Foraging and Canning Rose Hip Jam

Lunchtime lingers so easily when it is filled with good company and wild rose hips. After seeing bushes loaded with beautiful orange-red berries around our office in Seattle, my new office crush and I learned that the bushes were wild roses, aka dog rose, and the berries were the infamous rose hip best known in my life experience as a dried tart, sweet fruity tea. Historically, however, rose hips were celebrated as an accessible form of vitamin c-- it is said that just a few small berries contain as much as an orange! With a gathering vessel and sunny day at our disposal the rose hip soon became our friend and her thorns our foe. 5 pounds of fruit and about 30 or 45 minutes later we headed back to work. Keep a keen eye for abandoned lots around the city and you might see hanging fruit ripe for the picking at sidewalk access.

Behold the beauty:

A bit of google work turns up many resources, most famously/notably a Rose Hip Jelly blog post from Langdon Cook, a renowned local foodie and forager and the author of Fat of The Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. The Pacific Northwest is embracing the DIY philosophy and rekindling our relationships with good food, noting how accessible wild foods are if we educate ourselves on the edibles available. I've seen classes pop up that are sponsored by city departments like the Wild Mushrooms 101 class being sponsored by the Cedar River Watershed Institute (Seattle), a Bainbridge Island "Bounty of the Land" series including a rose hip class among others such as clam & oysters (with Langdon Cook!), chanterelles, herbal jams and jellies, and wild plant medicines, and Mercer Island even jumped onto the wagon offering shellfish foraging and wild foods classes. My point is that the bounty is here, we just need to find it. Wild plums abound, blackberries, rose hips, oregon grape is on right now, and much more. Check out the calendar over at Fresh Picked Seattle for more ideas and if you are in Portland check out Wild Food Adventures and their awesome, affordable classes.

Anyway, back to those rose hips. I found a recipe in my old, old version of Putting Food By that essentially called for the berries to be simmered with a cup of water per pound of fruit until soft, after which it is mashed, sieved and returned to the pan for sweetening. Add a 1:1 ratio of sugar to fruit juice by weight, simmer until thick, and process in the water bath canner for like 15 minutes or something. Find a recipe. There are a million. Be sure to somehow get the hairy seeds out of your batch though, no matter which recipe you use. They will leave very unpleasant little slivers in your tongue (so I learned when I bit into my first raw rosehip).

The biggest snafu I hit was that simmering took longer than expected to soften my hips (the rose hips, not my body. Those are already quite soft, thankyouverymuch), and the amount of pectin in the berries caused it to thicken prematurely. Perhaps we picked them underripe and that's why it took so long to soften? Most places recommend waiting to harvest until the first frost but we also read they were fine at this time as well. By the time I mashed up the berries and tried to pass it through my chinois sans jelly bag, I had a paste that reminded me of slow-roasted tomatoes in the desert. I added an additional *6 cups of water* just to have semi-liquid product and went from there.

So I did what was next, added sugar, simmered (stirring constantly because it didn't seem to be quite enough water to dissolve the sugar) until thick, and then processed.

And.... beautiful! The photos below document half of the final reward. I think we totaled 3 pints, 3 half pints and 4 quarter pints, but I honestly cannot remember. It was a wild mix of sizes, appropriate for home and gifts. Holiday planning is in the works...

A little bit of label love (his talent, not mine).

Stay tuned for further adventures in rose hips as the season is just beginning and The River Cottage Preserves Handbookhas a rose hip syrup recipe beckoning to be tried.

PS. If I ever move to Portland I am adding to and taking advantage of the Urban Edibles project. So cool.


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