In the Kitchen

Recipe for Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly

Anyone who has been around me here or on facebook for long knows that I love making floral jellies. There is something almost magical about harvesting the essence of the season and packaging up in a jar for later.

recipe for queen anne's lace jelly

One of the first one’s I wanted to try was Queen Anne’s Lace jelly, but that was when I was just starting to read about foraging. And I read about this woman in Iowa who thought she was collecting Queen Anne’s Lace and made herself up a big batch of hemlock jelly.

And that made me nervous. Because what if all along, I’ve been collecting water hemlock to stick in jars of dyed water to show how water moves through a plant? And collecting water hemlock for spontaneous wildflower displays in my window? I mean, I grew up in the suburbs, harvesting food from the grocery aisle. What did I really know about foraging, and edible plants and deadly look alikes?

Except the more I read, the more I was convinced that hemlock didn’t look all that much like Queen Anne’s Lace. It doesn’t grow in the same places. And it stinks. And is irritating to the skin (though the green leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace can be, too!). But Queen Anne’s Lace just smells like carrot. It makes your hands smell like carrot. And it usually has a dark blossom right in the center. It’s sort of purplish. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I had never looked closely enough at it until I was trying to make sure it wasn’t going to kill me.

Make sure you know what you’re harvesting. And don’t accidentally kill yourself and your whole family with a little forray into floral jellies.

So, Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly.

By the way, I’m kind of a sucker for natural. I don’t add artificial dyes to any of my jellies. Even lilac jelly which would be beautiful if it were a subtle shade of lavender. Feel free to add food coloring if that makes you happy!

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly

(This recipe is for a double batch and will make about 8 half pint jars.)

4 cups Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, green stems removed (I just snip with scissors. Don’t worry about separating each individual little blossom.)
4 cups boiling water
8 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages liquid pectin
8 cups sugar

Rinse blossoms 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 makes the infusion for the jelly. It doesn’t smell as nice as some of the other infusions but don’t worry about it.

Strain the blossoms, squeezing out the excess water, and discard. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the infusion and bring to a boil, stirring continually.

Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the pectin and stir for one minute, skimming off the foam as it forms.

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

And enjoy a teaspoonful of the summer sunshine on a piece of toast. Maybe it’s because it’s the first jelly I’ve made this year, but the flavor rivals any I’ve made before. It was that good.

I’m sure hemlock jelly wouldn’t have been nearly as tasty.

Other floral jellies I’ve made:

(If you actually read these, you’ll notice that the recipes are pretty much the same. You just substitute whatever EDIBLE blossom for what is in the recipe. I used to use powdered pectin but have switched to liquid because it is more forgiving of doubling the recipe. And all these recipes are doubled.)

Do you harvest any wild flowers or greens for the table? What recipes do you like best?

Making cheese with kefir

I have been making the simplest of all cheeses for some time now. That is where you take kefir (or yogurt), pour it into some cheesecloth and leave it hang over a bowl for one or several days until it reaches the consistency and tartness you prefer. But after forgoing granola cereal served with kefir two days in a row, I suddenly found myself swimming in kefir.

So I decided it was time to up my cheesemaking experiment and try to make some congetella, a mozzarella-like cheese made using kefir rather than rennet. Unfortunately, my directions were rather sketchy. Since I used a little of what was written and filled in the blanks with my own imagination, I am guessing this is not the fussiest of cheeses and is therefore suitable for a beginner.

After all, I didn’t even understand the instructions and I was quite happy with the results. All you need are:

I started with ten cups of whole milk and one and a half cups kefir in a stainless steel pot. My original instructions said something about kefir (pH 5.5) which made no sense. Since milk is approximately pH 6.5 and kefir is approximately pH 4.5, I’m guessing I was supposed to add enough kefir to bring the pH of the mixture down to pH 5.5. But I have no way of measuring pH, so I just started with that.

I then stirred it slowly while heating it to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Or rather, my apprentices did.

180 degrees is like a magic temperature. When you hit it, all of a sudden the whole thing turns to curds and whey. Or at least I was pretty sure that was what was supposed to happen because that’s what happens when I heat just the kefir. But nothing happened. I had a couple of little lumps, but I suspected that was just the original kefir I had added.

Since the curdling is really a factor of acidity, I decided I needed more acid. A shot of vinegar? Or some more kefir? I opted for some kefir whey and added about a cup. The curdling started, but I still had curds floating in milk, so I added more. Next time I’ll measure, but I finally got what I thought I was looking for.

I poured that through a colander and got a little cheese and a lot of whey. There are lots of things you can do with whey, but I already had more than I really knew what to do with so I fed it to the dogs.

Next came the spinning. Basically, you just knead it and it begins to hold together. Plus you sample it. At this stage, it doesn’t have much flavor, but I could taste something vaguely reminiscent of mozzarella.

