Fireweed Jelly

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!)
5cups sugar
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.

11 Responses to Fireweed Jelly

  1. Hi Hannah, this sounds so interesting. What does it taste like and what are the nutritional or medicinal attributes? I love that you are trying such a different experience. Here in South Africa zero waste is just in it’s infancy. Bea Johnson came out in May and things are suddenly seeming to gain traction.
    Sadly the vast majority of our population are battling to survive and would probably benefit from looking at some of the basics. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Eleanor

    • The plant has somewhat of a bitter taste naturally, but in jellies and syrups it is quite sweet – a bit like a strawberry jam. The shoots are a good source of Vitamin C and A, and can be eaten raw in salads too. The medicinal uses (which I have no personal experience with – disclaimer!) are that it can be used as an astringent and is good at reducing pain, swelling, and fevers.

      Also, I can totally relate to what you’re saying about zero waste being in it’s infancy in South Africa. Here in rural Alaska the living conditions are still VERY behind the rest of the US (I enjoy it, but it is very third-world-esque), so zero waste isn’t even really a thing here. All of the preserving and such that we do is because we’ve learned from locals and that’s how they have to survive without access to things like stores. I would be very interested to hear more about where you live!

  2. Love it! I, too, make jams and jellies…but more traditional…strawberry, red raspberry, and mulberry of late. But I had a dear friend who is deceased…we live in the Midwest…and she did so many things like the pioneers and used local things. She made wild violet, corn cob and I can’t remember what other types of jellies she made. They were so yummy! We often overlook the things right under our noses as we go about our busy lifes. You are definitely resourceful!
    I like to take my jelly or jam and make cupcakes and bake a tsp in the center….nice surprise when you bite in. Or I like to take a cake I have baked and when it cools, spread a layer of jam/jelly on it before frosting. Just shakes things up a bit. Knew you said things got kind of monotonous (sp?)….so since you now have the jelly, thought that might be an idea.
    Loving you sharing all your adventures and look forward to each post. Good luck in this new school year.

    • Hi Linda, and a special shoutout to a fellow Midwesterner! 🙂

      I’ve never tried to bake jelly into my cupcakes before, but now I feel like I need that in my life ASAP. Do you just layer it in? Like fill the cupcake tins half full, put in a spoonful of the jelly, and then fill the tins the rest of the way? I really think some lemon and fireweed cupcakes would be amazing!

      • Yes, I just spoon in a little and top with more batter and bake. Or if I have already baked cupcakes or cake and want to add some, I will take a wooden spoon handle and poke a hole in the middle and fill with jam before frosting. Kind of like a Hostess cupcake surprise filling….only hopefully healthier and tastier:)

    • If you live somewhere with fireweed, I highly recommend eating it! You can make the petals into syrups or jellies. The raw shoots (before the flowers bloom) are also super rich in Vitamin A and C and make good additions to salads.

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