September 09, 2010

The wonders of rose-hip

It seems that rose-hips are a bit of a wonder food. They contain more vitamin C than any other fruit or vegetable, four times as much as blackcurrants in fact, and twenty times as much as oranges. And if that doesn't make you want to rush outside to forage the berry-laden hedgerows, they also contain vitamin A, D and E and are reported to be beneficial in reducing inflammation and pain to rheumotoid arthritis sufferers.

The shapely rosehip is the fleshy fruit of our native hedgerow rose. The orange-red berries that appear this time of the year contain a crowd of creamy white seeds, protected by tiny irritant hairs, which is why they should never be eaten raw, or shoved down someones shirt, and which I am ashamed to say is how we used to use them in my schooldays! Definitely not recommended...

Rosehips have long been used for making jams, jellies, wine, tea and, my favourite of all, syrup. This recipe is based on one issued by the Ministry of Defence during the Second World War when rosehips were gathered by volunteers. They were paid 3d (just over 1p) for each pound (450g) they collected and the syrup made from the fruit was fed to the nation's children.

Use this rosehip syrup, mixed with hot water, as a warming winter drink. I also love it drizzled neat over rice pudding, pancakes or a bowl of steaming porridge.

Makes about 1.5 litres
500g rosehips
650g granulated sugar

Pick over the rosehips, removing the old stalks, and rinse in cold water.

Put 800ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. meanwhile, mince the rosehips or chop them in a food processor. Add them to the pan of boiling water, cover and bring back to the boil. Take off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Pour through a scaled jelly bag (scalded by placing in a pan of water and bringing to the boil)and leave to drip for an hour or so. If, like me, you don't possess a purpose made jelly bag or stand you can improvise, using an upturned chair or stool with a double thickness of muslin tied to each leg to form a bag.

Set aside the strained juice. Bring another 800ml water to the boil, add the rosehip pulp, and repeat the boiling process. Tip the mixture back into the jelly bag or muslin and this time leave to drain overnight.

The next day, combine both lots of strained juice (you can discard the rosehip pulp). Measure the juice (you should have about 1 litre) and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and heat, stirring until dissolved. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then immediately pour into warm, sterilised bottles (by putting them all in a large pan of water and bringing to the boil. Leave them in the pan so they are still hot when you are ready to use them)and secure with a screw-cap or cork. When opened, use within 4 months and store in the fridge.

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