Lilac jelly is a sweet way to enjoy this fragrant springtime edible flower. Simple to make, you’ll be done start to finish in less than 30 minutes.
Gardening with kids can be tricky, especially since seeds planted today won’t be harvested for months. While my littles are still looking forward to strawberries (still a month off) and watermelons much later in the summer, there are plenty of tasty edible flowers to enjoy each spring.
Lilacs are a particular new England favorite, planted in the dooryard of just about every old New England home. You can still see them thriving around old block foundations, literally a century since the house last stood.
Ours greet us for a few weeks each spring with incredible fragrance right beside the front door, and with the windows open, the cool spring breezes perfume the whole house.
My little ones know that most of the blossoms in our garden are edible flowers, but they still always bring the blossoms to me to check before popping them into their mouths.
This time when my daughter brought me a few sprays of lilac flowers asking if she could have them for a snack. Of course, I said yes, but I also started thinking about what lilac flower recipes we hadn’t yet tried.
Last year, lilac wine was a huge hit with the adults, and lilac donuts were equally popular with the kids.
Flower jellies have been the stars of our breakfast table of late, and with dandelion jelly and violet jelly already on the shelves, I decided to add a few jars of fragrant lilac jelly to the mix.
Unlike dandelions or violets, which are tedious to pick and clean, requiring a few hours commitment, lilac jelly comes together in just minutes. Full sprays of blossoms are quickly harvested with scissors, and it only takes a few to make a full batch of lilac jelly.
Preparing Lilacs for Jelly
After you’ve harvested a few bunches of lilacs, they need to be separated from their stems and sepals (green parts). The flowers, specifically the open blossoms, are the source of the flavor in this jelly.
They’re actually surprisingly quick to separate, and the little trumpet-shaped blooms pull out easily with gentle pressure. No need to do them individually, you can grab them by the handful and pull out the petals.
(Or, gently pluck them one at a time, as was my daughter’s preference.)
However you do it, try to avoid getting anything but the petals, and leave the green flower bases behind.
If you’re harvesting the flowers by the handful, you’ll have to go back and clean them up a bit, removing any stray green flower bases. It’s not the end of the world if a few are in the jelly, but try to minimize it, as the bright floral flavor comes from the fragrant petals alone.
If you’re carefully harvesting them just a few at a time, you won’t have to do a second pass, so perhaps the careful method has its benefits.
You’ll need about 4 cups of lilac petals for a batch of lilac jelly. That may seem like a lot, but really it’s only 5 or 6 sprays of flowers, and takes no more than 5 minutes to separate (even working slowly and carefully).
We harvested a full basket of lilac flowers in about 2 minutes, and then plucked enough for jelly in just a few minutes more. I dramatically overestimated how many flowers we’d need. When working with dandelions, you need about a gallon of blossoms to make a quart of petals once they’re separated out, which just isn’t the case with lilacs.
We still have 3/4 of a basket of flowers for other recipes (or simply to grace our table).
We just measure them right into a quart mason jar, which is convenient for the next step, since the jar is heatproof.
Once you’ve separated the petals, the next step is to make lilac tea. Here’s where the color magic happens!
When you pour boiling water over the lilac petals, the water may turn a turquoise green. That’s what you’re looking for since once lemon juice is added that’ll quickly turn bright pink.
(The pectin also contains citric acid, so you won’t have a choice, it will turn pink/purple even if you’d like to keep that neat green color.)
The same thing happens to violet jelly, and the color compounds in blueberries and blackberries have some of the same properties.
Some of our lilacs don’t give up their color, and white lilacs won’t contribute any color at all. If you still want that beautiful pink/purple color, add a few mashed blueberries or blackberries into the jar before you make the tea. They’ll contribute a deep color that will turn pink once lemon juice is added as well.
(Or don’t worry about the color, and just enjoy the flavor if you don’t mind a light brown/tan jelly that will come as a result of using white lilacs. We eat with our eyes as much as with our mouths, and I think the color really contributes to the experience, but to each his own.)
Allow the tea to infuse for about 5 to 10 minutes before straining the mixture to make the jelly.
Making Lilac Jelly
To make lilac jelly, start with the strained lilac tea in a saucepan or jam pot. You should have roughly 4 cups of lilac tea if you poured it over 4 cups of blossoms in a mason jar. Add the lemon juice and watch the color change in the pot.
This will be roughly the finished color of the jelly, so if you’d like to make any adjustments by adding berry juice, this is the time to do it. My lilacs gave good color on their own, and once the lemon juice and pectin were added the finished color was pretty close to the flowers on the bush.
Bring it up to a boil and add a box of Sure-Jell Pectin (1.75 oz), but don’t add the sugar yet. (If you’re using another type of pectin, just follow their directions for mint jelly.)
Allow the pectin/tea mixture to boil for 1 minute before adding 4 cups of sugar for standard pectin, or 1 to 4 cups of sugar for sure jell low sugar pectin. I’d suggest using low sugar pectin, as it allows you to adjust the sugar level to your taste, and you can still use as much as you would with “regular” full sugar pectin.
Stir in the sugar to dissolve and then bring the mixture back to a boil for 1 minute.
Ladle the mixture into jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace and cap with 2 part lids.
Canning Lilac Jelly
At this point, you can process the jelly in a water bath canner (optional) for 10 minutes for a shelf-stable jelly.
Or, you can simply allow the jars to cool on the counter and then store them in the refrigerator (for up to a month) or the freezer (for up to 6 months). If you’re storing in the freezer, leave a bit more headspace, and be sure to use freezer-safe mason jars with straight sides.
Though canning is completely optional, a single “batch” makes around 5 half-pints, which is a good bit of a single type of jelly to eat in a month, so we usually process our jellies in a water bath canner.
(If you’re not familiar with canning, I’d suggest reading this beginner’s guide to water bath canning before getting started.)
Lilac jelly is a light floral jelly with all the flavors of spring lilacs.
- 4 cups lilac blossoms
- 4 cups water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 to 4 cups sugar *see note
- 1 box (1.75 oz) pectin (Regular or Low Sugar)
- Separate 4 cups of lilac blossoms from their stems, carefully removing any green parts.
- Pour 4 cups boiling water over the top of the lilac blossoms and allow the tea to infuse for about 10 minutes. It should be a turquoise color (which will change to pink when lemon juice is added). If it's not, you can add a few mashed blueberries of blackberries at this step for color, but that's optional.)
- Strain the lilac tea into a saucepan or jam pot. Add the lemon juice, which will adjust color, but it's also required to balance the sugar in the recipe and help the pectin set, so don't skip the lemon!
- Bring the mixture to a boil and add the powdered pectin, stirring to dissolve. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute before adding sugar. (Note: Do not add the sugar at the same time as the pectin, or before the pectin, or the jell will not set.)
- Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve (See notes on quantity). Bring the mixture back to a full boil for 1 minute before ladling into jelly jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
- If canning, process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Otherwise, allow the jars to cool completely on the counter before storing in the refrigerator (for up to a month) or the freezer for up to 6 months.
A note on sugar...
If using standard pectin, you must use a 1:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. That means for 4 cups lilac tea you'd need a minimum of 4 cups sugar to get the jelly to set. That results in a very sweet "old-fashioned" jelly. To reduce the sugar, simply use low sugar pectin instead and then make the jelly as instructed but using less sugar. I suggest sure jel low sugar, which is very dependable.
Lowering sugar will also lower yield, and the yield of 5 half-pints is for a full sugar recipe.
If using Pomona's universal pectin, the instructions are different as that is a 2 part low sugar pectin. Follow the instructions provided in the Pomona's box for mint jelly.
Edible Flower Recipes
Looking for more ways to enjoy edible flowers?
- Dandelion Capers
- Dandelion and Honey Ice Cream
- How to Eat a Rose (Rose Recipes)
- How to Eat a Peony (Peony Recipes)
Spring Jelly Recipes
Try your hand at more than just lilac jelly this season!
