We had pancakes for breakfast this morning, watching out our dining room window as a small hawk—kestrel, I think—tried to catch its own breakfast in our backyard. And on our pancakes was what? Pure maple syrup from Vermont? Nope. That is, like, sooo L.L. Bean.
No, sirree, we had Dr. Nadia’s Famous Old Timey Missouri Sumac Jelly, and it was delicious. Lovingly hand-crafted from a mix of Smooth and Winged Sumac berries picked with the care of Juan Valdez, you won’t find this in stores. The good news is that it’s not at all hard to make your own.
Now, many people know that sumac can be used to make a tart, citrusy-tasting drink, often called “sumac-ade” or “Indian Lemonade”. But, why stop there? Nadia didn’t. She tossed in more sugar, added pectin, cooked, strained into sterile jars and, voila!, Dr. Nadia’s, etc., etc., etc.
We got the idea for using it on pancakes when a couple jars didn’t set up completely, but thickened to a consistency just right for syrup. An experienced jam and jelly maker could probably make this concoction any consistency s/he wants. Even if it’s too thick for syrup, just spread it on your pancakes like they were toast (which also tastes great with Sumac Jelly, by the way).
So what’s not to like? Beautiful color, wonderful flavor, home-made goodness, and YOU know what’s in it (and what’s not— like preservative chemicals or profits for some evil multi-national jelly company that could be doing who-knows-what-to-who-or-what). Sumacs are plentiful and free (you can collect the seed heads in the fall and keep them in cool conditions or break them in pieces and freeze them in sealed plastic bags), sugar is cheap, jars are reusable, and pectin is found in most grocery stores and many other places that stock canning supplies.
So, let’s get out those canning supplies and get jammin’!
NOTE: We will post an exact recipe or two when Nadia meets a couple of other deadlines and gets around to making another batch. This time she’ll write down the exact procedures, measurements, times, etc. She promised.