Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rose Hip Syrup.

Right. So last time I updated I mentioned I had managed to pick a lot (and I mean A LOT) of rose hips. I actually have about 3kg of them and I am trying to work out what to do.

Today was the first opportunity I  had to get in the kitchen, so I decided to make a test batch of rose hip syrup.

Rose hip syrup is great stuff for people with a serious sweet tooth (like me). It's great as a drink when mixed with hot or cold water (kind of like a cordial) and goes really well with a simple vanilla ice cream or as a substitute to honey on your muesli or porridge. Yum. Rose hips are also one of the best sources of vitamin c you can find, so there's a health bonus to this stuff whilst you're getting your sugar fix. Win win!

So to whip up a little batch of this stuff to try, you're going to need:

225g/8oz Rose hips
225g/8oz sugar
450ml/3/4 pint water

You are also going to need a sieve/jelly bag/clean tea towel, a medium saucepan, a sharp knife (or a blender if you're lazy) and a couple of small bottles or jars to put your syrup in once you're done.

Chop your rose rose hips up roughly, or wazz them in the blender a couple of times - you don't want to pulverise them, just rough them up a bit - and put them to one side whilst you boil the water and dissolve all the sugar in it. Next, add your rose hips, half cover the pan and cook gently for about an hour, adding more water every now and again if it looks like things are getting a bit too dense and sticky.

Next, pour through your sieve or jelly bag or tea towel into a suitable receptacle like a jug. Press the cooked rose hips with the back of a fork or spoon to wring as much of that juice out as possible. Once they're spent, put the hips to one side and pour the syrup back through the sieve again to filter the liquid a little. The result should be about 200/300ml (between 1/3 and 1/2 a pint) of fiery orange sauce.

Place the sauce in a de-seeded, cleaned saucepan and bring it back up to the boil. Pour into hot, sterilised jars or bottles and seal. Leave to cool. Store in a dark, cool cupboard (or the fridge, once you've opened it).

Not a bad batch. Next time I might be tempted to boil the rose hips and water first and then add the sugar to the mix once I've sieved the juice (less sticky, especially if you're using a tea towel or something similar as a filter). But otherwise I am pretty pleased with this little kitchen adventure.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

September, September.

September. An interesting month. True, its appearance on the calendar means a goodbye to summer and a hello to school days, torrential rain and rapidly dwindling evening light, but the start of autumn also means there's lots of stuff to do hedgerow-wise. Lots to pick and, as a consequence, a metric arse-load of cooking too.

So this is my haul from a weekend of picking:

That's about 2kg of rose hips, 1kg of crab apples and about 1.5 or so of blackberries. All very easy to find and there's quite a bit to do with them all.

Rose hips:
If you've got a garden, and you have roses, chances are you'll see these zingy red fruits once the flowers have died off. You can also find them around this time of year in hedgerows and parks. I've managed to grab a load from a load of dog roses that grow nearby, but apparently you can get these babies from most rose species (some species are obviously going to yield better fruit than others ... maybe I'll try a few different varieties next year).

Rose hips are one of the richest sources of vitamin C you're likely to come across. They make good tea, jam, syrup and boast impressive medicinal properties, helping fight arthritis and bad skin. I bagged myself a bucket-load so I can try out a few recipes with them over the next few days and share the results.

Crab Apples:
Green ones. I'm not sure what species they are but they're definitely crab apples (or 'wild apples' if you don't speak bumpkin). Crab apples are also usually a hedgerow plant. You can find them in parks and random places dotted around the city. They're not much good for just eating because they are a) small, and b) kind of bitter. They are good for making jellies and chutneys though, so I'll see what happens with them.

I'm sure a lot of people have been blackberrying (that's fruit picking and not phone knicking). They grow all over the place and I am sure that if you live in a temperate zone (especially in the northern hemisphere), you've probably seen these bad boys somewhere nearby. The main problem with these little sods is avoiding the brambles when you pick them. Their juice also stains clothes so don't be wearing your best shirt when you go rummaging for them.

Blackberries are great when combined with apple in pies, jams and whatnot, but you can also put them with meats and in other autumnal savoury dishes for a bit of extra flavour.

Not a bad haul for a couple of sessions of gathering. Looking forward to sharing the results very soon.