Saturday, July 17, 2010

forest bounty: rosehip jelly

Cass and I spent last Thanksgiving with his parents and one of his sister's friends/former roommates up in Index. While we were up there, I insisted upon going out (in an icy drizzle) and picking the wild rosehips glowing like rubies in the November mountains. I cleaned mine and popped them in the freezer and haven't had time to prepare them until now. I figure that's probably okay, because from what I read, a good freeze actually converts the starches in the rosehip into sugars, so this is one fruit that probably tastes better after freezing, not worse.

For years, I've wanted to try making a traditional Swedish classic, rosehip soup, from scratch. I still haven't made the soup, but I did make some jelly yesterday and I want to show you the process. Start with at least a pound of rosehips. Discard any discoloured or spotted ones, and trim off stems and blossom ends as much as possible.

Now, because the rosehip is the fruit of the rose plant (and related to apples, by the way), it contains seeds. And, as even a little bit of googling will inform you, those seeds have little hairs attached to them which are an irritant -apparently, they are VERY itchy. So, you want to either cut open each rosehip and remove all seeds and hairs (at which point, you can chop the fruit and make jam) or you want to cook the hips, smash them open, and then strain them very carefully to remove hairs and seeds from the rosehip "juice," which can then be used to make jelly. After my 5 hour stint peeling watermelon (more on that later) a few weeks ago, I wasn't too keen to sit and pick through all of these rosehips, particularly as wild rosehips are very small. (If you are planning to make this yourself, I recommend getting hips from the rosa rugosa variety, a kind of shrubby rose which grow wild along beaches and here in Seattle are planted along trails in many urban parks! Rugosa grows very large hips, so you will get more fruit for the trouble of de-seeding and de-hairing them).

But I digress. I wasn't interested in removing all those hairs, so I made jelly. First, I put the roses in a pot with enough water to just give them room to move around. I brought the pot to a boil, then covered and reduced the heat to low and simmered them for an hour or more, until the hips were soft.

Then you want to create a puree or mash. If you have a potato masher, get mashing. I had to use a wooden spoon, which also works but is a bit harder on the wrists. As I got to mashing, I added some more water because my pulp became as thick as mashed potatoes and I knew there wasn't enough water in the mix. So I added some more water and let it cook for another 10 min or so. The consistency you want is kind of like thick cream - any thicker and it's going to take a while to get all the juice out when you strain the mass. However, if you make it thinner, you can always cook the juice back down after you've strained it, so I say err on the side of too much rather than too little water.

Straining the mass (love that steam!): some folks say to use 4 layers of cheesecloth or a fine sieve. I had a fairly fine sieve and only two layers of cheesecloth and I was just fine. I propped my sieve up on a glass (to hold it out of the strained juices) and left for a few hours to have dinner and drinks with friends.

Waste not, want not: though I had more than enough juice (3 or 4 cups, depending on whose recipe you use), I pressed all the extra juice out of the mass that I could, wringing gently with my hands. Note: only two layers of cheesecloth and no hairs to be seen, though the mixture did coat my hands with an oddly plastic-feeling residue that was kind of itchy for an hour or two (may have been psychosomatic, though).

Cooking: most recipes I found combined 3 or 4 c. juice with 3.5-5 c. sugar and .5 c fresh-squeezed lemon juice, brought the mixture to a boil and then lowered heat and reduced the mix until it thickened to one's liking (the way to test? keep a plate in the freezer. Every so often, place a few drops of the jam on the frozen plate. Allow 30 seconds to cool, and then check the consistency. When it reaches the stage you like, it's done), and then canned it.

I did things just a little differently. I probably had about 6 c. juice (according to Cass, who is a much better estimator of volume than I am), and I only used about 2.5 c. sugar, and the zest and juice of one lemon. The result is a very tannic jelly with a flavour almost like rich black tea, but I like it; it's very different. I'll tell you how I plan to use it below. For now, here's my process:

I used Pomona's Natural Pectin as a thickener. I put 4 teaspoons of prepared calcium water in the pan with my lemon zest, lemon juice, and rosehip juice. I stirred well. While I brought the juice to a bowl, I mixed 4 teaspoons of the pectin into 1.5 c. sugar (adding about another cup later when I first tasted it - wowee it was tannic!!). When the juice came to a boil, I added the pectin/sugar. You have to whisk very rapidly when you add Pomona's pectin to a fruit juice mixture, as I've found it has a tendency to clump into little white balls of pectin. So expect to get an aerobic workout whisking your jelly up. Bring the mixture to a boil again and then reduce heat (I cook it at a low boil, whisking almost constantly) and cook until it reaches a consistency that you want (again, use the frozen plate to check). Beware of cooking too long; the sugars can caramelize and I read that this produces an undesirable flavour.

When your jelly reaches a consistency that you like, can and process using the boiling water method for 10 minutes (or more, depending on your altitude, of course).
voila! Now, as I said, it's terribly tannic. I have a bit leftover in the fridge to experiment with for the next week or two. I think this will be very good atop buttered toast, particularly for those who like tea, as it tastes like nothing so much as a fruit-infused black tea. I also plan to try mine as a part of a cheese plate, alongside creamy goat cheeses like bucheron. Finally, I'm going to try making pasties or tarts (though it might not be until autumn or winter) with this jelly and marzipan, as I think it would pair marvellously with that smooth almond sweetness.

Any other rosehip fans out there? How do you like your rosehip jelly? Any flavour combinations you can recommend?

1 comment:

Breanne said...

Thank you! Just a tip i read, if you slit and de-seed the hips before stewing it is alot less tannic, you just need more hips :)