Rosehips for inner Winter Fire

Rose HipsThere are still a few rosehips about, juicy and full of almost 20 times the amount of vitamin C found in oranges – good for fighting infection, colds & flu, sore throat, fatigue and stress – vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, K, a wide variety of flavonoids, polyphenols and essential fatty acids.

Studies by Dr Robin Christensen and colleagues from Frederiksberg Hospital in Denmark, the University of California and the University of Copenhagen also showed that use of Rosa canina, or Dog Rose hips reduced Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis pain.

Rose hips are the cherry-sized red fruits of the rose bush left behind after the bloom has died. Although nearly all rose bushes produce rose hips, the tastiest for eating purposes come from the Rosa rugosa variety. The flavor is described as fruity and spicy, much like the cranberry. Harvest the fruits after the first frost when they become fully-colored, but not overripe.

Anyone using rose hips for cooking should remove all the seeds. They are covered with fine hairs that, when ingested, irritate the digestive system.

To preserve the hips spread them out on a clean surface. Allow them to dry until the skin begins to feel dry and slightly shriveled. At this point, split the hips in half and take out all of the seeds and tiny hairs in the center. After the seeds are removed let the hips dry completely. Finely grind and add to hot water for a herbal tea.

When cooking with rose hips, do not use any metal pans or utensils other than stainless steel or risk discoloration of the fruit and loss of its precious vitamin C.

There are plent of recipes available, but since there are still a few apples on the trees even now, though you’ll probably need a ladder, here’s one for Rosehip and Apple Jelly :

  • 2 lb/900g rosehips
  • 4 lb/1800g of sweet eating apples.
  • Zest of half a lemon (add to the apples)
  • Juice of half a lemon (strained). Half a medium lemon equals one tablespoon of juice.
  • Sugar – 1pt/600ml of strained juice to 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar
  • This recipe makes 14 half pound jars.

As the rosehips can take longer than the apple to soften it is an idea to cook them separately, even on separate evenings, as the juice will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, if covered.

1 Remove stalks from rosehips and place in a large glass or enamelled saucepan. Barely cover the hips with water and bring to the boil and simmer gently until the hips are soft, stirring from time to time. This can take about hour and a half. Top up with water if necessary. Mashed them gently with a plastic potato masher to hurry them along. Strain the rosehips through sterilised muslin.

2 Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples. Add water to cover the fruit. Add the lemon zest. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until soft. This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how ripe the fruit is.

3 Pour cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl – line a large plastic sieve with the muslin placed onto the top of a clean bucket. Cover the sieve with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.

4 Leave sieve to drip overnight (or about 12 hours)

5 Measure juice the next day. Pour into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.

6 Add lemon juice.

7 Heat juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time; make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing liquid slowly to the boil.

8 As apples are high in pectin only continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set by drizzling onto a cold plate. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached.

9 A knob of butter added towards the end will reduce frothing.

10 When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle.

11 Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band.

12 If jelly has not set properly, reboil it the next day.

13 Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place, away from damp.

If all the miles of useless Privet hedges were replaced with Rosa Rugosa, or the Hawthorn, a cousin of the rose, we would have a smidgeon more independence from Big Food.

The fruits of some non-native hawthorns, eg Crataegus schraderiana, Crataegus succulenta and Crataegus tanacetifolia are also much bigger, tastier and juicier than our native varieties.

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