Friday, June 6, 2014

'Tis the Season for Peony Jelly!

Collected petals from various peonies at Our Little Acre.
I know.  I hadn't heard of it before either. Then a few people called it to my attention on Facebook and wondered if I'd ever made it.  No, but it looked like something that should go on my to-do list, so I did it.  Wednesday's rain did a number on the peonies, so I decided to go out and pluck some petals and make that jelly.

I love peonies and also love that we live near the once Peony Capital of the World - Van Wert, Ohio.  Large peony farms once existed throughout the county and several hybrids came out of this area. This weekend the city celebrates the annual Peony Festival, which had its beginning back in 1932.

This has been a good year for peonies in my garden, with a couple exceptions.  The Itoh hybrid, 'Bartzella', didn't have a single bloom this year, but it's only the second year in my garden and peonies have been known to pout for a few years after planting or transplanting. I expect to see blooms on it next year.

Another Itoh, 'Lollipop', bloomed for the first time this year since planting it three years ago, although neither of its two blooms were particular pretty. (I have confidence they'll be better next year.) The tree peony that had to be moved when the greenhouse was built started blooming again.

The biggest success story was the purple tree peony, 'Kamatanishiki', which bloomed for the very first time in my garden and boy, did it.  I'm not sure I'd call it purple, but it was gorgeous.

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kamatanishiki'

When it was brought to my attention by several friends on Facebook that you could make jelly from peony petals, I was fascinated and wanted to try it.  It could not have been easier.  I generally followed the recipe posted by Joe and Janna at Imperfect Urban Farm in 2011, only changing the kind of pectin I used - powder versus liquid.

Peony Jelly

1 quart of peony petals (sort out green bits and bugs, and don't use any with brown edges)
5 cups of boiling water
3 Tbsp. lemon juice (juice of one lemon)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 package of liquid pectin or 2 Tbsp. powdered pectin

I picked an assortment of peony petals, choosing those that were most fragrant and only those that smelled good.  While I love the fragrance of most peonies, some of them don't smell as good as others. I gathered about a quart of them, although that is an arbitrary amount because it depends on how tightly you pack them.  The more, the better, I think, but I didn't smoosh them down much.

Then I poured about five cups of boiling water over the petals, which immediately caused them to wilt and get mushy. The fragrance changed to less of a perfumey smell to just smelling like green plants. I let them steep overnight, but it's recommended to let them sit for a minimum of six hours.

This is what the liquid from the steeped peony petals looked like after I strained it through cheesecloth.

The next morning, I poured the water off the petals, straining it through some cheesecloth. In the original post at IUF, they mention the color as being ugly, but mine was actually very pretty.  I think it may have been because of the dark red petals in my mix.

I used the juice of a Meyer lemon from my
own tree!
I ended up with about 3½ cups of liquid, which is what you want. Then I walked out my front door and picked a Meyer lemon from my pathetic-looking Meyer lemon tree that is growing four lemons and currently has about as many leaves. It conveniently had a ripe one when I needed it, and I squeezed as much juice out of it as I could.  The standard measurement for the juice of one lemon is three tablespoons and that's exactly what I got from mine, even though it was rather small.

When I added the lemon juice, the color of the liquid intensified quite a bit to a deeper pink.

It just LOOKS like it would taste good, doesn't it?

I brought the liquid to a boil, then added the sugar and powdered pectin.  The original recipe called for one package of liquid pectin, but I only had the powdered kind on hand and I found that two tablespoons of powdered equals one package of liquid. Note though that it's recommended you mix the powdered pectin in with the sugar before adding it to the liquid.  I whisked it all in and brought the liquid to a boil again, and boiled it for about three minutes.

The original recipe said to only boil it for a minute, but that just didn't seem long enough to me. After three minutes, the liquid coated a spoon so I knew it would thicken as it cooled.

This recipe yielded three pints of jelly for me.  Though it looks a little more orange in this photo, it's
actually a nice shade of pink.

