Spring has sprung and already you’re in the mood for making some fine homemade jelly. Typically, satisfying this urge must wait until late summer or early fall, when your trees and bushes have finally set fruit.
But if you have access to redbud trees, you can start making jelly right now. That’s because redbud jelly isn’t made from fruit; it’s made from the beautiful pink flowers that decorate these trees in early spring.
This gorgeous floral jelly has notes of strawberry and grape with a flowery flavor that brings the beauty of the season straight to your taste buds. It’s easy to make, will last all year, and is the perfect topper for toast, bagels, or your favorite homemade bread.
What Is Redbud Jelly?
Redbud jelly is an easy-to-make jelly that uses foraged redbud tree flowers. By soaking these flowers and creating a redbud tea, you can easily capture the delightful, slightly sweet, floral taste of the buds and enhance it with a little sugar and lemon juice for a tasty spring spread.
Making redbud jelly requires access to redbud trees. If you live in the south-eastern quadrant of the United States, finding these trees is generally very easy.
Eastern redbud trees grow plentifully in deciduous forests and along the edges of brushy wildlands. In the spring, they are easily identifiable by their magnificent deep pink blooms.
There is a western redbud tree found in California and southern Utah that also produces pink edible flowers. While it’s possible to make jelly out of these buds, they have a different flavor—more like peas or legumes—and don’t work quite as well.
- Redbud tea. You can make redbud tea following the simple process below. But to make the tea you need the flowers. Unless you have a really well-provisioned farmstand near you, finding these flowers will require some foraging. Aim for open, fresh blooms while leaving dried flowers and unopened blossoms on the tree.
- Lemon juice. The flowers have a naturally delicate and subtle flavor. Adding lemon juice to the mix is key to enhancing those floral notes and adding some much-needed tang.
- Organic Raw Cane Sugar. You can use everyday white granulated sugar, which will produce a more vibrant color in the finished jelly, but we prefer to use organic raw cane sugar as a less processed option. We used this brand in our recipe.
- Powdered Pectin. We used this tried and true pectin available at most supermarkets or online. The flowers contribute almost no sugar to the recipe, so if you prefer to reduce the sugar you might need to go with a low or no-sugar pectin to get this jelly to set.
How to Make Redbud Jelly
Flower jellies take a lot more prep time than your typical fruit jelly, so be sure to plan ahead. In this case, you’ll need to let the redbud blooms soak for 12 to 24 hours before you can start making your delicious jelly.
Below, we’ll take a quick look at the steps to make this recipe. For the full printable version, check out the recipe card at the end of the post.
How to Make Redbud Tea
To begin, you’ll need to make redbud tea out of the blooms you’ve foraged.
1. Gather your redbud flowers. Aim for open, fresh blooms. You’ll need about 2 to 3 cups straight off the tree.
De-stem your flowers by carefully pulling the thin woody step away from the bud. This can take some time but is key to capturing the floral flavor without introducing any added bitterness. You should have around 2 cups of redbud blossoms left after this step.
Boil 2 1/4 cups of water. Place your flowers in a large heat-safe container or pot. Pour the boiling water over the flowers to create a hot water bath, then stir gently and allow the mixture to sit.
After about 4 hours, transfer the mix to the refrigerator to set for an additional 8 to 20 hours. The longer you allow the redbud tea to set, the more flavorful your jelly will be.
After the mixture has set, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the flowers out of the tea. Take some time to press the brewed blooms to extract as much liquid as possible. Your final tea should be a deep pink color and free from floating bud material and equal about 2 cups of liquid (that extra 1/4 cup of water is to help account for the flowers absorbing some of it). In the end you’ll want to have a close to a 1:1 mixture of liquid and sugar for your jelly to set.
How to Make Redbud Jelly from Tea
Now that you have your redbud flower tea, you can make your redbud jelly.
Pour 2 cups of redbud tea into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and stir, then add 3 tablespoons of pectin and stir. Boil the mixture for one minute.
After boiling the tea and pectin mixture for a minute, add 2 cups of sugar all at once. Allow the mixture to return to a rolling boil, then boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove the pot from heat after 1 minute and work quickly but carefully to ladle the mixture into your sterilized canning jars. Leave ¼ inch headspace at the top of each jar.
Wipe the lips of the jars clean, place the lids on top, and secure with rings. If you’re going to eat the jelly within the next few weeks, you can just allow the jars to cool to room temperature and then put them in the refrigerator.
Optionally, you can preserve your jars by water bath canning. Place the sealed jars in your hot water bath canner or deep pot and boil for 10 minutes (Important: Ensure there’s a wire rack or something that keeps your jars elevated since they’ll likely crack if placed directly on the bottom). Remove carefully and allow to cool for 12 to 24 hours. Remove the rings and test the seals before storing the jars.
- Small batch. This recipe makes just 2 8-ounce jars of finished jelly. Normally we’d want to make more (especially if we’re going to the trouble to preserve it by canning), but we found it’s pretty time-consuming to collect 3 cups of redbud flowers. Your mileage (and patience) may vary.
- Filter more if needed. If you notice debris floating in your tea, you can use a coffee filter to further strain put the plant pieces.
- Alternative sweeteners. Using white sugar produces a bright fuchsia jelly that looks gorgeous on the shelves. If you prefer to use raw sugar or another natural vegan sugar, you can, just know that the final product may not look quite as bright. You may have to experiment with the amounts to get the jelly to set with alternative sweeteners.
- Canning isn’t necessary. If you don’t have the tools for canning or don’t want to take the time for this step, you can always store the jelly in the fridge. It will last up to three weeks as long as it is kept cold.
How to Store Redbud Jelly
Once your jars have cooled fully, take the rings off and check the seal. All jars that have sealed fully can be stored in the cupboard or pantry for up to one year.
Open jars should be stored in the fridge. As long as they remain cold, they will be good for up to 3 weeks.
Redbud Jelly FAQs
What does redbud jelly taste like?
Redbud jelly has a delicate floral flavor with slight hints of strawberry and grape. The lemon juice adds a tartness and brightness to the finish. The buds themselves are not sweet, but the sugar in the jelly recipe brings some sweetness to the final product.
How long does redbud jelly store?
Canned redbud jelly, like other flower jellies, will store in your pantry or cellar for up to one year without issue. Once a jar is opened, it should be placed in the fridge. Opened redbud jelly will last about three weeks.
Can you freeze redbud jelly?
While it is possible to freeze redbud jelly, this isn’t the best way to store it. The texture of the jelly will break down once thawed, making it more of a gooey, liquidy spread than a smooth gelatinous spread. Additionally, the delicate flavor of the jelly will be ruined by long freeze times.
If you have more flowers than you have canning tools, then you can use freezing to your advantage, however. But, instead of freezing the product after you’ve already made the jelly, we recommend freezing the redbud tea or the flowers themselves. Once you are ready to make more jelly, you can easily thaw either one of these items and pick up where you left off with the above recipe.
How do you make redbud tea?
Making redbud tea is the first step to making redbud jelly, but this isn’t the only thing you can do with this brew. Redbud tea can also be mixed with other teas for a tasty drink or drunk by itself with a touch of honey.
To make tea for drinking, simply follow the first half of the directions above. Or for hot tea, you can dry some redbud flowers and then steep them in boiled water as you would any traditional dried tea.
Is a redbud tree a good tree?
Redbud trees clearly have some great uses in the kitchen, but are they a good tree to have in your yard?
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, yes, redbud trees are valuable native trees to plant and propagate throughout the Eastern US. This value comes largely from those same great flowers humans like to use. These blooms provide an important source of nectar to honeybees and other pollinators early in the season when other sources are not yet in bloom.
Like all flower jellies, redbud is great on toast, bagels, and English muffins. But there are a lot more ways you can use this springtime delicacy. Here are a few of our favorite recipes to pair with redbud jelly.
- Pancakes – These protein-packed breakfast cakes are delicious slathered with redbud jelly.
- Waffles – If it goes with pancakes, you can bet that it goes with waffles. So good!
- Oatmeal Bread – or any bread really. Toast a slice with a pat of butter and you’ll be in heaven.
- Oatmeal – One great way to add flavor and sweetness to any oatmeal is to top it with jelly.
- Yogurt – Redbud jelly also makes a great topper for yogurt, especially when mixed with some nuts and seeds.
- 1 mesh strainer
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 medium sauce pan
- 2 8-ounce canning jars with bands and lids
- 1 canning pot and jar lifter tongs optional
- 2 to 3 cups fresh redbud flowers
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp powdered pectin we used Sure-Jell
- 2 cups organic raw sugar
- Bring 2 1/4 cups of water to boil.
- Place flowers into a heat-safe bowl or jar. Pour boiling water over flowers, stir, and let sit for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, move bowl to fridge and let set about 20 hours. After 24 hours of steeping, strain the flowers out of the tea using a fine strainer. This should yield about 2 cups of redbud tea since the redbud flowers will absorb a bit of the water.
- Add redbud tea to large pot and bring to a boil.
- Add lemon juice and stir. Add pectin and stir. Boil for one minute.
- Add sugar to the tea mixture. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly, and then remove the pot from heat.
- Working quickly, ladle the jelly into the boiled jars (or pour through a funnel), leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top of each.
- Wipe down the tops of each jar and secure the lids with rings and allow jars to cool.
- Unsealed jars should be put in the fridge and used within 3 weeks.
Canning Instructions (Optional)
- Fill a water canning pot or other large, deep pot with water and bring it to a boil. The pot needs to be deep enough so that the jars are completely submerged. Important: Ensure there's a wire rack in the pot to keep your jars elevated since they'll likely crack if placed directly on the bottom.
- Using jar lifter tongs, place the sealed, filled jars onto the rack at the bottom of the pot so they're completely submerged. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove the jars and allow to cool for 12 to 24 hours before moving to storage.
- Sealed jars can be store in the pantry for one year.