Edibles

Experiment: Spicebush Flower Jelly

As nice as it would be for every passing project idea I have to work out perfectly, unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. This just so happens to be the latest of my failures: the answer to ‘can you make jelly out of spicebush flowers?’

I tried two experiments before ultimately deciding that, at least for me, this was a plant better harvested for its twigs and berries, and the flowers best left alone. Clearly, there was a reason why I couldn’t find people using the flowers in any recipes. Oh well, you never know unless you try!

Image of a jar of spicebush flowers against a rock. Light green lichen is in the upper left corner.

Experiment #1

Both experiments started with picking 1/2 cup of spicebush flowers off the copious amount of blooming bushes in the nearby woods- harvested very sparingly, only a few clusters off each bush, and only picking from male bushes, not female, so as not to interfere with berry production later in the year.

The flowers were checked for insects, washed lightly, placed in a jar, and turned into a tea by pouring 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of boiling water over top and being left to steep.

Experiment #1 was allowed to steep in the refrigerator overnight before being strained.

Recipe:

  • Spicebush flower tea (see above for flower/water amounts)
  • The juice from 1/4th of a lemon
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
  • .50 oz Suregel low sugar pectin

Lemon juice was added directly to the flower tea- no discernable color change- and stirred in. Pectin was added into the lemon-tea mix, then everything was poured into a pot placed on a burner over high heat.

The liquid was brought to a lively boil while stirring constantly, and boiled for one minute before the sugar was added all at once. The jelly mix was brought back to a boil, again, stirring constantly, and boiled for another minute. Pot was immediately removed from heat after the minute was over, and scooped into a small, pre-warmed jar. In the space of about thirty seconds after removing from heat, the liquid inside the pot was already setting up.

End result was a lemon-flavored ‘jelly’ that was too thick to spread, instead keeping its form much like a gummy candy. Not bad, but distinctly not spicebush-flavored, and it’s not something you could spread on a toast.

Image is of a jar of of steeping spicebush flowers. The water is a light yellow.

Experiment #2

Same starting process as Experiment #1, but tea was steeped for only 2 hours before being strained, then kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Recipe was the exact same as experiment #1, save that I left out the lemon juice to see if that would help loosen up the jelly more. Same cooking process, as well.

End result was an odd flavor that essentially just tasted like someone had jellified sugar water, with an almost unpleasant but mostly just weird aftertaste. Also could not really be considered a jelly, because despite leaving out the lemon, it once again turned too thick to spread.

TL;DR

I would not consider either of my experiments successful because I did not, actually, end up with a palatable jelly from either of them. Could I have tried more things? Probably. If I had kept going, the next thing I would have tried would be reducing the pectin.

But considering this was just an idle curiosity, I’m not that bothered about leaving off here- I just wanted to know why I never saw any spicebush flower jelly recipes when I was doing plant research. And now I know! So from now on, I’ll just enjoy the lovely springtime scent of the flowers on woods walks, and wait for the berries. 🙂

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