Kudzu Blossom Jelly – A Shank Family Tradition by Barbara Bagley Shanks
Kudzu blossoms are ready to be picked the end of July through the beginning of September. If you live in an area with an abundance of kudzu vines you will know when the flowers are in bloom from the sweet grape like aroma in the air. Use scissors to cut the flowering stem off the vine. Be careful to cut only blossoms that have not been sprayed with any type of chemicals. Many kudzu vines found along the side of the road are sprayed each year by the county to try and kill them. Also wear gloves when gathering blossoms. I had a big spider land on my hand once while picking my flowers for jelly. I have worn gloves ever since then. Pull ONLY the dark, fragrant purple blossoms off the stem until you have 4 cups. Wash blossoms thoroughly to remove bugs or stems.
Place blossoms in large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Stir and set in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Liquid will be grayish in color. Strain liquid and discard blossoms. Pour liquid in a medium pot. Add lemon juice, pectin, and sugar. The lemon juice will turn the gray liquid a bright purple. Bring jelly to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Pour jelly into hot sterilized jars and seal. Process jelly in boiling water bath for 7 minutes.
Store in a cool, dark place. If jelly does not thicken properly the kudzu mixture can still be used as syrup for pancakes. This tends to happen to me if I try to double the recipe. But the syrup is just as tasty as the jelly.
*Special Note: If the batch doesn’t jelly, keep a tablespoon in a large bowl of ice cubes while you are boiling the mix. After you have reached a ROLLING boil where it almost boils over the pot … take a bit of the juice and drip it into the cold spoon. Set the spoon back on top of the ice cubes. If it sets up in a just a little while … your jelly will set. If not … KEEP BOILING!!! Seriously … Kudzu Blossom Jelly isn’t for the faint hearted. It is a LOT of work!!! But oh, so worth it!!!