One of the easiest, and most gratifying foraging finds in Sweden are wild rose hips, particularly the large rosa rugosa. From beaches to front yards the bright vermillion-red hips are generally ripe from August to October. There are masses of them to be found at Lomma Beach on the southwestern Swedish coast. In just 20 minutes I easily picked four liters and to say there were still enough left for the birds is an understatment.
It’s like I wasn’t even there. Well, the mosquitoes knew I was there. That was the down side to an otherwise glorious, and rare sunny evening this summer.
There are two common types of wild rose hips. Both are pictured above. The larger of the two are rosa rugosa (top picture), and the smaller are rosa canina but they weren’t quite ripe at the time I was doing my picking. Rose hips are sometimes referred to as oranges of the north (nordens apelsiner) because they are so rich in vitamin C. Picking them after the first frost is said to increase their sweetness. That often isn’t practical so you can alternately force the process by putting the rose hips in the freezer for an hour or so before using them. I didn’t have trouble picking the hips by hand but some people prefer to use scissors. Either way, be sure to leave some fruit for the wildlife (birds love rose hips) and try to forage from several bushes rather than gathering all of your hips from one place.
A well-loved rose hip product in Sweden is nyponsoppa, or rose hip soup, that is eaten either hot or cold with a dollop of cream or ice cream and lovely little crunchy, coconut cookies floating in it (you can see a picture of it in my post Top Ten Swedish Foods I Would Miss). But it’s so easy to buy good nyponsoppa in the market that I had my sights set on another use. My initial intention with the rosa rugosa was to make a marmalade. That intent quickly changed once I sliced open one of the hips and tried to scrape out the seeds. There is a rather high ‘seed-to-meat’ ratio and after half a minute of scraping I was left with half a teaspoon (or less) of useable rose hip. Right. On to Plan B, rose hip jelly which does not require removing the seeds. It’s easy to see the high seed content when the rose hips are cooking down to make the jelly. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time or the patience for all of that de-seeding work. Yikes. And if you are doing a project that doesn’t involve straining you need to be really diligent about removing the seeds and little hairs from the inside of the rose hips because they can irritate your digestive system.
I was really pleased with the rose hip jelly result. It retained the gorgeous color of the rose hips and I’m having fun finding all sorts of different uses for it such as glazing roast chicken and cooked carrots (recipes to come) and I think it would be a lovely and unique addition to glazing fruit tarts. It doesn’t set up like a firm jelly, but is more substantial than a syrup. All in all it’s subtle and versatile. And I’m in love with that luminous, translucent, soft rosy color. Hip-hip-hurrah. Enjoy.
Rose Hip Jelly
makes about 6 cups (1500ml)
16 cups (4 liters) rose hips
3 cups (675g) sugar
1 1/2 cups (360ml ) apple juice concentrate
juice and zest of one lemon (I use a vegetable peeler and leave the zest in very large strips).
1. Place a small white plate in the freezer.
2. Wash the rose hips well. Trim away the tops and tails as well as any blemished portions.
3. Place the trimmed rose hips in a large non-reactive pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the hips simmer, covered, until they release their seeds and break down to a liquid, about 30 minutes.
4. Strain the liquid through a saftsil or cheesecloth and let it self-strain, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. You should have about 4 cups of rose hip juice. Discard the seeds and pulp.
5. Place the strained rose hip liquid in a medium-sized non-reactive saucepan. Add the sugar, apple juice concentrate, lemon juice, and zest. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and let cook undisturbed for five minutes.
6. Remove from heat and skim off any scum. Put a small amount of jelly on the frozen plate. Return the plate to the freezer for a few minutes and then do the nudge test to see if it is ready. If the jelly wrinkles and follows your finger when you nudge it, it’s ready to jar. If it isn’t set, put it back on the heat and keep re-testing until done.
7. Ladle the hot jelly into clean jars (make sure they aren’t cold or they will break), put on the lid, and turn them upside down immediately to help seal them. Cool the jars to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several months. You could also store them in the freezer if you leave some space for expansion in the jar, about 3/8 inch (1 cm). If you are interested in trying traditional canning which won’t require your jelly to be refrigerated, you can check out www.freshpreserving.com for tips.