After arriving back in the village, things in our household went into hyperdrive. Not only was I preparing for a new school year, but we needed to get some subsistence activities completed before winter. You see, we try to provide as much food for ourselves as we possibly can. This means my husband is out hunting and we are both out fishing, berry picking, and harvesting plants. I had my sights set on one particular plant – fireweed.
Fireweed is a flower that grows in the northern hemisphere. Here in Alaska, it is used to make jellies, syrups, tea, and even medicine. Personally, I use it to make super delicious jelly. Fireweed tends to bloom in the summer though, and mid/late August (when we arrived) is the end of summer in Alaska. I had to harvest a TON of fireweed in order to get the eight cups of petals that I needed to make my recipe because many of the plants had started to lose their petals already. Luckily, my husband was happy to help me. We spent a wonderful, sunny afternoon cutting the tops of the fireweed plants in a large field we found outside the village.
After collecting our fireweed, I took it home and laid it out on some newspaper on an extra table that we have. After letting it dry a bit (I let it sit for about 48hrs), I then picked all the petals off of the plants. Then, it was time to cook!
8cups of packed petals (no leaves!)
2packets OR 7tbs of Pectin
1/4cup lemon juice
4 1/2cups water
Place petals, lemon juice, and water in a large pan. Bring water to a boil. Once boiling, set the timer for 10 minutes, stir frequently. Petals will begin to lose their color and the water will turn a deep purple. Remove from heat and strain out petals. MAKE SURE TO SAVE THE JUICE!! I strain my juice into a large glass bowl. Then, return juice to the original pan and heat on medium. Add all of the pectin at once and stir. Bring back to a boil and add sugar. Make sure to return the mixture to a boil for about 5minutes after adding sugar. Remove from heat and distribute into hot mason jars. Process the jelly either by using a pressure canner or boiling method for 5-7 minutes.
I was so excited when my jelly was finished. Fireweed jelly is one of my absolute favorite Alaskan treats. There are few things that I like more than eating fireweed jelly on toast while enjoying a good book on a Saturday morning. I also love that fireweed jelly is something unique to our region and that we can take advantage of it and provide for ourselves. The subsistence activities that are afforded to us in our little corner of the world are pretty substantial and amazing.