Learn how to make beautiful redbud jelly using foraged redbud flowers, reduced sugar pectin, sugar, and lemon juice!
Redbud flowers bloom for a very short time each year in early spring, so if you want to make redbud jelly, you’ve got a narrow little window to do it!
Collecting & Preparing Redbuds
This recipe uses the flowers of the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). There’s also a western redbud, Cercis occidentalis, and one that grows in Europe, Cercis siliquastrum. Both produce edible flowers as well.
For more information about foraging and using redbuds, check out our article: Identifying & Using Redbud Flowers
Pick redbud blossoms when the flowers are fully open. It’s fine to include some of the unopened buds, but it’s ideal to collect mostly fully open flowers, leaving the buds where they are so they can bloom later.
Redbud flowers grow in clusters along the tree branches, and are easy to pluck off. Simply use your fingers to pull the flowers free, and collect them in a container.
Collect new redbud blooms, not ones that have been on the tree long enough to get battered or dried. Leave faded or wilted flowers on the tree.
To find redbud trees, look at the edges of places, such as the woods. The flowers are vivid pink and easy to spot in spring.
Don’t completely strip your tree of flowers: the pollinators love redbuds too! To be fair, one tree usually has enough flowers to make several batches of jelly, so if you’re only making one batch, you don’t need to worry about leaving behind enough flowers. If you’re making a bunch of jars as gifts, or for your storeroom though, consider collecting from multiple trees.
Be careful not to collect redbud blooms anywhere close to any locations that you know or suspect have been sprayed. Any redbud trees that have been exposed to pesticides, herbicides, weed killer, or any other chemical sprays are not safe to use for any purpose, least of all for projects where the end result will be eaten, such as jelly.
Preparing the Flowers
To prepare the flowers for use, you’ll want to remove the stems. This can take a while!
Flowers that are still in clusters are easier to de-stem: simply grasp the flowers gently with your fingers, and the stem cluster end in your other hand. Pull with a twist to remove. Save the flowers, discard the stems. Single flowers are the ones that can get a bit tedious: you’ll have to remove their stems one by one.
Keep an eye out for little bugs! If you happen to have any of these small friends tagging along, gently shake them back outdoors. You don’t want bugs in your jelly, and they don’t want to be in your jelly!
Do this until you have 2 cups of stem-free redbud flowers. Then, it’s time to turn them into tea!
Making Redbud Tea for Jelly
In order to turn flowers into jelly, they need to get a bit more liquid: so that means they get turned into tea! Redbuds need a bit more steeping time than most jellies- a full 24 hours, or a minimum of at least 12 hours!- so make sure to prepare this tea the day before you want to make your jelly.
To make redbud tea, you will need:
- 2 cups redbud flowers, no stems
- 3 cups water
- a pot or saucepan large enough to hold the water
- a large heat-safe container such as a pitcher or bowl
- a fine mesh strainer (or if you don’t have one, layer cheesecloth inside a colander)
How to make the tea:
- Place the redbud flowers in a large heat-safe container, and set aside. Heat the 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or saucepan.
- Pour the boiling water overtop the redbud flowers, stir, and cover loosely. Set aside to steep.
- Steep for 24 hours, moving container to the refrigerator anytime after the 2 hour mark, leaving it out at room temperature for no longer than 4 hours. The container will be hot, so be careful where you put it!
- The following day, after 24 hours has elapsed, strain the spent plant matter out of the steeped tea using your fine strainer. Make sure to squeeze out the liquid from the flowers with your hands or fingers. Discard the plant matter, keep the tea. You should have about 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups of very pink liquid.
- Use immediately to make jelly, or else freeze the tea in a tight-sealing container for later use, keeping it frozen for up to 3 months.
The finished tea looks pretty at this stage, but if you taste it, you’ll probably be baffled as to how this turns into a sweet jelly- don’t toss it! This is just one part of the recipe: it takes the sugar, lemon juice, and pectin to turn it into a sweet, delicious spread.
That transformation awaits: if you’re ready to make your jelly, then read on!
How to Make Redbud Jelly
- 2 1/2 cups of redbud tea
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about the juice contained in 1 medium-large lemon)
- 1 pack Sure Jell low or no sugar pectin (1.75 oz pink box)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar (this recipe uses white cane sugar: alternative sweeteners may affect color and set of jelly)
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon butter (to reduce foaming: add at any point during the cooking process to reduce foam)
- Heavy-duty 6-8 quart pot or stockpot
- Water bath canner & rack
- Canning jars (recipe makes about 4 1/2 half-pints, or 9 4 oz small jelly jars) with fitting canning lids and rims
- Jar lifter
Can I Reduce the Sugar in this Recipe?
