If you’ve ever been curious to know what a forest tastes like, then this recipe is for you. Each spring around this time, spruce trees put out pale green buds covered in delicate brown paper husks.
Essentially, they are little bundles of baby spruce needles and at this stage they are still soft and tender. Their flavor is reminiscent of Christmas, with a distinct element of citrus and all the vitality of a forest bursting forth in springtime.
Spruce is not the only edible conifer. Fir and pine are edible as well and all are packed with vitamin C. It’s only last spring that I learned about cooking with spruce tips from a friend. At the time, I had my hands rather full. So I made a note to self that this would be the spring to experiment with spruce tips and I’m so glad I remembered. I’ve made spruce tip syrup (for some extra special woodsy cocktails), spruce tip vinegar (simply pack a bunch of spruce tips into a bottle of apple cider vinegar and let it sit, the flavour is amazing), and some spruce tip salt for sprinkling on meat or sandwiches.
But the best of all has been this light spruce tip jelly which is a delight with cheese and crackers. I imagine it’s lovely on meat as well, particularly lamb, pork, or any wild game. You can simply make it and store it in the fridge for up to a month.
Harvest the tips when they are still pale green in color. If they’re still covered with the brown papery husk, you can quickly remove it with your fingertips. Sometimes simply rubbing your hand across a branch will make them all fall off. As in all wild gathering, it’s important to abide by good foraging principles and be thoughtful about not removing all the tips from any one given tree.
I found that in the various recipes I tried, chopping the spruce tips helped to release more of their aroma. I didn’t do it for the batch of jelly I made in the video, but I encourage you to do so. This will make for a more flavour-packed jelly (though the lighter-flavored, more subtle jelly is gorgeous as well!)
I hope you try this recipe, it’s a very magical one and it would make a wonderful homemade gift. Enjoy!!
Spruce Tip Jelly
- 6 cups spruce tips
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice*
- 5 tsp Pomona's pectin (+ 5 tsp calcium water provided in the Pomona's package)
- 1/4 cup good quality honey (optional)
- Roughly chop the spruce tips to release their aromatic oils. (I didn't do this in the video but have since found that it releases more of the flavor). Place the chopped tips in a medium-large non-reactive heavy-bottomed pot with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for about 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Allow the spruce to steep until the mixture reaches room temperature. (If you'd like a stronger flavor, allow the spruce to steep in the water overnight. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor).
- Using a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer, strain out all the spruce needles so that only the liquid stays behind. Mix this liquid with the lemon juice and 5 teaspoons of calcium water (provided in the Pomona's Pectin package). Bring to a boil. Whisk the pectin powder into the sugar and mix well. Add the pectin-sugar mixture to the boiling liquid, whisking vigorously to fully dissolve the pectin and avoid clumping. Continue whisking until mixture returns to a full boil. Remove from heat. Fill hot, sterilized half-pint (8 oz) to 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and screw on the 2-piece lids.
- Store your jelly in the fridge, it will keep for up to a month.
Note 1: You can use other brands of pectin if you prefer but I recommend Pomona's to ensure proper gelling since this is a reduced-sugar recipe.
Yield: 5-6 half-pint jelly jars