never knew you could cook with them, wow. My mom use to get so upset with me as a child. As the lilacs bloomed I’d be out here cutting them for in the house. Especially my bedroom.
    So in love with their fragrance.
    Thank you for coming by and especially for a comment.
    Blessings Blog friend

  5. Pingback: Lilac cuisine
  6. Kerry says:

    Hi Dana!
    I’m excited to try this out. I was dreaming up a plan to make half pints and give them away at my wedding reception in Aug. I live in CO, so there won’t be anything sweet to preserve until almost Sept., but I love the idea of jam or jelly as a guest gift!

    I do have one question: when you pull the flowers off the green stem, did you detach the calyces (the little green things that clasp the floral tube)? I wasn’t sure if I needed to take the extra time to do that, or just make sure I plucked the flowers from the stem.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. Kristina says:

    I tried this with a small amount of our dark purple lilacs and when I added the lemon juice it didn’t change to the purple I was hoping for. In fact it stayed brownish color. I did sit the infusion over night in the fridge after straining it because I wasn’t able to get to it and I read you could do that over night. What is up with that?

  8. I’m glad you tried the jelly, Kristina. I hope you like the flavor. You won’t get a purple from the lilacs. My infusion was a sort of greenish brown and the end result didn’t look that different than dandelion jellu. Some people add a bit of blueberry juice to get more of the expected color.
    Dana recently posted…And the winner is My Profile

  9. I am so SO very excited to have found your site…I’ve been experimenting with redbuds and now redbud (and now lilac) jelly are on the top of the list!!

  10. Hi there! I realize this post is a few years back but I hope this still comes through. My lilac jam turns out to lilac syrup. Second attempt even! I’m not understanding what I could be doing wrong. I hope you can help becauae I really would love to experience lilac jam. Thank you!

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