We’ve already reduced the amount of sugar in this recipe compared to many recipes by using low or no sugar fruit pectin. (We use Sure-Jell no or low-sugar needed pectin, in the pink box.) You may try to reduce the sugar lower, just be aware that you may encounter problems in getting the jelly to set.
Instructions to Make the Jelly
Before you begin:
If you plan to can your jelly for long-term storage, begin heating your water bath canner before beginning to make your jelly.
Wash out your jars to make sure they’re completely clean, and put them in the water bath canner as it warms to sterilize. When the water comes to a boil, make sure to boil them for at least 10 minutes before using. Alternatively, you can simply run your jars through your dishwasher’s sanitize cycle, timing so it ends and the jars are still hot when you’re ready to ladle out your jelly.
Cooking the jelly:
- Pour the 2 1/2 cups of tea into 6-8 quart stockpot. If using frozen tea, either thaw it out in your refrigerator for a day until it’s wholly liquid again, or to speed it up, just drop the frozen tea in a pot over a low burner, heating it up until it’s completely liquified once more.
- To the tea, add the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir, and as the juice mixes in, it will intensify and brighten the color of the tea slightly. Set aside.
- Measure 2 1/2 cups of sugar into a bowl. From this bowl, scoop out 1/4 of a cup of sugar, and set the bowl (which now has 2 1/4 cups of sugar in it) aside. Place that 1/4 cup of sugar in a new bowl.
- Add the packet of pectin powder to the 1/4 cup of sugar, and mix to combine. Add this to the redbud & lemon juice mixture in your pot, and stir to combine. Set this on a burner turned to high heat.
- Stirring constantly with a spoon or whisk, bring the jelly to rolling boil. Once it’s reached that point, stir in the remaining sugar all at once. This will stop the jelly boiling for a moment. Return it to a full, rolling boil again, and boil for exactly one minute, still stirring constantly. If you need to add the 1/2 tsp of butter to reduce foaming, do so carefully so as not to splash yourself. The jelly will boil up significantly- make sure your pot’s big enough to handle it!
- After one minute, remove from the heat. The jelly will swiftly begin to set up, so moving quickly but carefully, ladle or pour the hot jelly into your sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Some air bubbles might form up top- you can skim those off, if you’d like.
- Wipe off the rims of the jelly jars with a damp rag to remove any sticky spots of spilled or splashed jelly that could interfere with sealing.
- Place the lids on top of the jars, and secure in place by firmly screwing on the rings.
If you are not canning your jelly, leave it where it is for the next 12 to 24 hours to cool and rest. After that, move your jelly to your refrigerator, where it will keep for about 3 weeks. Use it up before then, or freeze for several months.
If you plan to can your jelly, proceed to the next section.
Looking for our original recipe?
A few years ago, we shared a version of redbud jelly on this website using a higher amount of sugar. Later, we experimented with reducing the sugar amount and really liked the new version with less sugar, so updated this article with the new recipe.
However, if you’d like to make the original version, here it is!
You’ll use: 2 cups redbud flowers + 2 1/2 cups boiling water to make the tea. Then to make the jelly: Add the juice of 1 lemon to the finished redbud tea. Use the directions above, only use 3 1/2 cups sugar and one box of Sure-Jell regular pectin (yellow box).
How to Water Bath Can Redbud Jelly
Before you begin making your jelly, you should have begun heating your water canner, having poured enough water inside the large pot that it will completely cover all your canning jars by at least an inch.
So that the jars will be hot and sterile by the time your jelly is ready, carefully lower all of your jars into the hot water bath canner, allowing them to fill with water. Make sure there’s enough water so that the water level is an inch above your jars. Set the water canner to heating, and place the lid on top. Bring the water inside the canner to a boil- make sure the jars inside are boiled for at least 10 minutes, so that you know they’re sterile.
When the jelly is ready to be ladled into jars, remove your canning jars from the water bath canner, dumping out the water inside back into the canner, and place the hot jars onto a towel. Leave the water bath canner as it is- don’t turn off the heat.
Filling & Canning
Follow the instructions in the jelly recipe above to fill your jars with hot jelly and secure the lids. Firmly secure the rims. If you happen to only have a half or partially filled jar of jelly, set this aside and do not can it: partially filled jars do not perform well when canned.
Once you’ve finished with that, carefully lower the jars into the still-hot canner using a jar lifter (the jars are hot!), and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil; water-bath jars for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter, or by lifting out the rack. Do so carefully! Remember, you’re dealing with boiling water- don’t burn yourself, and watch out for splashes!
Leave the jars to cool, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours. You might hear a few ‘pop’s- that’s a good thing! That’s the sound of a successfully sealed jar.
12-24 hours later, your jellies will be completely cooled, and can be stored away in your pantry or storeroom as desired.
(Tip: Remove the rings before storing jars of jelly so they won’t get rusty.)
