If you’ve ever been curious to know what a forest tastes like, then this recipe is for you. Spruce trees put out pale green buds covered in delicate brown paper husks.

Essentially, they are little bundles of baby spruce needles and at this stage they are still soft and tender. Their flavor is reminiscent of Christmas, with a distinct element of citrus and all the vitality of a forest bursting.

Spruce is not the only edible conifer. Fir and pine are edible as well and all are packed with vitamin C. You can make spruce tip syrup for some extra special woodsy drinks. You can also make spruce tip vinegar; by simply packing a bunch of spruce tips into a bottle of apple cider vinegar and let it sit. The flavour is amazing, and some spruce tip salt for sprinkling on food or sandwiches.

But the best of all has been this light spruce tip jelly, which is a delight with cheese and crackers. I imagine it’s lovely on any food. You can simply make it and store it in the fridge for up to a month.

Harvest the tips when they are still pale green in color. If they’re still covered with the brown papery husk, you can quickly remove it with your fingertips. Sometimes simply rubbing your hand across a branch will make them all fall off. As in all wild gathering, it’s important to abide by good foraging principles and be thoughtful about not removing all the tips from any one given tree.

Ingredients


6 cups spruce tips
6 cups water
2 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice*
5 tsp pectin
1/4 cup good quality honey (optional)

Directions

1. Roughly chop the spruce tips to release their aromatic oils. Place the chopped tips in a medium-large, heavy-bottomed pot with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for about 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Allow the spruce to steep until the mixture reaches room temperature. If you'd like a stronger flavor, allow the spruce to steep in the water overnight. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor.

2. Using cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer, strain out all the spruce needles so that only the liquid stays behind. Mix this liquid with the lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Whisk the pectin powder into the sugar and mix well. Add the sugar mixture to the boiling liquid, whisking vigorously to fully dissolve the pectin and avoid clumping. Continue whisking until mixture returns to a full boil. Remove from heat. Fill hot, sterilized half-pint (8 oz) to 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and screw on the 2-piece lids.

3. Store your jelly in the fridge.

For longer storage, process the jars in a water bath.

Place the filled jars in boiling water, making sure they are fully submerged and covered by a minimum of one inch of water above the lids. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water and allow the jars to cool. The next day, check the seal to make sure each jar is properly sealed. Eat within 1 year./AgroWeb.org