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Spruce Tip jelly (fail)

 
pollinator
Posts: 217
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
45
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I've made syrups, chutneys, sauces, pickles, and compotes. I've canned vegetables, fruits, meats and soup..... but I've tried to make a number of jelly like products over the years... and they always fail.
I'm a jell-idiot.

This season's experiment was Spruce Tip jelly Jam. If you're not in the boreal forest you may not know: every Spring (around June here) the tips of spruce trees produce tender citrusy light green tips that people use to flavour meat, season sea salt and, infuse in alcohol for gin and tonics etc.

Similar to a Yarrow or Dandelion, one can make a syrup with these tips and get creative.

I did the following... can somebody tell me where I went wrong? Please?

4 cups spruce tips
4 cups water
4 cups raw organic cane sugar

I boiled these until it had very a slighty golden hue and was about simple syrup consistency; about 1 hour? Smelled AMAZING!
I strained the now soft tips from the liquid and put them aside.

I then let it all sit overnight until completely cool, the next morning I stirred in:

2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 pack of pectin crystals (Bernardin brand)

As the pectin powder package instructed I whisked in the powder, then brought to a rolling boil for about 1 minute.

Now, this is where I went rouge: I thought "why waste all these boiled tips? Why not make a funky Spruce Tip Jam!?"
So I finely blender-ized the tips and added them back to the liquid... in all honestly the colour was not amazing. Think baby poo green.
But I though "maybe it will look better spread on an english muffin?", and so I pressed on.

I oven heated my jars, boiled my lids, and poured the liquid into the jars. A few ring twists later: pop pop pop all sounded good.

But now I have 15 jars of baby poo green liquid, not set, not even good as a syrup anymore (I guess I could cheese-cloth strain the liquified needles back out).
Ideas, techniques, abuse? Bring it on.
spruce-tip-jelly-5.jpg
Time to plant the garden! Spruce tips are out!
Time to plant the garden! Spruce tips are out!
 
pollinator
Posts: 129
Location: zone 6a, ish
58
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Maybe it was the order you added the ingredients?  Jelly recipes usually call for pectin first, bring to a boil, add sugar and bring back to a boil, let boil one minute and take off the heat.  I think that's more to prevent pectin clumping, but I'm not sure.  

I think a more likely explanation is that the pH might have been too low to set, or maybe tannins in the spruce tips prevented the set.  Maybe temperature was a factor, if you added in cooled spruce tips and didn't bring it all back up to the boil.  Speaking of temperature, did you try putting one in the fridge or somewhere cold?  Sometimes pectin is weird and takes a long time to set, or just won't do it at room temp.

I would use it as-is for pancakes or just plop it in hot water for a drink or use as a meat sauce, or you could try reprocessing it.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1067
Location: Denmark 57N
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I feel your pain I've had all sorts of trouble with bought pectin whereas my own jams without it set fine! What I normally find is reboiling the entire thing gets it to set, and check the set before putting it in the jars. I'll be swearing at powdered pectin again in a few weeks.
 
Posts: 93
Location: Zone 9A, 45S 168E, 329m Queenstown, NZ
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if you have any crab apples, they are very high in pectin. Since they are not in season at the same time, just chop the crab apples, barely cover with water, boil and strain. Freeze the apple juice or bottle and hot water bath the apple extract and when spruce tips are available, boil them with the apple to extract the spruce tip flavour, strain and measure the volume of liquid. I really don't like very sweet preserves so usually only use half sugar to liquid - 500ml liquid, 250g sugar - most recipes stipulate equal sugar to juice but that is far too sweet for my taste. Once the sugar has been added, keep at a rolling boil for no longer than 20 minutes or it will become a rubbery mess. The high pectin content of the crab apples ought to ensure a good set.  I use crab apples to make mint jelly and boil the mint with the apples to extract the maximum flavour and just add finely shredded mint prior to bottling. Hope that this works for you.
 
Chris Sturgeon
pollinator
Posts: 217
Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
45
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Thank you all for the suggestions! Gives me a few things to think about.

S Tonin, you are right. looking at the pectin package again it does say to add sugar after the pectin. That may be it right there. Tannins  may be a culprit as well, I know I've had trouble with rose hip jelly before because of tannins, even when the pH is very low.

Skandi. Yes, I may as well trying reboiling. I've nothing to lose and I can move on to other options if it doesn't work.

Megan, No crab apples here (unfortunately fruit trees don't grow in zone 1a). You are making me miss warm lovely NZ! Some apples will grow just a few hours north of me near Dawson City. Maybe I can do a trade. Thanks for the idea.
 
Posts: 377
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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I would suspect if the traditional recipe is for a clear jelly, there's a reason for that.  Maybe the spruce tips add a bitter flavour... but I don't think that's related to why the jam didn't set.  But I know there are some fruits that stop gelatin jelly from setting, so then again...

But was going to add that sloes may grow in your region so that could be another source of high-pectin fruit to amend this jam with.  Also I have found that hawthorn sets really well.
 
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