The Last Frontier

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Spruce Tip Jelly

Spruce Tip Jelly
Spruce Tip Jelly
A couple of days ago, the boys and I went out and picked a basketful of Spruce Tips --- the new growth on spruce trees. It's been several years since I've made Spruce Tip Jelly and I was beginning to crave this delicious treat, maybe because spruce needles, especially the new tips are super high in vitamin C and I've been out for several months. After making the jelly, I had plenty left over to brew a cup of Spruce Tip Tea, and then I spread out the rest to dry for tea or more jelly next winter.

Spruce is in the Pine family, so I'd think that the uses of the trees would be similar. The picture below shows the new growth that still has that brown coating on the tip. If they are still there when you pick the tips, then brush them off. Most of the ones we picked had already filled out a little and pushed off that brown tips.

Spruce tips are slightly tart. Not near as sour as a lemon, but once you take a sip of the tea you will not be surprised that they are so high in Vitamin C. Spruce Tip Jelly and tea are delicious!

This year I used a recipe from the Alaska Extension Service that calls for white granulated sugar. In years past, I extracted the juice, and then used a combination of honey and brown sugar instead of white sugar. My husband didn't care for my first few batches of Spruce Tip Jelly, but he enjoyed it this year. A few years ago I gave a jar to a friend in town who owns a wonderful Bed & Breakfast. She and her husband loved it, and let each of their guests sample just a taste each morning as a special treat.
Spruce Tips
Here's the recipe:

How to Extract Juice from Spruce Tips:

Yield: about 3 cups (enough for one batch of Spruce Tip Jelly)
  1. Gather at least 9 cups of spruce tips. Spruce tips are the new, soft, bright green growth on the tips of spruce branches.
  2. Place the cleaned spruce tips in a large saucepan. Fill pan with water to within two inches below the top. You should be able to see the water, but it should not cover the spruce tips. (The amount of water isn't critical.)
  3. Here's where I did not follow the extension service. I simply heat the water and allow the spruce tips to simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. The extension service book says, "Bring to a boil in a covered saucepan and boil for 1 hour; reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours." I think that's overkill.
  4. Drain through a colander, and then strain the juice through a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

Spruce Tip Jelly

Yield: about 5 cups

3 cups spruce tip juice

4 cups granulated sugar

1 package powdered pectin (1 3/4 ounces)
  1. Sterilize canning jars and prepare lids.
  2. Measure sugar and set aside.
  3. Measure spruce tip juice into a large saucepan.
  4. Add pectin and stir until dissolved.
  5. Place on high heat; stir constantly and bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.
  6. At once stir in sugar.
  7. Bring to a full rolling boil; boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Remove from heat and quickly skim off form. (Note: adding 1/2 tsp. butter to the juice helps reduce foaming.)
  9. Immediately pour jelly into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
  10. Wipe jar rims and ad prepared two-piece lids.
  11. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Spruce Tip Tea

This can be made two ways. I prefer to place a handful of spruce tips in a jar with a lid, fill with enough boiling water for a mug of tea, place the lid on the jar and let steep until cool enough to sip. Some people prefer to toss the spruce tips into a pot of boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes. I think that kills too many nutrients. Either way, strain and serve hot with honey or maple sugar to sweeten, if you like. Spruce Tip Tea is also nice with the addition of a few whole cloves, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or grated orange peel.

Spruce tips can be gathered and used throughout the year, but they are best during the spring.


  1. This is fascinating, Jenny! I'm not sure when you first wrote this, probably in springtime, but I see you just put it over here on Saturday when you must have transferred posts. I'm so glad I saw it! This spring I'll be looking for spruce trees, LOL!

    Blessings and (((HUGS))),

  2. Hi Lori,
    Yes, sometime in the spring, probably April or May, but the tips can still be gathered in early June here. But in the lower 48 it would probably be April or May. I wonder if jelly could be made from the new growth on pine trees. They are very nutritious. When I was a kid back in Georgia I used to love chewing on the base of fresh pine needles. My boys pick chunks of pitch from spruce trees and chew it like chewing gum. I make salve and soap from spruce pitch, but if I lived where there were pine trees, I'd use that too. Let me know if you try pine jelly. That would probably be delicious! I'd think you could just pick a bunch of fresh pine needles and use them instead of spruce tips.

  3. I've been looking for something like this for YEARS! When I was in Switzerland, they let me try something they translated as "Carpenters Butter" which was really like a jam. It was a little darker then what you have pictured and really thick. I'm not sure if their type was made from spruce or another evergreen tree. But it tasted piney/woody and was really good on toast! :-) Truly unique. I always wanted to make some myself. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Jenny, thanks for the blog, I plan to read through it in the next couple days. I am in Fairbanks, and was raised on a homestead and had things like this as kids but never learned how to make them, So I joined Alaskan Harvesters on Facebook, cause it has a lot of things from my childhood...
    That is were I saw your post about Spruce tip syrup...


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