Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Making rosehip syrup - the last harvest of the year for the faery store-cupboard ...

Vintage illustration from the wonderful Swiss artist Mili Weber c1930, as a postcard.

     November - and only after the first frosts - that's the time to collect your rosehips from the hedgerows or gardens to make a batch of rosehip syrup. They may appear to be past their best, but that's just how they should be for this faery-hedgerow-recipe.

    Why is the rosehip beloved by and indispensable to the faere folk of the woods?  Well - because of this syrup!!  It's sweet and strong and packed full of Vitamin C - can be used as a medicine for sore throats and colds straight from the bottle - as it was all over Britain in the war years.

  It can be diluted with water to make a refreshing, tonic drink, said to be very beneficial for joint pain. Or you might just pour a couple of spoonfuls over icecream, cake - perhaps a bowl of winter-warming porridge - sublime!
Rosehips glow in autumn sunshine on the old wild dog rose along the lane.
     If the hip almost drops into your hand as you pull it, and feels soft and squashy to the touch - it's perfect!  Even a little discolouration won't hurt.  You don't need to pick vast quantities - just half a kilo, approx. a large bowlful, will make several small jars of deliciously strong, bitter-sweet syrup. Leave enough for the hungry winter birds if you please.

Mid-November hips, picked yesterday - soft, ripe and still smelling of summer
Here is the Muddypond Green recipe - tried 'n tested - full 'n flavoursome ....
    Ingredients:   (approx)
                      500g (1 lb) sugar
                      1kg (2lb) rosehips - soft and ripe
                      2 litres (3¾ pts) water
*    You will also need a straining or jelly bag to filter the juice overnight.
*    Small jars or bottles (sterilized and hot from the oven) are best, as once opened the syrup won't  last for more than a week.
(1)   Prepare the hips simply by washing, then removing any really discoloured, rotten ones along with large stems or dried flower-bracts.  You can leave the little brown tips as they will all be caught in the filter. Now crush the hips in a pan, using the end of a rolling pin or similar.

(2)   Add 1½ l (just under 3 pts) very hot water, stir and bring to boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15 mins.
(3)   Strain through a fine-grade jelly bag, drip for 10 mins.
(4)   Return the pulp of hips to the pan and add a further ½ l hot water - stir, bring back to boil, then allow to cool for a further 10 mins.
(5)   Make a final straining through jelly bag - at least 8 hrs or overnight
(6)   Combine juice from both strainings in a pan, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by approx. half.
(7)   Add sugar, heat and dissolve - boil for about 5 minutes. (Not too long - you're not making jam!)
(8)   Pour while hot into the small heated glass jars and seal immediately. (Can also be frozen in small freezer containers).

Bright fruits stand out against the bare twigs in mid November - the hips are adored by small birds.
      The medicinal properties of rosehips have been employed for centuries - as the great herbal of Nicholas Culpeper, compiled in 1652, can testify  .......
'The pulp of the hips has a pleasant grateful  acidity, strengthens the stomach, cools the heat of fevers,  good for coughs and spitting of blood, and the scurvy. The seed has been known to do great things against the stone and gravel ; … the best way of preserving its virtues is, by keeping it conserved. '
     Rosehips, picked in their prime make delectable decoration. The pictures above are from one of my favourite craft books - 'Enchanted Circles - the art of making wreaths, garlands and decorative rings.' Author - Elizabeth Jane Lloyd.  Published - Conran Octopus 1990    ISBN 1 85029 271 X


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