I think we didn’t spin it long enough based on what happened in the last step. I am hoping it will be somewhat like learning to make bread was and at some point you can just feel when you’ve added enough flour and don’t measure anymore. Some day I hope to feel when the cheese is ready.

But for now we spun until the children started to get a little silly and then rolled it into balls. The balls were then covered in cold water to let them set for half an hour.

The last step was to set them in a brine solution made of 1 part kefir whey and 1 part salt water. I left them in that for another half an hour before I realized our cheese balls were starting to disintegrate. I took them out, packed them a little and set them on a plate in the refrigerator.

I was planning on using it for pizza that night anyway, so I didn’t really need to store them for long.

The texture was a little grainy, but the taste was about perfect. While making our pizza, everyone took generous samples and after the pizza was done we all agreed that the cheese was the best part.

Well worth the experiment and the parts that didn’t work quite as expected. We will definitely be trying this again and if I get more of an actual recipe together as we gain experience, I will share that as well.

Have you ever made cheese before? I want to try some hard cheeses, but there is so much time involved, I’m a little nervous!

________________________

If you are interested in purchasing kefir grains, I sell them for $10 (which includes priority mail shipping) to anywhere in the US.





I ship them every Wednesday and include an instruction sheet to get you started. If you try to order and this indicates I’m sold out, drop me a quick message and I’ll let you know when more will be available. All profits are donated to Tiggy’s House. Thank you!

Our kefir adventure, or A pictorial guide to making kefir

OK, so my husband kindly fed my kefir grains to the dog and photobucket kindly ate the pictures that were in this post. What’s a girl to do? I’m going to direct you to another awesome blog with terrific pictures of the process to help you on your kefir making journey, that’s what! And feel free to read on here about my first kefir making adventure. But sadly, without pictures.

I have for the longest time wanted kefir grains. I used to make kefir using the powder which made a lovely kefir, but knowing there was something out there that would keep the culture going forever without having to buy more, well, let’s just say it annoyed me.

So I finally splurged.

 

And apparently, my excitement over finally having kefir grains was contagious.

 

But I had no experience with kefir grains and the first week I spent with them were frustrating. My first batch turned to curds and whey. And my second batch. And my third. I started paying more attention to my kefir than I do to my pets. As soon as the milk started to thicken around the grains, I strained it, thinking it would finish thickening in the refrigerator.

At least that is what one person on YouTube said should happen. But not for me.

Then I threatened it. “If you do not start giving me kefir, I am so feeding you all to the dogs.” I even tossed some to the dogs, just to emphasize my point.

 

And 24 hours later, I had kefir. And realized that my problem all along had been that I didn’t quite know what to watch for. So here is my pictorial guide to making kefir for all those people out there like me who need it to be harder than, “Put the grains in milk and leave it for 24 hours.”

Because that didn’t really work so well for me.

Step One:

Put it in a jar and fill it with milk. They say approximately one tablespoon to 8 ounces, but that varies depending on so many different things. You’ll figure it out, but that is a good place to start.

 

Step Two:

Watch it. You won’t need to do this so much later, but at first, close observation will help you to know when it is ready later. Within a couple hours, the grains will mostly be floating at the surface and the milk will thicken around them.

 

Then it will get really thick . . .

 

And the whole mass will start to rise up to float on top of the milk.

 

You can stir it at this point. It helps the culture, but if you stir it very much or very briskly, the kefir will be more sour.

This is where your judgment and taste buds come in. Strain it too soon, and you have odd tasting milk that will never thicken. Strain it too late, and you have curds and whey. Just watch that layer that looks like water under your floating mass. It will get lower and lower as your milk turns to kefir. When it reaches the bottom, you are ready for step three. Also, especially in the beginning, taste it. A lot. You can taste when it is going from an odd tasting milk to a tangy tasting kefir. Once you have that kefir taste, you can strain it. The longer you let it culture, the stronger it will be.

Step Three:

Stir the kefir and strain through a plastic or stainless steel strainer. If it is too thick to go through the holes, you can thin it with a little milk.

Note:

If you leave your jar too long, that thin layer of what looks like water won’t look like water anymore. It will take on a yellowish hue and look like whey. Because that is what it is.

 

And when you stir and strain it, you won’t get kefir. At least not much. You will get a bowl full of whey and a strainer full of this stuff.

 

But never fear. All is not wasted. After you finish sorting through that to reclaim as many of your kefir grains as you can find, you can pack the rest of that into some cheese cloth and hang it over a bowl.

 

Then you can measure your whey and add equal parts whey and flour to make the most wonderful sourdough starter. In 24 hours, it will be ready to make your first batch of bread. It makes wonderful bread from the start, but the characteristic sourdough flavor will develop over several days.

And then you can take down your ball of curds which is now a sort of kefir cheese. It tastes very good on that sourdough bread.

Even my kids think so.

And if you think you might like to try raising your own kefir grains, let me know. I will be selling off my extras now and again for $10 (which includes the shipping). And all of that, excepting what the post office takes, will go to Tiggy’s House.