I did not know that lilac was edible/palatable
They’re quite lovely really, both edible and delicious. They taste more or less like they smell, and in the jelly it’s balanced well with sweetness and a bit of acidity from the lemon juice so the flavor is really well rounded.
I did not know that a Peony was edible! Although I see ants on them all the time. That is why I stopped bringing them into the house for a vase. The ants will get all over!
Thank You for all of this good information. Who doesn’t love home made jelly?!
God Bless and stay safe…
Spray your peony with water from the hose to remove all the ants before bringing them inside. If you have peonies, enjoy the heavenly scent and bring them in. I grew up with them and miss them. They are delightful
Thanks for this tip. I have also heard of bringing them in before they open and before the ants have gotten on them.
Looks great! Just wondering if you can leave some of the lilac petals in the jelly?
I haven’t heard of that being done but if you do try it, let us know how it works.
I first found out about lilac jelly last year, but unfortunately, it was after my lilac tree had finished flowering. I plan to make some jelly this year to make use of the lilacs. Can’t wait to try it.
That’s great! You’re going to love it.
This will be my first time trying lilac jelly. Can I pick the flowers, freeze them and make the jelly later when I have time? If so, do I freeze them as jus the flower or should I make the “tea” and freeze the tea?
You should be able to do it either way but I haven’t personally tried it. Let me know if you try it.
ok I’m totally going to try this shortly, but most other recipes I’ve seen for dandelion and lilac jellies have people steep the ‘tea’ for 24 hours. Yours doesn’t. I’m hoping this works out well! Cause I don’t want to wait!!! How did you figure this out?
The steeping time is really a personal preference. I have seen a huge range of steeping times in different recipes. You may want to experiment and see if you prefer longer or shorter steeping times. The amount of time can affect the flavor and the color of the finished jelly.
What point is optimal for harvesting the lilac flowers? When they first start opening or when they are nearly spent?
Thank you so much! This is a fabulous idea that I’m anxious to try
You want to harvest fresh, newly opened blossoms.
Thank you so much!!!! I’m on it then, right now!
You’re very welcome.
Hi! If I steep it longer will the flavor intensify? I’ve read other recipes that steep overnight. Thanks!
A longer steep time will most likely intensify the flavor but you want to be careful to not steep it for too long either.
I noticed you didn’t put any measurements for the pectin nor the lemon juice. I already started straining my tea and I should have checked beforehand, I understand, but I would really appreciate you actually posting the measurements please.
If you scroll down to the bottom of the post you should see a recipe card that has all of the appropriate measurements.
We have a Korean lilac, rather than the traditional ones. Do you think it would work just as well? We’ll have blossoms in a week or two and I’d love to try this jelly!
I’m not familiar with that particular variety. I would do some research to see if it is edible and if so then you could experiment and see how it works.
My pectin’s mint jelly recipe calls for 3 cups of mint infusion for 1 package of pectin and 4 cups of sugar; should I use 3 cups of blossoms and 3 cups of water with the pectin and 4 cups of sugar? Thanks!
Yup, sounds perfect. Use whatever the package says for mint jelly and you’ll be fine. Enjoy!
Made lilac jelly just now. Everything went great with a light pink color but when I took them out of water bath canning the color was a light yellow. ?? Did I do something wrong ?
It may just be the variety of lilacs that you’re using. Some lilacs retain color better than others.
My MIL just made a batch of lilac jelly and while the jar she didn’t process stayed pink, the jar she DID process looks more of a whitish yellow- it essentially lost all the pink color. These are from the same batch. Has this ever happened to you? Thanks!
It may just be the variety of lilacs that you’re using. Some lilacs retain color better than others.
This sounds amazing and I’m looking forward to trying this year. What do you put this jelly on? What is it good to eat with? Thanks!
You can use it on any kind of bread or baked good, basically anything that you would normally put jelly on.
Do you rinse the lilacs to make sure there are no little bugs on them or anything?
You can if you want. I usually just give them a little shake before I bring them in.
I was in the middle of boiling the pectin and realized I didn’t have lids for the jars. I ended up tying cloth over the mouth of the jars and I guess I will keep them in the freezer.