A Winter Adventure
“He walked by the sad little garden and all around the house—not a new house any more. Even the last added lean-to bedrooms were old and weathered and the putty around the windowpanes had shrunk away from the glass.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
It took me several weeks to gather up my urban foraging courage. On my morning walk I pass a house that is empty with a forlorn “for sale” sign that dominates the front yard. A gigantic rose bush hadn’t been trimmed and was filled with bright red rose hips. I took a pair of clippers and a bag on my walk and set about stripping the bush of all the rose hips. While I was clipping, the neighbors drove into the driveway next door and gave me a puzzled look. Thank goodness they didn’t speak to me. I was on the verge of being the crazy lady who lives in the neighborhood. I was waiting for “Um, hi there, what are you doing in my neighbor’s yard?” “Oh, I, ah, live down the street and am gathering rose hips for making jam.” I gathered up my treasure and wondered if I had enough rose hips to make jam. I had no idea what rose hips tasted like or that they take time and patience to clean and cook. This is my kind of winter adventure.
When I was researching cooking with rose hips I discovered the recipe for Rose Hip and Orange Jam in Mes Confitures the classic French bible on all things jam by Christine Ferber. Written in 1997 and organized by season the book zooms ahead of today’s food trends of cooking in season, foraging for ingredients and using the whole edible without generating food waste. Phenomenal flavor combinations like Apple and Caramel, Rhubarb, Acacia Honey and Rosemary, White Peaches and Saffron, all pique my interest. But the recipes are spare on details and the Techniques and Ingredients section is a short four pages. As a novice jam maker the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and the USDA Guide to Preparing and Canning Jams and Jellies are still my foundation for technique.
Homemade marmalade is so different from store-bought. Each jar retains the aroma and brightness of the citrus, but without any bitterness. And the kitchen smells amazing during the marmalade making. I’ve only made marmalade once before. It was two winters ago and I had forgotten so much. In many marmalade recipes the rind is cut away from the white pith of the citrus. Then the strips of rind are very thinly cut. The pith is discarded and just the fruit and rind are used to make the marmalade. The recipe I used for Rose Hip and Orange Jam instructs to cut the oranges into “thin rounds” and proceed with the marmalade recipe. I preferred not cutting the pith from the rind but next time I will cut the slices in quarters for smaller pieces of rind in the finished marmalade.
I used Cara Cara oranges for their bright orange color, intense flavor and lack of seeds. Since I didn’t have enough rose hips to properly follow the recipe the oranges dominated the jam. But the rose hips darkened the color of the marmalade and there is a faint floral taste to the jam. The original recipe called for two and a quarter pounds of rose hips. That is a vast amount of rose hips. I just used what I had foraged and gave the recipe a try. Why not? I may never have a pile of rose hips again! Use a sharp knife for cleaning the rose hips and sharpen the knife again to thinly slice the oranges.
|4C||trimmed and cleaned bright red rose hips|
|2||oranges, very thinly sliced, cut in quarters, seeds removed|
- To prepare the rose hips cut off the tops and bottoms and throughly rinse. Cut each one in half and scrape out the seeds and fine hairs. I used the tip of a vegetable peeler, it fit perfectly into center of the rose hips. Place the rose hips in a non-reactive pan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until the rose hips are soft, adding water as needed. When the rose hips can be easily smashed, they are ready. The original recipe states the rose hips will soften in 30 minutes, mine took 3 hours. Cool the softened rose hips with the cooking liquid. Process the rose hips and liquid in a food mill on the finest disk. Discard the skin and pulp. (Alternatively push the rose hips through a mesh strainer.) Strain the rose hip liquid through a fine mesh strainer and set aside. The rose hip liquid can be kept in the refrigerator overnight for jam making the next day.
- Choose a large pan as marmalade needs lots room to bubble and boil. In a large non-reactive pan add the orange slices, one cup of sugar and the orange juice. Bring the oranges to a boil and then turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until the orange rind becomes translucent, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add a bit more juice or water only if needed. Have a thermometer available and canning jars ready as the marmalade is almost done. Add the rose hips, lemon juice and the remaining sugar. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Depending on how thick you like the marmalade it will be ready between 219° and 222°. I always strive for the standard 221°. Take care as the marmalade will thicken quickly and can overcook and scorch. Remove the pan from the heat and ladle the hot marmalade into jars. Refrigerate the marmalade or continue canning in a water bath for ten minutes in accordance with the USDA guidelines for canning.
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