Stop and Eat the Roses!
by Becky Martorelli
Over the last several years I have conjured up numerous rose recipes for Connecticut Rose newsletter. It has been an interesting journey which began many years ago as I was reading up on the history of the rose to learn how it was used throughout the ages. Fragrant rose petals make excellent jelly or syrup, and rose hips have tremendous nutritional value. They are exceptionally high in vitamin C. Many people are surprised (some doubtful) when I tell them that roses are edible, so I quickly affirm this by telling them that the International Herb Association designated the rose as Herb of the Year in 2012.
Most of my recipes contain rose water, rose hip jam, or rose hip purée. In a commercial setting, rose water is a by-product of distilling very fragrant rose petals (usually Damask) for the production of rose oil. It is not easily found in American box supermarkets, but is usually available in smaller specialty markets that carry Middle-Eastern products. There are recipes available on how to make your own rose water and worth a try if you have the time. Rose hip purée on the other hand, cannot be found in any market (at least I haven’t been able to find any), and one must resort to making it from scratch. In my kitchen, rose hip purée is a by-product in the process of making rose hip jam. In this article I will lead you through the process.
COLLECTING ROSE HIPS
To begin, you must choose rose hips when they are at their peak of ripeness: red and firm. Since you need at least 3-4 quarts of hips to yield juice for one batch of jam (7-8 half pint jars), it’s best to wait until the summer winds down and you discontinue deadheading, allowing plenty of hips to develop and ripen. You can use any kind of rose hip, including Multiflora rose, as
long as it has not been exposed to pesticides. I prefer to use larger hips from the rugosa roses, as there is less work involved. In my region, rugosa hips peak anytime between the third week of August and first week of September. To save time and energy, I head to the shores of Connecticut where rugosas grow in abundance and I can pick 20 - 25 quarts within a couple of hours. (I make lots of jam!).
Soak all of the hips in large containers filled with water. Let them sit for a while, stirring the water so debris floats to the top. Rinse and drain.
The next step is the most tedious and time consuming, but worth the extra effort. You must remove the stem and sepals, and cut each hip in half horizontally (not from stem to sepal). Each hip is LOADED with seeds and fine little hairs which you want to remove. Instead of scraping each hip (which would take you an eternity!), pour water into a large deep pot until 2/3 full. Drop the cut hips into the water until the water level rises to the ¾ mark. With a potato masher, stomp the hips for several minutes to loosen the seeds and hairs. They will float to the top and all you have to do is skim them off. Any seeds left behind will be removed later in the process. Any hairs left in the batch will not be bothersome after they are cooked.
Now you’re ready to cook. In a large stainless-steel pot, gently press prepared rose hips until the pot is ¾ full. Add water just enough to cover the hips. Bring the water to a boil, then let it simmer on low heat for about 1 – 1 ½ hour. Occasionally, give the pot a gentle stir to allow additional seed to float to the top. Remove them with a slotted spoon. You want to be careful not to mash them, because you don’t want to pour any pulp down the drain. When the hips are soft and mushy they are ready. Drain most of the water (a little left on the bottom of the pot is ok) and set the pot aside to allow the cooked hips to cool off somewhat. When they have reached a temperature that you can handle without burning your hands (warm to very warm) you are ready for the next step.
To process the hips into juice and purée, I use an old-fashioned Victorio food strainer. When I first attempted this, I used a hand-held flour strainer and pressed the batches manually. My wrist was so sore, I opted to find a mechanical device. The Victorio is a hand crank process that separates the seeds and skin from the pulp and juice, making the task a lot easier. Using the “tomato” strainer (there are different sized strainers in the set) I set up a large bowl to collect the pulp and juice from the side spout, and another bowl to collect “refuse” at the waste spout. Using a ladle, I feed the cooked hips into the receptacle, crank the handle, and save the juice and pulp for the jam recipe. Do not throw out the refuse for this is how you will obtain your purée, since it still contains quite a bit of moisture and pulp. Return the contents from the waste bowl to the strainer and process again, collecting the purée in a separate bowl. It will look and smell like tomato sauce but have the consistency of Pumpkin purée. If the second round of refuse is moist and looks like it still has enough pulp clinging to the skin, add a tiny bit more water to moisten it and run it through a third time. After this, the refuse will be ready for composting.
You now have 2 basic ingredients to process into a useable product: juice and purée. Prepare your canning jars and gather your ingredients for the jam. The purée can be canned immediately in sterile jars and finished off in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Sounds like a lot of work, so why do I do it? Rose recipes are not the usual fare at any social function, and I like to contribute something out of the ordinary.
Making jam is not an exact science, especially when you are dealing with a fruit that has little or no pectin. Most of the rose hip jam recipes I tried ended up as failures, and I was constantly “fixing” them. So, I had to find my own ratio of ingredients to achieve the consistency I wanted, and so will you. No two batches are the same.
Rose hip jam can be used in a variety of ways: toast, pancakes, crepes, filling for cake layers, thumbprint cookies, and when heated up can be used as a sauce over vanilla ice cream. Rose hip jam can also used for glazing ham and chicken.
Recipes can be found for making rose hip purée, but from what I’ve seen it is more of a liquid consistency. The purée I process is much thicker and easier to use in baking products such as pies or cake.
BASIC ROSE HIP JAM
4 cups of rose hip juice with pulp
½ cup lemon juice
1 pkg of Sure Jell Pectin, or 6 oz. of liquid pectin
6 cups of sugar
In a stainless-steel pot, combine the rose hip liquid with lemon juice and pectin. Bring it to a rolling boil, and add the sugar all at once. Stir constantly and bring to another boil for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and fill the canning jars to about ¼” from the top of the jar. Allow the jars to cool for 6 – 8 hours. Before canning, I test the batch with a cold
spoon I leave in the freezer. Dip the spoon quickly into the jam after removing the pot from the heat. Hold the spoon over a dish and allow the liquid to drip. When the last drop stretches and clings on to the spoon, it is ready.
If not, return to the heat and boil for a few more minutes to allow excess water to evaporate. Test again.
Rose Hip purée recipes: Rose Hip Bread in Connecticut Rose November 2016 issue; Spiced Rose Hip Muffins (Gluten Free), Connecticut Rose November 2017.
An interesting recipe and video tutorial called Rosa Rugosa Rose Jelly, which combines rose hip and rose petal jelly can be found here.