Walking just about anywhere in the countryside here in Ohio, you will find the beautifully intricate white flower called Queen Anne’s Lace. I recently learned from my herbalist neighbor that it, too, is on the edible plants list. She gave me an old-time recipe to try so that I could learn how to make jelly from this edible weed.
About Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace is also sometimes called “wild carrot.” If you’ve ever grown carrots, you will recognize the family resemblance in the greenery. Though it stands much taller, the leaves of this plant are frilly and fine, just like those of its domesticated cousin. It, too, grows a thick taproot, which can be eaten. Before carrots were widely grown, this wild version was commonly boiled and eaten as a vegetable. The flowers are its true prize though – both lovely and edible.
The Queen Anne’s Lace flowerhead is made up of hundreds of tiny white blooms, each with a barely visible purple center. The flower got its name from a legend about Queen Anne pricking her finger with a needle, leaving a small drop of blood on a piece of white lace she was wearing. That purplish center is said to be her blood.
When the flower begins to open, and again after it is done blooming, it resembles a small nest with tiny twigs sticking out at its base. Around us, the flowers begin their bloom mid- to late-June and continue until the autumn.
Something to keep in mind if you’re going to try harvesting Queen Anne’s Lace for its flowers or root is that it has several look-alike poisonous cousins, which often grow in similar conditions and locations. The first, which grows everywhere around here, is Water Hemlock. This plant, too, sprouts clusters of tiny white flowers. There are several ways to tell this apart from Queen Anne’s Lace. First of all, it blooms much earlier in the spring. Water Hemlock is one of the first plants to come out after the cold breaks. Its stem is much thicker and has purplish veins running up it. And finally, the flowers are more branched out – less “nest-like.”
The second poisonous cousin of Queen Anne’s Lace to look out for is Wild Parsley. We don’t have this as much so I’m not as familiar with it. I do know that its flowers are more yellowish.
If in doubt, though, don’t pick it! That’s a good rule of thumb to follow with any wild edible plants.
How to Make Jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace
I was talking to my neighbor about wanting to try making jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace. I told her, I knew how to make peach jam and other types of jam, but that I didn’t have a lot of experience with how to make jelly. I told her I thought I would just look up canning recipes on the internet for Queen Anne’s Lace jelly. She insisted that she had a great canning recipe, from the “old country ladies.” The generations past knew how to use their wild edible plants so I gladly accept their knowledge. The recipe came, like the best do, with notes scribbled all over it!
The first step for how to make jelly was to gather my flowers. I walked my property looking for large, healthy, open flower-heads. I filled my basket with just over thirty flowers, plucking them off of their stems at the base of the flower.
I brought them home and rinsed them well in the sink then laid them out on a towel until I was ready for them.
Meanwhile, I brought seven cups of water to a boil. Once the water came to a strong boil, I removed it from the heat, added my Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, covered it, and let it steep for ten minutes.
After 10 minutes, I poured the infusion through a strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth. The flowers I added to the compost bin.
The resulting tea, was golden in color. I measured it to make sure I had six cups then poured it back into the pot and turned the heat back up.
I stirred in the two boxes of powdered pectin, using a whisk to make sure it all dissolved and was well mixed.
When it returned to a rolling boil, I stirred in all seven cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon (about three tablespoons).
Again, I stirred this well with the whisk to integrate everything.
Then I continued to stir with a spoon until it came to a good rolling boil.
At this point, I set the timer – one minute. When the timer went off, I did the spoon test to check if it was gelling. Dip your spoon into the jelly then hold it up and let the jelly drip off of it. If it comes right off the spoon quickly in lots of tiny drops, it’s not ready. If it sort of slides down to the middle of the spoon and falls off in one or two larger drops, it’s done.
Mine was ready, so I removed it from the heat and brought it over by the sink to skim off the scum that forms at the top. Using a spoon, gently slide over the surface collecting the white foam and rinsing it off under running water.
Continue doing this until you’ve gotten it all off and your jelly looks clear.
Preserving your Jelly: Water Bath Canning
Now you are ready to fill your sanitized jars for water bath canning. There are lots of good canning recipes and how-to’s out there, but it’s really a pretty simple process.
I had just run my jars through the dishwasher. You can also drop them into your canning pot with boiling water to clean them. Whatever is easiest for you, but be sure they are sanitized before you put any food in them.
I spread them out on my counter. I find it’s difficult to pour hot jelly straight from the pot into jars, especially if you’re using the tiny sample size jars, so I usually pour mine into a large measuring cup and fill jars from that. Fill these jars to near the top, leaving about ¼” of headspace (empty space near the top).
I learned recently to try to keep the container you are pouring from (measuring cup or pot) very close to the rim of the jar in order to prevent the formation of lots of tiny air bubbles in your jelly. If you end up with bubbles it’s okay. It won’t hurt the product, but it doesn’t look quite as pretty. You can also use a chopstick to gently whirl around in the filled jar and get some of the air out.
Next, wipe the rims of the jars clean with a wet towel then apply your lids and bands finger tight. Drop them down into your canning pot, which should be at a rolling boil. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars by at least an inch. Set the lid in place and process. The smallest sample size jars I process about five minutes; larger eight-ounce jars I leave in about eight minutes.
After they are finished in the water bath canner, set your jars on a towel on your counter to cool. The symphony of popping lids should ensue quickly: the canner’s favorite music!
Any jars that haven’t popped in an hour or so should be refrigerated. The others, you can remove the bands for storage, label and put them away.
Now you’ll have a taste of summer’s sweetness to enjoy all winter long. This spread, like that of another wild edible flower – dandelion jelly, looks and tastes a lot like honey.
Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly
Adapted from the Adams County Herb Guild
- 7 cups water
- 30 large Queen Anne’s Lace flower heads
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of one lemon)
- 2 packages powdered pectin
- 7 cups sugar
- Gather and wash your flowers.
- Bring water to a boil then remove from heat and add flowers. Cover and let steep about 10 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through two layers of cheesecloth and measure your resulting tea.
- Return six cups of tea to the pot, stir in pectin and bring back to a hard boil, stirring often.
- Add lemon juice and pour in the sugar all at once. Stir vigorously to mix ingredients thoroughly.
- When mixture returns to a rolling boil, set a timer for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, check to see that it has gelled.
- If so, remove from heat and skim.
- Pour into sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 5-8 minutes depending on the size of the jar.
Makes about ten 8 ounce jelly jars.
Once you learn how to make jelly and get the basics of water bath canning down, you have so many more options available for you than what you can find in your average grocery store. Fill your pantry with specialties like this Queen Anne’s Lace jelly or try something exotic like a pomegranate jelly recipe. What kind of jelly will you make first? Let us know in the comments below.