“Who is Kathryn Yeomans?” The trio of women huddled over the tiny glass jar lifted their heads and scanned the room.
“She’s my wife,” a voice offered.
“Where is she? We need to know more about this,” one of the women said, pointing to a delicately colored pink jelly amidst a banquet of brown.
We were at a Forager’s dinner – pot luck – hosted by the Oregon Mycological Society. The table was laden with casseroles, gratins, and soups made with a myriad of mushrooms. Stuffed mushrooms, mushroom pickles, mushrooms grilled and roasted. And for dessert – a candy cap mushroom apple crisp. No doubt a dainty pink offering would cause some questioning.
Daucus carota. Wild carrot. A beautiful lacy white bloom. It’s scent, somewhat sweet but distinctly carrot, might not exactly make you think – let’s make floral jelly with this! But should you try, you will be in for an exhibition of alchemy, as the stinky army-green tea of wild carrot flower is transformed into a honeyed sweet débutante-pink jelly. A food fairy tale of sorts.
Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly
adapted from the Sage Cottage Herb Garden Cookbook by Dorry Baird Norris
2 cups very firmly packed Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, snipped from their stems close to the blossom
5 cups boiling water
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 package Sure-Jell “no sugar needed” or “for less or no sugar recipes” (formerly “Sure Jell light) – do not use regular Sure Jell for this recipe, or you will end up with syrup rather than jelly
4 1/2 Tbsp. strained lemon juice
Place the flowers in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Cover the bowl and allow the flowers to steep in the water for 15 minutes. Strain the tea (the first time I made this recipe, I was alarmed by both the unappetizing murky green color of the tea, and the strong carrot-top smell…I forged ahead despite my trepidation).
Measure 4 1/2 cups of the strained infusion and add it to a large non-reactive pot. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar with the Sure-Jell, and stir it into the flower tea in the pot. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat. Immediately stir in the remaining sugar and return to a boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute, skimming the foam (impurities) that rise to the surface. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, and skim again if needed. Pour the jelly at once into sterilized jars, cover with sterilized lids, and seal.
Enjoy Queen Anne’s Lace jelly with toast or spread on biscuits or pound cake, or serve it like I do, as a “spoon sweet” –
Literally eaten from a spoon, spoon sweets are traditionally served from crystal dishes, using small teaspoons, with strong coffee, or tea, and iced water. They are a brought forth as a gesture of hospitality in the Balkans, Middle East, and Russia.
A warning – Queen Anne’s Lace has a dangerous poison look-alike. Poison Hemlock has been mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace – a deadly mistake indeed (the death of Socrates was brought on by poison hemlock), though if you are familiar with the definite differences, they hardly look alike at all – plus, wild carrot leaves smell distinctly of carrot, while hemlock smells quite unpleasant.
Queen Anne’s Lace has medicinal uses – in fact, the seeds have been used as a contraception. The roots of the plant can be used to make paper. For more about daucus carota uses, check out the World Carrot Museum.