Wild rose is one of the most prolific fruit producers of all the native shrubs found around Telluride; but unlike the raspberry, gooseberry, currant, chokecherry, or serviceberry, the fruit of the wild rose (rosehips) often remain on the branch well into winter. I assume the reason for this is because the fruit of the wild rose isn’t typically gobbled up by foraging animals (or humans) as soon as they’re ripe, unlike the fruit of other native fruiting shrubs. Gobbling up a rosehip will, after all, make for an unpleasant surprise: Rosehips are full of barbed seeds and prickly hair.
But the garnet-colored skin of a rosehip is also full of vitamin C, and boasts a delicious, hibiscus-like flavor. The English have long known the secret to enjoying the tasty but problematic rosehip – jelly.
Through a process of trial-and-error, the rosehips that had for so long piqued my culinary interest finally wound up (in delightfully edible form) on my toast this fall. The recipe for this herbal-icious crimson-pink delicacy follows. If you’re lazy like me you half the recipe, but once you taste the finished product you’ll be bummed you didn’t make more to share.
8 cups rosehips
4 cups water
½ cup lemon juice
1 to 2 cups sugar
Apple or grape juice (optional)
Pomona’s Universal Pectin (requires less sugar to gel than other brands)
Ten 4 oz. jelly jars (or five 8 oz. jars) with lids and bands
Pick the fruit: Choose dark red rosehips. Some say you should wait until after the first frost, when the rosehips are mealy and extra sweet, but I couldn’t wait that long. Do wear gardening or work gloves and long sleeves, because the thorns of the wild rose bush are sharp.
Prepare the juice: Wash the rosehips, removing the leftover blossoms. Simmer the whole rosehips in the water and lemon juice until they are soft. Remove the rosehips and then mash them, straining the pulp through a sieve, jelly bag or cheesecloth (as long as overnight). You should get about 4 cups of juice; apple or juice may be added to make up the difference.
Make the jelly: In a saucepan, bring the rosehip juice to a rolling boil. Mix the desired amount of sugar with 4 tsp. of Pomona’s pectin powder, then the add pectin-sugar mixture to the juice and stir until the powder is completely dissolved. Remove from heat. Add 2 tsp. calcium water (see directions on pectin package).
Process: Fill hot, sterilized jelly jars (clean them with soap and water first, then boil them to sterilize. Keep them in hot water until ready to use.) to ¼” from the top with jelly. Wipe the rims clean, then screw on the lids. Put the filled jars in boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool until the lids seal. A proper seal is indicated when the lid is sucked down in the center.