I have a cold again. I feel as if I’ve had a cold constantly since autumn arrived – sometimes it’s been on standby, but it’s always been ready to send me running for the tissues at a moment’s notice. And this time I’m feeling particularly self-pitying about it. Good news, then, that rosehips have twenty times more vitamin C than an orange – according to my Richard Mabey – and that I had picked a whole stash of them in a more energetic point in the cold lapse.
I made a rosehip syrup last year but found it disappointing on the flavour front. I’ve since had it pointed out to me that I probably picked my hips too early – this may seem blindingly obvious, but like any other fruit, they ripen. While they appear from late August, at first they’ll be hard; later on they’ll soften and have more flavour. You can eat them raw if you want to see how they taste, but avoid the little seeds which are not good for your insides. Be careful, also, if you’re picking them at the squishy stage: they have tiny inner hairs which will itch like crazy if you get them on your skin. I speak from uncomfortable experience.
This year I used the recipe in Mabey’s book, which is in fact an old Ministry of Food recipe used when citrus fruit was scarce and the aforementioned vitamin C status of rosehips became particularly valuable. It’s more time consuming than the one I used last year, so best to do it on a day you’re planning to stay in, but the results just about capture the flavour – something like a cross between apple and rose. It’s also recommended that you bottle the syrup in small portions as it will only last a couple of weeks once it’s open. Since this recipe yields a lot, you will end up with several small bottles of syrup. In other words, that’s a few Christmas presents sorted.
Makes about 750ml
Wash and drain the hips (they can be frozen if you don’t want to make the syrup straight away). Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil and roughly chop the hips in a food processor. Toss them into the boiling water, turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Pour everything into a jelly bag or piece of muslin or clean tights and leave it to drip into a bowl until just about all of the liquid has dripped through. Put the hip residue back into the saucepan, add another 750ml boiling water and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Put it back into the jelly bag and let it drip through a second time. Put the first cupful of liquid back through the jelly bag for a final time (to make sure you don’t get any of the tiny itchy hairs in your syrup). Measure the final amount of liquid and put it back into a clean saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 750ml left (measuring it first makes this easier to judge). Add 900g sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Pour straight into sterile bottles and seal. Store in a dark cupboard.
The syrup can be used as a cordial or flavouring for milk puddings or ice-cream – the flavour is quite delicate so it needs to be paired with something subtle.
From Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’