Rose hips are easy to forage, packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and their tart flesh marries perfectly with sweetness in this fermented jam.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve crafted the stuffing out of this holiday season, hiked what could be hiked, cooked what could be cooked, and you’re currently giving your library card a much-needed workout as you read anything and everything you can.
But maybe (just maybe) you’re starting to miss your garden and you’re jonesing for some wild-earth foraging. Well, my sweets, I have an easy solution: just stare aimlessly out your winter window and wait for the rogue and ruby red color of rose hips (Rosa rugosa or Rosa canina) to catch your eye.
First, know that rose hips are the fruit of the wild rose plant and their flavor is sweetened by frost, cold, and even by snow. They can be frozen until you’re ready to use them, so I just tend to leave them on the vine. When you’re ready, harvest what you can, looking for color and good shape. If you’re using rose hips for making tea, soup, salad garnishes, or if eating them raw, open the hip, and scrape the seeds into your compost. If you’re cooking the hips down into jam or syrup, there’s no need to do the scrapey business — you’ll be straining the pulp through cheesecloth, which will take care of any irritating seeds or hairs. What do you get besides the brilliant satisfaction of making something out of (seemingly) nothing in the white world of winter? Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and antioxidants galore.
My favorite way to use rose hips is to simmer them along with a knob of ginger for ten minutes or so. I strain the infusion, add a squeeze of lemon, and sit and sip in front of my wood stove. Oh, but you want something a bit racier than tea? I hear you. How about these apples: Rose Hip-Laced Cultured Berry Jam. (Fermented jam? Oh yes. It’s about to get fizzy in here.) Worry not, if you’re trying to cut down on extra sugar in the new year. The sugar here is primarily for the bacteria, and much of it will be digested by the time you get into this goodness. Happy cultured foraging!
Rose Hip-Laced Cultured Berry Jam
This recipe filled a few 8-ounce jam jars, but feel free to divide it as you like.
- 2 pounds berries of choice (I used cranberries along with some summer blueberries from the freezer)
- A handful of rose hips, freshly scraped and chopped
- ¾ cup sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, maple sugar, sucanat, or dehydrated cane juice)
- 1⁄3 cup whey [see Note]
- Grated or crystalized ginger to taste (optional)
- Orange zest to taste (optional)
- Combine everything but the whey in a saucepan and simmer on medium-low heat for approximately five minutes, smashing all the berries and hips as you stir. Let the juices flow, baby.
- Take your pan off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- While your jam is cooling, clean your jars. It’s okay if they’re not sterilized, but clean is key for both jar and lid.
- Stir the whey into the now-cooled jam, then pour the mixture into your jars. Cover tightly and allow to ferment at room temperature for 2–7 days. (Since this is fruit, it ferments quickly, so you’ll want to taste your jam after two days to attain the level of sweetness you prefer. The longer it ferments, the less sweet it becomes. I like as little sweetness as possible, so I let mine go a good week, tasting daily as I go).
- Check your jar lids daily, and be sure to burp them if they get distended.
- Once your ferment’s flavor is where you like it, store the jars in your root cellar or fridge. The jam will keep for two or three months.
Whey — the watery stuff that you often find sitting on top of your yogurt — is a liquid that results after milk has been curdled and strained. Not only is it full of vitamins and minerals, it helps the process of lacto-fermentation along. If you don’t have any whey lurking in your fridge, it’s very easy to obtain using a good organic, cultured yogurt or kefir (or even buttermilk or raw milk you’ve left on the counter to separate in readiness for cheese making). Place a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer over a bowl, and pour in your milk product, letting the whey run into the bowl. Alternatively, you can scoop your yogurt into a cloth bag and hang it from one of those banana storage hook thingies—that works a treat). This should take a few hours (I usually just let this work happen on its own overnight).
Don’t toss the resulting thick yogurt stuff at the end! It makes a delicious, spreadable yogurt-y, cheese. And there’s no end of things you can do with that goodness, like, say, spreading it on a cracker and topping it with your fermented jam.