“I think of rose hips as the strawberries of fall….. they carry the taste of strawberries and roses.”
-Diana Henry, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow
While I was walking from my shepherd’s hut to breakfast at The Pig On The Beach I passed by the potager there and saw the most luscious, red and bursting rosehips.
As a child the matron at the school where I was boarding occasionally plied me rosehip syrup as a way of trying to ward off the colds I seemed to constantly suffer from (obviously, she should have given me a Lynwood’s ginger ninja!). In any case, I hated it – horrid sticky, sickly sweet stuff. But these luscious rose hips…. they looked so gorgeous. There had to be something good to do with them.
The best hips for cooking are the big, fat, orange ones from Rosa Rugosa.
Put on gloves! Top, tail and halve the hips. Scoop out the pips and hairs inside (NB the hairs are a skin irritant).
Making rosehip tea… or rosehip compôte
Once you’ve prepared the hips you can dry them, and then use to make an infusion – rosehip tea.
Or you can make a compôte by cooking them with six times their weight of apples.
…finally… rosehip syrup
After a bit of research I decided that the best recipe for rosehip syrup (and the most appropriate, since there is something very vintage about rosehip syrup) comes from one published by the British Ministry of Food in WWII.
I’ve updated it a bit (metric measures….useful jay cloths…), but this, essentially, is what to do.
Recipe for making rose hip syrup
- 900g/2 lbs of rose hips
- 1.7 litres/3 pints/7 cups of water
- very approximately 560g/1 lb 4 oz caster sugar
- good supply of Jay cloths – at least three
- smallish bottles – once opened they will only keep a couple of weeks in the fridge
- Begin by sterilising your bottles and the caps – follow this link for the various methods for doing this.
- Boil a full kettle of water, and pour 1.7 litres of it into a large saucepan. Get it boiling.
- Prepare the hips as described above, topping, tailing, and halving whilst begloved. Roughly chop the rose hips in a food processor (you may need to do this in batches). Add immediately to the boiling water.
- Take the saucepan off the heat, and leave for a quarter of an hour.
- Then strain as much of the liquid as you can through a big sieve lined with a Jay cloth and set over a large bowl – leave it to drain through for about half an hour. Refill the kettle and get it boiling again.
- Put the residue of rose hips remaining in the Jay cloth back into the saucepan, add 840ml/3½ cups of just-boiled water. Leave ten minutes.
- Strain again, using a new Jay cloth, into the bowl with the first lot of juice, and leaving again for half an hour.
- Wash the saucepan. Strain the entire lot of rose hip juice through another NEW Jay cloth in a sieve into the saucepan. All this straining is to eliminate the little scratchy hairs the rose hips have. The sieve is really there just to hold the Jay cloth.
- Boil the juice until you are left with about 480m/3½ cups. Add the sugar, boil for five minutes to dissolve. Leave to cool. If it still looks a bit cloudy (it shouldn’t) strain again before you bottle in the sterilised vessels and caps.
What can you do with the rose hip syrup?
- In my view, the most successful thing to do is to mix it with rhubarb cordial, and then again with gin. And you can shortcut the whole process by buying Mr Fitzpatrick’s ready made cordial. Follow this link to see what they do with that (it goes in a tea) at The Fount Bar.
- Add to duck recipes
- Waitrose is currently selling Welsh lamb steaks with rosehip and gin
- Or into tagines
- Simon Rogan, winner of Series 7 of The Great British Menu (2012), served his with poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice cream. Follow this link for the recipe.
- Over a panna cotta
- Over plain vanilla ice cream
- Drizzled over meringues
- In a rice pudding
- At breakfast drizzled on porridge, pancakes, or French toast. Particularly good, apparently, on porridge with coconut milk and pistachios
- Mixed into yoghurt
- Stephen Harris at The Sportsman serves his with pheasant and bread sauce
- In a cocktail – two parts Bourbon to one part rosehip syrup…add lemon juice to taste, muddle with mint. Or, a Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall idea, same proportions but substitute white rum for Bourbon and apple juice for the lemon juice. Or any of these cocktails on Pinterest.
But, to be honest, I’m still not wholly convinced it’s worth the effort! Mr Fitzpatrick’s rhubarb and rosehip cordial is excellent! Mix simply with gin…divine…put your feet up!
Making rosehip vodka
I would also like to experiment with making rosehip vodka – find out how on the wonderful Boozed and Infused site.
Making rosehip jelly
You can also, very simply, make rosehip jelly. Wash and cook in twice their weight of cooking apples, the two fruits covered with water, until all is soft – about an hour. Leave to strain in a muslin-lined funnel overnight. Heat the resulting liquid, and add 100g/4 oz sugar for every 120 ml/½ cup, slowly dissolving the sugar. Then boil for 15 minutes. Check that it’s ready to set by putting a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold plate. If the surface wrinkles when you prod it cautiously, it’s ready. Store it in sterilised jars.
You can do a lot more with rosehip jelly – it’s particularly good with game, especially venison; and also with all kinds of charcuterie, in particular, smoked and cured ham.
The season for rosehips
Forage for them in October, after the first frosts of the year have softened them.
“I look forward to stripping the rosehips from the small thorny bushes of the dog rose tree and making a fruity syrup to bring a splash of colour and acidity to the plate throughout the winter.”
-Stephen Harris, The Daily Telegraph, September 2019
Music to cook to
Chenlyn Li plays Edward MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose