Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nothing says Spring like Lilac Jelly !

Happy weekend, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have an interesting recipe for you. I've been cooking all month since I only have one deadline left. Although, I had a hard time choosing what to bring to the cafe, Edna helped me decide.
The lilacs are in bloom!
Did you know there are over 60 varieties of lilacs?
We have our half an acre of a backyard ringed with lilacs and there are four different varieties. My favorite are these double blooms.
So, to make lilac jelly we must have lilacs! You'll need 2 cups of packed blossoms. This means stripping the flowers from the bushes and picking off the green stems.
I doubled my recipe, but you'll need a package of Sure-Jell.
Rise your lilac blossoms in cold water.
For every 2 cups of packed lilacs, add 2 1/2 cups of BOILING WATER.
At this point I'm thinking this is going to be a big batch! 
Weigh down the lilacs with a plate...
And let it sit overnight or for 8 hours. The water around the lilacs will start to turn brown. Don't worry, this is natural.
Edna had a wonderful time with this recipe. She said it all reminded her of one of her favorite poems.

Sometimes - Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

(And in case anyone thinks Miss Sheenagh Pugh is going to sue me for using this... here's her response to whether or not we can use her poem... And I should have left her name off, but Edna made me keep it. Sheenagh can come and discuss it with Edna.)
Of course, we have lilac here and not muscadel (those little grape hyacinth), but indeed, this spring is one of these "sometimes"!
OK, put away the poetry and strain out the blossoms.
Hmmmmm.... The kids are look at this and shaking their heads. 
For every two cups of liquid, add 1/4 cup lemon juice. 
Add  1/2 tsp butter, and one box of pectin to a heavy-bottomed pan.
Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 4 cups of sugar. Bring back to a boil.
Remove from heat and skim foam. 
Let the liquid cool a bit and then add to clean jars.  They can be sealed with a ten minute water bath. (Put the jars in a pot half filled with water, and bring to a simmer, letting it boil for ten minutes.)
Letting them cool. I really do like how this color came out. I was a little worried by that brown muck in the measuring cup.
I did find some odd bits in the jelly, like insects trapped in amber, but I think it adds to the *ahem* charm of the product.
  Here is Edna, teaching "Sometimes" to the lilac jelly jars. We're going to send them out into the world with that little poem printed on a card, and tied with a raffia ribbon. Because, "sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss" and we wish it for you!

 Happy spring, all! We'll leave you with a picture of the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede. We were the ground crew for one of the pilots and even though we had to get up at FOUR IN THE MORNING, it was a wonderful experience.
 I just saw the sun rise!
 Almost all the brothers...
 Balloons getting ready for passengers.
 Almost... up....
 First in flight!
 Goodbye, balloon!
 Someone is sneaking up on us!
 Isabel wore two sweaters and a coat, thinking it would be cold. She had no idea she would be standing in front of the FIRE.
 Another launches from behind the trees.
 Our pilot, Ingrid, needed some human sandbags.
 Ana is ready to take a nap and it's only 6 AM!
 Little dude hated the sound of the burners. And there were a lot of burners.
 Lots of rainbows!
 The inside of the Liberty Bell. 
 Kids squishing the air out of the pocket, now that the balloon is wrapped back up and inside.
Ingrid taught Jacob the Daisy Chain knot and he's been practicing ever since.
 And then we were part of the Night Glow exhibit. Not early in the morning, but late at night.
 At dusk, all the balloons are fired up.
 All at once, like a race! Up, up, up!!
 This was ours. Great pilot, he was a hoot. And again, we were human sandbags to weigh down the balloon while the pilots made the balloons glow in unison with the music the played through the speakers.
 I went back to the sidelines for a bit and took a few pictures. There were about 15 balloons and they were beautiful at night. Thousands of people came to cheer them on. It was like the Fourth of July... but no fireworks.
 It gets hot right under the burners. But if you get out, it was chilly. Cold, hot, cold, hot.

Here's our pilot telling some story we can't really hear...

And the best part was our friend Mindy was here for a visit, all the way from Savage, Montana! Talk about togetherness time. "Hey, wanna come use your body weight to hold down a giant balloon while having your hair singed by propane flames?" And she said yes, of course, because she's cool like that.

One more thing! In honor of the paperback release of Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits NEXT MONTH, I'm giving away a Jane Austen/ Regency style bonnet on my blog. You know you want it! Edna has one in powder blue and it's quite fetching.


  1. Oh my goodness! I love, love, love lilacs! So how have I never heard of lilac jelly?!? I'm gonna have to try this, but it'll have to wait till next year as our lilacs have just finished for the season. :( Oh well. At least I have hot air balloons and cute kids to distract me. :-)

  2. Guess what, Clari! This recipe works on all edible flowers! So, stop spraying those dandelions and start making them into jelly. :) Seriously, I was thinking of trying elderflower and maybe honeysuckle. This has a VERY strong flavor, great over cream cheese. I was wondering about a lavender version, too.
    A friend of mine made blueberry-lavender jelly last year and it was AMAZING.

  3. Well I'm gobsmacked. I didn't even know lilacs were edible! Our lilac season hasn't started yet so there's still time...if I'm brave enough. I've had lavender chocolate before and it's divine...something about that hint of lavender. Oh and lavender scones. Yum. But lilacs?!

