Fireweed is in full bloom across Alaska. In Anchorage’s Fairview neighborhood, the streets are lined with these fiery magenta harbingers of fall. On a sunny afternoon last week, Löki Gale Tobin walked through her neighborhood gathering the delicate blossoms. Careful to only pick a long stem here and there, she harvested enough for a batch of fireweed Champagne jelly.
Fireweed Champagne jelly
Adapted from the UAF Cooperative Extension
4 cups fireweed blossoms
2 cups Champagne
2 1⁄2 cups sugar
1/8 cup lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon butter
1 pack of powdered pectin (Sure-Jell)
1. Sterilize canning jars and prepare lids by boiling in water.
2. Pick blossoms off fireweed stems and rinse. Combine blossoms, lemon juice and Champagne in a large saucepan and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth. Put the “juice” back into the pot. Add the pectin and butter in a large saucepan. Bring back to a boil and add sugar 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Once all sugar is added, boil hard for 1 minute, continuing to stir constantly.
3. To test, drop 1⁄2 teaspoon of jelly on a cold saucer and put it in the freezer for 5 minutes. If the mixture does not set to your satisfaction, add 1⁄2 cup sugar to the jelly in the pot and boil hard for 1 minute. Re-test. During the test, the rest of the jelly mixture should be removed from the heat.
4. When test mixture gels to your satisfaction, ladle jelly into hot jars, add lids and process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Let cool. You should hear the lids “pop” as a sign that they have sealed correctly.