Rosa rugosa, or Japanese rose, is a glorious plant. Not only are its heavily scented petals among the best types of rose for culinary use, but in late summer it produces a mass of luscious, flame-red rosehips. They make a perfect — although time consuming — ingredient for jams and syrups
No other fruit tastes quite like the rosehip. It has a unique, citrusy but full-bodied flavour, without the acidic sharpness of citrus fruit. It makes them, along with the blackberry, one of the worthiest and most desirable of common hedgerow finds. Rosehips are a member of the Rosaceae family, among the most treasured of culinary plants, with botanical relatives including apples, strawberries, raspberries, plums, cherries and almonds.
One well-recorded benefit of the rosehip is its rich vitamin C content, which is around 426 mg per 100 g (US Department of Agriculture, national nutrient database). Some of the vitamin C is degraded by boiling but a significant percentage (up to 85%) leeches into the water and so is preserved when making jams and syrups (Turkish Journal of Botany, 1997). They are such a readily available source of the vitamin that, during WWII, British children were paid 3d per lb to collect them, to support public health during rationing. An approved recipe for “national rosehip syrup” was in circulation and was considered as a substitute for unavailable fruit juices (foodsofengland.co.uk). Keeping some rosehip preserve on your shelf is certainly a good investment for topping up your vitamin C as autumn and winter approach.
The one downside of cooking with rosehips is the extended preparation. Each hip contains hundreds of seeds surrounded by fine, irritating hairs. Many a schoolchild could tell you that ripe Rosa rugosa hips make good “itching powder” when squashed and dropped down someone’s back. Obviously, you don’t want these hairs getting in your throat, so either manual removal of the seeds and hairs, followed by a thorough rinsing, or repeated straining through muslin are required to produce an edible preserve.
This recipe uses the former method, which tends to retain more of the fruit. It produces a rustic, almost chutney-like preserve but if you prefer a smoother jam then it can be pushed through a sieve, or blitzed with a blender, as a final step before canning. It is not a sugary jam, so works as well as a spread on toast as it does accompanying cheeses.
Makes approx: 2 x 450g jars
1kg rosa rugosa rosehips (will weigh approx 550g once deseeded)
100 g caster sugar
Prepare the rose hips by cutting off the top and bottom and then slicing in half. Use a teaspoon or similar to remove the seeds.
Having a bowl of water handy to regularly rinse your fingers of seeds and pulp helps speed up the process.
Place the rosehip shells in a colander and rinse very thoroughly with cold water.
Wash, core and peel the apples and then dice them into chunks.
Put the rosehip shells, apples, water and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
Continue to heat until the jam takes on the right consistency. This will take around 40mins to 1hr.
If you wish to have a smoother jam. Allow to cool push through a sieve, or blend. Then return to pan and heat to a low boil again
Sterilise jars. Pour the hot jam mixture into the hot jars and seal the lids. We recommend using a water canning method.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!