Oregon Grape Jelly
Oregon Grape may just be the most underused yet widely available foraging opportunity out there. Oregon Grape not only grows all over the northwest but well beyond, and it’s also an especially popular landscaping plant in urban areas. Oregon Grape also provides crucial early season flowers for bees. There are nearly limitless opportunities to harvest this fruit and my guesstimate would be that about 99% of the fruit never is. A bit of a shame considering that all those antioxidants could be in your body fighting free-radicals. My kids and I gathered four pounds of Oregon Grape fruit by a parking lot near our home in a matter of minutes. The fruit grows in clusters that are easy to harvest but watch out for the thorny leaves, not nearly as bad as blackberries though. The fruit is dark and rich (hence the antioxidants) but also fairly sour so it lends itself to jellies and reduction sauces. Pomona’s Universal Pectin is great to have on hand as it (unlike other pectins) does not need refined sugar to make work properly. You can use honey, maple syrup, any other sweetener with Pomona’s which also means, any juice on hand can be made into jelly, very handy. Pomona’s Pectin comes with instructions for all its applications but I will adapt them to this recipe here. If you have another pectin however, just use those instructions after combining the juice from the Oregon Grape, honey and lemon juice. I like to use half pint canning jars which will leave a little space for freezing some of the jelly if desired.
Oregon Grape Jelly
4 cups Oregon Grapes
4 cups water
¾ cup honey (½-1 cup depending on preference)
¼ Cup lemon juice
4 tsp Pomona’s Universal Pectin
4 tsp calcium water (calcium powder is included with the pectin – follow package instructions to make calcium water)
4-5 half pint canning jars
Begin by placing the fruit in a bowl and filling with water to clean and float off the stems. They just need a quick rinse and it really doesn’t matter if you get every stem. Strain out the water. Next add the Oregon Grape and water to a medium pot. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat and cover. Maintain a very gentle simmer for one hour. Remove from heat and macerate with a potato masher or other utensil and then let sit to cool for about 10 minutes.
Next strain into a bowl through a regular size strainer. Push with the back of a spoon to get all the juice out that you can. You will need exactly 4 cups of juice so if you need more just add a little more water to the fruit, mix up and strain into the rest.
Discard pulp and rinse out the pot, then pour strained juice back into the empty pot. Add the lemon juice and calcium water and bring to a boil.
Add honey and pectin to a small bowl and mix well. Once the juice mix has come to a boil, add the honey mix to juice mix and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes, until the pectin is completely dissolved.
Pour into clean jars and either can, freeze or put into refrigerator for immediate use. If freezing or refrigerating, make sure to cool completely before placing into freezer or refrigerator. If canning, follow your normal canning instructions.