Making wild harvested Oregon Grape jelly has become an annual tradition in our family. We love to forage for wild edibles so we get really excited when we find a big enough patch of Oregon Grape berries to harvest. I’ve read that Oregon Grape berries are bursting with health benefits and can support the immune system. I’m always looking for natural ways to boost our family’s health so making and canning this delicious wild edible Oregon Grape jelly has an added bonus!
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What is Oregon Grape?
This plant first caught my eye years ago when I moved out west since it reminded me of a holly plant but growing wild in the Rocky Mountains. I dug out some identification books and learned it was called Oregon Grape, or Mahonia species, in the Barberry Family. Oregon Grape produces edible berries and is well known for the medicinal properties in the rest of the plant and root. If you want to learn more about the medicinal properties of Oregon Grape, I highly recommend Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore.
One of my favorite wild foraging books, Foraging the Mountain West by Thomas Elpel describes it as, “Oregon Grape is not a grape at all but an intensely tart berry from an evergreen shrub with spiny leaves.” In our region it grows low to the ground, although there are varieties growing elsewhere that grow taller.
In the winter the leaves can turn a gorgeous bright red color. The leaves have a leathery texture and the spring flowers are bright yellow. Another one of my favorite wild edibles books, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies, states that the sour Oregon Grape berries can be eaten raw or made into jam or jelly.
Oregon Grape is abundant in the mountains around us, we see it every time we go on an adventure in the mountains. The challenge with the species of Oregon Grape plants abundant in our area is that it is uncommon for us to find a large enough patch to ethically harvest Oregon Grapes. A few years ago we discovered a large patch of Oregon Grape growing near our family’s secret huckleberry picking spot. We were thrilled when we finally found a large enough patch of Oregon Grapes to harvest some to make jelly!
Unlike the abundant elderberry plants that we make and can elderberry jelly from every year, our batches of homemade Oregon Grape jelly are small. I usually end up with 6-8 jam size jars of canned Oregon Grape jelly. This makes the jelly even more of a treasure in our family and we savor every bite!
Making and canning Oregon Grape jelly
This jelly recipe makes about 4-5 cups of jelly.
2 cups of fresh picked Oregon Grapes
4 cups of water
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup to 1 cup honey OR 3/4 cup sugar to 2 cups of sugar
1 pack of Pamona’s Pectin
- Step 1: Place the Oregon Grapes in a large pan on the stove with 4 cups of water. Bring them to a boil then simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Use the back of a spoon and press the Oregon Grapes in the water to help them release their juices into the water.
- Step 2: Allow the juice to cool a little then strain the Oregon Grapes from the liquid. I place a piece of cheesecloth inside a fine mesh strainer like this one and press the Oregon Grapes with the back of a spoon to press out as much juice as possible.
- Step 3: Pour the Oregon Grape juice into a large pan and stir in the lemon juice. Stir in 4 teaspoons of calcium water (this can be found in the Pamona’s Pectin box).
- Step 4: Pour the sugar or honey into a bowl. I usually use honey that we harvest from our bee hives but if we are running low on honey I use a mixture of honey and unrefined sugar. Stir 4 teaspoons of pectin from the Pamona’s Pectin box into the honey/sugar.
- Step 5: Heat the Oregon Grape juice in the pan on the stove until boiling. Then quickly mix in the sugar and/or honey pectin mix from the bowl. Boil the mixture for 1-2 minutes while continuously stirring.
- Step 6: Turn the heat off on the stove burner. Ladle the Oregon Grape jelly into hot, clean canning jars (make sure you inspect your jars first by following these tips!). Process in a boiling water bath canner (this is the one we have and love) for 10 minutes. Don’t forget to adjust your processing time according to your altitude!
I love to eat our homemade Oregon Grape jelly on homemade bread with homemade butter. Our kids love to eat it on their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We also love to use it as a filling when we make Palachinke.