I poured it into the jars and let it cool.  Later in the day, it was thicker, but wasn't thick enough to spread just yet, so I took a Club cracker and dipped it into the jelly to taste it. I don't even know how to describe it, but it's good.  Romie said he thought it was "kind of peachy, kind of like strawberry, something a little different, but it's good!" If you're expecting a berry type of jelly, it's not that. It would probably be in the same class as rose or lavender jelly.

If you try it or have made peony jelly in the past, I'd love to have some feedback here about your experience!

Paeonia lactiflora 'Charles Burgess', which is actually a deep red, rather than dark pink as it appears here.

An unknown single white, which grew from root stock of a tree peony that died above the graft.


spurge said...

Beautiful peonies! I'm not really sure that peony jelly sounds good to me... you are very brave for trying it! I love the fragrance of peonies, but they just do not smell like something I would like to eat :-) Gorgeous color though.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kylee. I'd never heard of peony jelly before. I'll have to ask my mom if she has. It sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing about it.

Kylee Baumle said...

Rebecca ~ I thought the same thing when I first read about the peony jelly, but I was pleasantly surprised! I thought that eating peony jelly might taste like eating perfume and ewwww, that wouldn't be good at all, but it wasn't like that. I wonder if different varieties of peonies would alter the taste of the jelly much.

Susanne ~ It was easy enough to make, and I'm always up for new experiences. I'm glad I made it and it's something that I might do again another year. It's not as good as the maple syrup, but that would be a hard one to beat. ;-)

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Never heard of it or made it but it looks and sounds yummy!!

Susan Heppeard said...

So, have you taste tested the jelly? What does it taste like?

Lona said...

Your peonies are so pretty. I have never heard of peony jelly either! It sure looks pretty in the jars.

Hoehoegrow said...

Your peony jelly looks totally gorgeous, but I must confess that I can't imagine how it would smell or taste ! I will take your word for it being good ! I certainly have enough petals to make it as very heavy rains, here in the UK, have decimated my poor old peonies !

Vicki @ Playin' Outside said...

Kylee - you know I love you but I'm so jealous of anyone who can grow peonies, I could just spit! They're my favorite flowers and they hate our Texas heat. This recipe is almost identical to one I make from organic rose petals, though. Maybe we'll have to swap jams and jellies to save our friendship.

Kylee Baumle said...

Donna ~ I still prefer a berry based jelly, but it's a nice change!

Susan ~ You must have missed that part in the blog post... ;-)

Lona ~ It is pretty, isn't it?

Jane ~ It doesn't taste anything like how peonies smell. I don't think anyone would enjoy it if it did! Yeah, rain can ruin a good peony bloom, can't it?

Vicki ~ I feel bad that you can't grow peonies down there. Bad, until I consider all the things you can grow year round that I can't! LOL. This might make you feel better about the peony jelly though. I'm thinking it probably tastes similar to what (from memory) rose jelly does. I would certainly put it in that category. I can bring some to the Fling for you if you'd like! And that friendship thing? We'll always be friends. :-)

Betsy said...

I love peonies but never knew they could be eaten. I make rose petal jelly and that is good.
Will have to try it.
glad I found your blog

Unknown said...

After a quarter century in this house, with a dozen peony bushes, I learned on the weekend that peony flowers are edible - incredible! I made your jelly today; it tastes great and I was pleased with the quantity too. Your instructions are really clear - thank you.

If you don't mind a longer post, let me tell you how I found out about the edible peony... Here in Canada, there is an option to privately sponsor refugees that have been pre-screened by the government. Our church recently sponsored a young family from Syria who have now been here a few months, and we have found some incredibly helpful volunteer interpreters in our community who speak their language. We honoured all of them after our church service on Sunday and I gave a bouquet of peonies to each family as they left. One of the women took me aside and excitedly showed me photos on her phone of relatives making peony jam back home. I could hardly wait to investigate that and especially look forward to a hit of late spring during the winter months!

luann said...

Is there anyway that you would share your rose petal jelly recipe? here is my e-mail if u don't want to post it here- dying to try it! thanks.

Kylee Baumle said...

luann ~ I don't have a rose petal recipe. This is the only one I have. Sorry! :-(

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