Every year I make rose hip syrup. Lots and lots of it. Often people tell me they remember their parents giving it to them when they were children, along with tales of gathering the vitamin c packed hips from hedgerows during the war, when oranges were hard to come by. I Love going out on sunny Autumn days when the rosy red hips glow starkly from their thorny branches, beautifully contrasted by the turquoise sky. The thorns are like claws that hook onto your skin and you have to make sure you get out of them the same way you go in, in reverse, or they will tear. Of course you can wear gloves but that never really works for me.
The squishy tangerine shaped hips from the rosa rugosa bush are the first to ripen and are often found planted in coastal areas. That is where I usually start my gathering from, then I move to the hedgerows to collect the harder oval hips from the native dog roses. Some people say wait for the first frosts before you pick them, but here on the coast West Wales the hips are usually turning slightly brown and fermenting a little by the time the first frosts soften them.
Inside the hip lies a hairy, irritating seed which is used as itching powder, so whatever you do with them the seed needs to come out. I find the easiest way to do this is to cook them up then strain them through a jelly bag or fine muslin, which is another reason that they are perfect for using in syrup. People often ask me if boiling them kills the vitamin C but from what I have read it is the time between picking the hips and making the syrup which causes the loss of vitamin C rather than the cooking. This is especially interesting as today though rosehip syrup is made commercially, the hips are imported from South America, so I can only imagine how little vitamin C is left in them by the time they arrive in the UK.
This is the recipe I use and is based on the recipe from the Ministry of Food recipe. It is really delicious and tastes so exotic. Pour onto porridge, pancakes, icecream or add to prosecco for a special cocktail.
1 Kg Rose Hips
3 litres of boiling water
Immerse the hips in the boiling water and mince with a tough hand blender (doing this in the water helps preserve the vitamin c ) then bring back to the boil. If you don’t have a hand blender you could put them into a food processor, roughly mince them then add to the water. Leave for 15 minutes to stand. Strain through a jelly bag until most of the liquid runs through.
Put the minced hips back into a pan, add one litre of water and bring to the boil. Stand for 15 minutes then strain through the jelly bag.
Once the liquid has dripped through, combine both lots of rose hip juice. I pour them through the cleaned out jelly bag one more time just to make sure all the hairy seeds are removed. Put back into a clean pan.
Boil the mixture till it has reduced by about a third (up to a half if you want a really thick syrup)
Add sugar. I use fair trade granulated, 850g for each litre of liquid. Pour in carefully so the hot liquid doesn’t spit up at you. Stir to dissolve then bring back to boiling point and boil for 5 minutes. Pour into hot, sterilised bottles and seal immeditately. Like this it will keep for at least 6 months unopened. If you are going to use it immediately you don’t have to worry about sterilising the bottles, just store in the fridge
This year I found a beautiful patch of black rose hips from the burnet rose which were growing wild in sand dunes.
I loosely followed the recipe above but used less water, the hips broke down quicker and gave a much less thick liquid. The taste is quite different from the red rose hips – quite musky and more bitter, so I added spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and vanilla. A dark, magical syrup which I look forward to pouring into my porridge on cold dark Winter mornings