Leaves are drifting down, and those much anticipated fall colors are slowly starting to appear, along with the wild rosehips that emerge bright red and orange from unexpected places, punctuating these gray, foggy, drippy days. Oh how lovely they are!
All along the backroads, I spy them in fields, intermingled with blackberry bramble and tumbledown fences, or climbing up fir trees like this one. Not exactly easy pickings, which is why, until recently, I didn't venture far to do anything with them. But this bush was growing alongside the road to my house. I've passed it by many times on my walks to and fro up the hill and through the woods.
I decided to pick just a few but ended up with helpers, and a basketfull! That part was easy enough. But rosehips have a reputation. For one thing, they are covered with fine prickly hairs that can irritate your skin and make you itch like mad if you aren't careful. I even read somewhere that the hairs are used to make itching powder. Itching powder? That sounds useful. I wore these rubberized garden gloves to pick and wash them and only had a few twitches of imaginary itching.
In case you don't know...rosehips are the fruit of the rose that emerges after the blossoms drop off, much like any other food plant. Wild varieties are said to have the best flavor and are less likely to have been sprayed with poison. (Don't pick and eat any that have been sprayed.) I picked the "dog rose" type with small, tear-drop shaped hips. Rosehips can be used in a variety of ways. I decided to try two methods of preserving them.
Initially, I thought I'd make a jam--but soon realized that was going to require some work because you have to remove the tiny seeds and there's no easy or quick way to do this. There are many more "itchy hairs" inside the pips as well, making the whole affair a rather tedious, worrisome process. After about an hour of fiddling and fretting with only a few to show for all the effort, I just chucked them whole into a saucepot, added lemon juice, some sugar mixed with agar, and boiled them for about 20 minutes until the mixture began to thicken. To strain the jelly, my old-fahioned potato ricer came in handy. This is actually one of my favorite kitchen tools! Quite useful for many things. (There is an updated stainless steel version here.)
After all that, we have exactly *one* gorgeous rosy jar of rosehips jelly, and I'm guarding it with my life! No peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for you, no sireee. Rather scones and crumpets seem more in order here. And maybe a fancy gingham paper hat! Are these darling or what?