    Love the hot air balloon fest. We have one here over labor day weekend. It's spectacular but I'd never have the nerve to go up in one!!!!

    1. They offered my older kids rides but... I said no. They were irked at me but I told them if they wanted to go up in a flaming balloon contraption, they could.... when they were older and I didn't have to watch.

  4. I think lilac jelly should be lilac....can cause color confusion or something! I've eaten rose petals before- went with a friend to this lake that had an herb farm restaurant (big clue you probably won't get much food...and that was unfortunately true) but they had homemade bread in this little flower pot (wanted a BIGGER flower pot)! and a little bitty salad that I think Martha stewart would envy for beauty - had little seeds and rose petals over the top - probably 4 bites total. I dont' even rmember what the main meal was but I remember getting back to the cabin and heating up a can of wolf chili...and friend saying he hoped breakfast was a little heftier than that andh e could do without the weird stuff(wasn't by much and I asked him exactly how he thought eating at 'herb hilltop restaurant' wouldn't have herbs?!) sadly the place sold out to developers :-( not sure what happened ot he herb place but wanted o go back since my tastes changed between then and now

    one of my cousins loves the balloon festival near our hometown -well it is her home town but just near mine - she tries to take her kids there every year - the oldest is finally appreciating the early hours but the littlest ain't there yet!


    1. Hahahaha!!! Oh, your description if the herb farm cracked us up! ( I read it yo my kids.) I'm with you there. I'd need some real food.

  5. Oh, this is so interesting... I've heard of lilac jelly but have never tried it. But I love poetry so you had me at hello!!!!

    Hot air balloon fests... I love them. I featured the Great Wellsville Balloon Rally in "Small-town Hearts" and I loved the research! My goddaugher's father-in-law is a balloonist and it's funny how competitive they get. That was a new reality for me and not something I could use in my book, but I was amazed. So Virginia, is that because we're New Yorkers???? Or are balloonists kind of competitive out there, too?

    And I love the pictures of the kidlets!!!!!

    1. Well, we crewed for three pilots total and.... I think it's just New Yorkers! They even would run across the field to help each other. They only difference is apparently some name their balloons and some don't. And those who do great them like family.

  6. Our lilac season is behind this year, too, Kav... We're in the middle of the big Rochester Lilac Festival but few flowers. The cold has kept them back, but when they do bloom????

    So nice! Gorgeous!

    1. Soooo, this year they did not face down frost?? So sorry!

  7. Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers. They take me back to my childhood in Michigan. Unfortunately, lilacs do not fare well in Texas. Wisteria is a close substitute, though. We used to have one in the backyard that was so fragrant you smelled it as soon as you stepped outside.

    So I'm curious, Virginia, does the jelly smell like lilac? And what does it taste like?

    1. Mindy! You mentioned that before and I ran to my Austen 3 book that was in edits.... because I had a house surrounded by lilacs. I asked a Mississippi friend and she confirmed: not many lilacs in the South. So I changed it to a wisteria. :) Thanks for that!

    2. Oh! Very fragrant but not a strong flavor. Sweet, but you get the sense that most of the taste is coming through your nose. Delicate, like sweet flowers. Not strong like a berry jelly but it needs a good base, like fresh bread or cream cheese on crackers. Of course my kids were eating it with a spoon!

    3. uh oh now the wisteria will take over their house LOL! I love wisteria - I should plant one out back and think about my dad every time (he always chopped my mom's back because he claimed if it grew you'd walk outside one day and find your chain link fence taken to the ground and maybe even your house...never saw one do that myself)

    4. actually the area where I grew up (east Texas Longview Tyler area) had a lot of azaleas - the first house I remember we had hydrangeas around the back side of the house. and an althea and gardenia...dunno what they have down here in Houston - hibiscus and I"ve seen azaleas too..Tyler had tons of roses - we used to go to the Tyler Rose Garden when we were kids

    5. So glad I could be of service, Virginia. ;)

    6. Suzy, we have some azaleas here, but not many. On the wetter side of the state, we have HUGE azalea and Rhododendron gardens in Portland. But here... it's too dry. Really, really tough to grow that kind of bush. Lilacs grow naturally here. Lots of sprouts around the trees and in the grass. we have to pull the new grouth like weeds.

    7. And I've had a wisteria for about five years and it never bloomed. It grew up to the eaves of the house, but nothing more. Sad!

  8. There was so much coolness in this post! I miss lilacs. Lilacs are one my favorite blossoms. The balloons were great too. Thanks for sharing. Off to see about that bonnet!

    1. Tina, did you see the part about pictures? If you win, you must give us a pic of it in the big wide world. (I can't really hold anyone to that but it's worth a shot!)

  9. I really, REALLY want to taste lilac jelly!! I'm going to go look for some online.

    I love lilacs. I used to see them some in KY but haven't seen any here in GA. They're one of my favorites! Thanks for sharing! I'm about to pin your GORGEOUS flower photo on Pinterest. Love your new camera and your photography talent!

    1. It's a wonderful camera and I just wish I knew more about how to use it. Sometimes it just blinks at me like, "nahhhh, this isn't gonna work" and I have to put it on auto because my setting makes no sense. :(