Long before the internet, and certainly long before there were ecourses, I enrolled in an Herbalist course the old fashioned way. Carefully cutting a registration form out of The Herb Companion magazine, I mailed it along with my check (a check!) to Rosemary Gladstar, who would send my course materials from her mountainside home in Vermont.
Rosemary's course is amazing. I refer to those materials still, and found her format to be a perfect fit for me. I think she was quite ahead of her time really, offering an alternative education that didn't require a specific location on behalf of the student. Everything was beautifully designed and the content progressed in a logical, thorough manner.
Prior to signing up for her course, I took another workshop with Rosemary's assistant at the time, Janice Dynsdale. I believe it was a Winter Remedies class. Janice urged us to deepen and trust our intuition when it came to the herbs we might be in need of on any particular day. In other words, each morning she stood in front of her herbal pantry with a quart sized mason jar in hand, selecting the herbs her body was calling for - then her quart of tea would be made with the day's selection. She made a quart of tea in this manner each morning and sipped it as a tonic throughout the day.
This is something that applies to the food we eat, as well. Some days call for more greens, an extra handful of berries and nuts, or a larger piece of fish... other days call for a break from sweets and grains, or even too many raw vegetables. Tuning in to our own rhythm, our own schedule, and even our own geography can help us to find the answers to the questions what to eat, and what herbs to use... on any given day.
Recently, my lemon balm has been practically jumping out of the garden! Begging to be used in new and tasty ways. I adore lemon balm (although next year it is being moved to its rightful place in the ever invasive mint garden), and enjoy it in iced tea quite often. Though too much of it can lead to an overabundance of summertime naps due to its wonderfully calming and sedative properties. Maybe that's a good thing!
So, looking for other flavorful but perhaps less concentrated uses for lemon balm, I decided to make jelly! This isn't really the kind of jelly one would slather between two slices of bread with some peanut butter... but a dollop on a cheese plate (oh, how I love a good farm to table cheese plate), warmed up and drizzled over vanilla ice cream, swirled into plain yogurt, served over goat cheese, smeared onto a few almonds or pecans, or even used as a glaze in the last few minutes of cooking chicken or fish? Oh yes, that's where something like Lemon Balm Jelly really shines.
And the sweetener I use? You guessed it - honey! No longer must we use all that sugar in our jelly and jam making. There is flexibility in this recipe, with the amount of honey and with the amount of lemon balm used.
A few recipe notes:
Honey - Unlike fruit jelly, the base of Lemon Balm Jelly offers zero sweetness, so you'll notice call for a little more honey than in my fruit jams. Adjust as you'd like, but I assure you the called for amount of honey does not yield an eeww too sweet jelly.
Lemon Balm - I really like this to be quite herbaceous so I call for 3 packed cups of lemon balm leaves. You could reduce it to as little as 2 packed cups and it is still yummy... but the 3 cups would be my recommendation. And if your lemon balm is like mine, it's spilling out of your garden right now and you've got plenty to work with!
Straining - It is best when making jelly to move quickly. Once your jelly reaches gel stage, be ready to pour it right into your clean, hot jars. If you don't move quickly enough (like me) and it starts to get cloudy, funky spots, don't worry, you can strain the jelly through a fine mesh tea strainer. See photo below. In this particular recipe you'll lose the lemon zest if you strain it, so it is best to try and get it into the jars quickly.
Flavor - This recipe is wonderfully herbal and mellow tasting. It is not a bright lemon citrus jelly. The flavor intensifies as it is jarred up then cooled. So if you give your hot jelly a sample test, the final flavor will not be revealed at that time.
Sterilizing - To sterilize my jars I run them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting and time my jam/jelly making for when the cycle is just finished. It is also important to steralize all your instruments. such as funnels, scoops, spoons, strainers, etc. To do this I just toss them into the boiling water of my canner for a minute. It is sitting there ready to go on the stove so why not? Works perfectly! (See photo below.)
A tea strainer inside a wide mouth funnel is great for straining jelly directly into jars if necessary.
A quick and easy way to sterilize your canning tools.
Drop them in the boiling (though not in this picture) water of the canner for a minute or two.
Let's make jelly!
Honey Lemon Balm Jelly
Makes approx. 8 half pint jars.
- 3 cups (packed) fresh lemon balm leaves
- 6 cups water
- 1 1/2 - 3 cups local honey (choose amount that suits your tastes)
- juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 8 teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
- 8 teaspoons calcium water (made using calcium powder that comes with Pomona's Pectin, instructions included in package)
- In very hot water, wash and rinse 8 half pint canning jars. This can be done by hand or in the dishwasher. Do this right before ready to use so jars are still hot.
- Add lids and rings to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a strong simmer but do not boil. Keep lids and rings in hot water as you prepare jam.
- Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the lemon balm . Remove from heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain the "tea" squeezing the leaves to remove all the liquid.
- Stir in the fresh lemon juice, zest and calcium water. You should have very close to 6 cups of liquid after the lemon juice is added. If you don't, add enough water to make 6 cups.
- Measure honey and pectin into a separate bowl, stir thoroughly (you can start with less honey and add more later).
- In a saucepan over the highest possible heat, bring the "tea" mixture to a boil then add the honey/pectin mixture. Check (taste) to see at this time if you would like to add more honey. Bring mixture back up to a hard rolling boil, time it for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now it is time to transfer the jelly to jars.
- Using a sterilized wide mouth funnel and small measuring cup as a scoop, fill hot/clean jars leaving 1/4" head space at the top. Place lids on the top and screw on bands, not too tightly.
- Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Add one minute more for every 1,000 feet of elevation.)
- Using a jar lifter, remove from water once processed. Allow to sit in one spot and cool completely.
- Add to your pantry!
Print Recipe - Honey Lemon Balm Jelly
Happy Lemon Balm Jelly making, friends!
(PS ~ I've been doing a little more blog reading over the last few weeks with all this heat and slow summer rhythm we are having. I'm loving the new to me blog, Cinnamon Girl,... thought I'd share!)