Shelf Life & Storage of Redbud Jelly
Redbud jelly, once successfully canned and with an unbroken seal, are shelf-stable and will remain good in your pantry or storeroom for 1 year.
Once the seal is broken and the jar is open, you should store the jar in your refrigerator, where it should be used within 3 weeks of opening.
What does redbud jelly taste like?
This gorgeous jewel-toned jelly is very light, with a nice sweetness. The overall flavor is lightly floral with very subtle hints that remind us a bit of strawberry and/or grape woven throughout.
Can I use honey or other alternatives to sugar as a sweetener?
If you want to try using a different sweetener other than white sugar, you’ll have to experiment. While we used honey in the past to make other jams and jellies (using this same Ball no or low sugar pectin), we’ve never made redbud jelly using anything other than white sugar, so we have no specific advice on amounts to use. You’ll have to experiment!
What else can you make from redbud flowers?
Jelly is by far the most popular use for redbud flowers. You can also use them to make a sweet, naturally pink lemonade. Turning them into a floral syrup is another way to use these bright pink spring flowers!
Are there other spring flowers that can be made into jelly?
Yes, there sure are!
Interested in another recipe that uses redbud flowers? Why not go give my Redbud Pink Lemonade recipe a look?
- a saucepan for boiling 3 cups of water
- heatproof pitcher or container, for infusing redbud flowers
- a strainer, to strain the redbud tea infusion
- set of measuring cups
- 1 tablespoon measuring spoon
- heavy-duty 6-8 quart pot or stockpot
- a bowl that will hold 2 1/2 cups of sugar
- an equal sized or slightly smaller bowl, for the pectin
- 4 to 5 half-pint jelly jars with lids and rings
- ladle, for spooning hot jelly into hot jars
- water bath canner with rack, if canning your jelly
For the Redbud Tea Infusion
- 2 cups redbud flowers, with the stems removed
- 3 cups water
For the Redbud Jelly
- 2 1/2 cups redbud tea infusion that has been steeped for 12 to 24 hours
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 pack Sure-Jell no or low sugar needed pectin (1.75 oz pink box)
- 1/2 tsp butter – optional, to add at any point during cooking to reduce foam in your jelly
To Make the Redbud Tea
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.
- While the water heats, place 2 cups of redbud flowers into a heatproof container or pitcher.
- Pour the boiling water over the redbuds, cover the container loosely, and steep for 12 to 24 hours. (The longer you infuse, the darker the tea will become.)
- After 2 to 4 hours of infusing, move it to the refrigerator for the rest of the infusing time, to keep it from spoiling at room temp.
- After 12 to 24 hours, strain, using your fingers to thoroughly squeeze the extra water from the dandelion petals.
- Use immediately to make jelly, or else freeze the tea in a tight-sealing container for later use, keeping it frozen for up to 3 months.
- Note that the tea will be a pretty color at this point, but won't have a tasty sweetness until it's turned into jelly!
To Make the Redbud Jelly
- If you're water bath canning, start heating the water in your canner.
- Heat your jars by keeping them in the water bath canner, a pot of boiling water, or your dishwasher set to sanitize cycle. (You want them hot when pouring in hot jelly, or they could crack.)
- Add 2 tbsp lemon juice to your redbud tea.
- Pour the 2 1/2 cups of tea + lemon juice mixture into a large pot.
- Measure 2 1/2 cups of sugar into a bowl.
- Scoop out 1/4 cup of that sugar and place it into a new bowl.
- Add the pack of pectin to the smaller bowl of sugar (containing 1/4 cup) and stir well.
- Add the pectin, mixed with the 1/4 cup sugar, to the redbud tea and lemon juice in the pot.
- Turn the burner to high heat and stir constantly until the mixture reaches a full rolling boil.
- Add the remaining sugar and return it to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Boil for one minute, still stirring constantly. The jelly will boil up significantly at this point.
- After one minute, remove the pot from the heat.
- Working quickly but carefully, remove the hot jars onto a towel, and ladle or pour the hot jelly mixture into them.
- If you plan to water bath can your jelly, leave a 1/4 inch headspace at the top of each jar.
- Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, to remove any sticky residue that might interfere with the seal.
- Cover each jar with a lid and screw the ring on firmly.
- Optionally: For longer storage, water bath can your jelly.
To Water Bath Can Redbud Jelly
- After filling the jars, and adding the lids/rings, carefully lower them into the hot water of a water bath canner. (Use a canning rack if available, or a canning jar lifter.)
- Cover the canner with its lid and heat the water to a boil over medium high heat.
- Boil the jars, with the lid on the canner, for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the lid carefully (watch for steam!), and remove the jars.
- Place the jars on a towel and leave them undisturbed for at least 12 to 24 hours.
Shelf Life of Redbud Jelly
- Store any jars that failed to seal in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks.
- Successfully sealed jars are shelf-stable and can be stored for 1 year. Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.