As a child one of my favorite things, other than spending hours reading, was spending hours outdoors exploring and harvesting wild plants and then ‘processing’ them. Some (mostly berries) were ones I knew were edible and I’d pick them to share with my family. Many more were plants I’d imagine were edible. I’d spend hours pretending to process them into food and medicine. I’d often daydream about running off to live in the woods and eat wild foods. My dad talks about how as a kid I’d stand for hours in cold water waiting for fish to bite my line, taking pride in how many trout I’d catch. And my mom talks about how I’d patiently pick tiny huckleberries until I could bring home a basketful to share.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began teaching myself how to identify and process many more wild foods. It always taps into my childhood love of such activities and speaks deeply to me. And it’s one of the most treasured activities that I share with my children. There’s something so calming and essential for me in taking the time to slow down and do these kinds of simple, repetitive, sensory tasks.
It’s not a quick activity like picking up a flat of strawberries at the farm stand. It’s a rather lengthy task of finding your rose hips, harvesting them, and then processing them into jam. It’s not something to do for convenience, of course. It’s something to do for the sake of doing. It’s something to be enjoyed for the process, not just the end result. It’s something that feeds the soul, not just the belly.
This is not a quick recipe. The straining in particular will take you a while. But if you allow yourself to sink into the task, I think you’ll see what I mean. To take the time to notice the changing leaves as you walk. To feel the smooth, chilly roundness of the rose hips as you pick them. To taste their floral pear-like flavor as you nibble a few fresh while picking. To notice their beautiful, jewel tones. To smell the wild cider aromas as they cook. To feel the process of squeezing the juice from the pulp. The time devoted to this sensory experience is in itself a deep medicine. Something often missing from our hectic days and growing to-do lists, especially as we enter the holiday season.
Yes. You will end up with a row of jars filled with tasty jam. But really, it’s the process that will leave you feeling fed and soothed and in awe of the beauty of this season of shifting lights, and falling leaves, and wild harvests. If it’s just jam you’re after, the grocery store is stocked full of countless varieties. But if you need a bit of autumn magic to go with your jam…well then, go find your favorite patch of rose hips. And let’s get started!
Because I think about such things, I’ll share some of the herbal uses of these ingredients in case you’re interested. This is lovely just as a jam to be enjoyed for its taste and for the enjoyment of making it, but it’s also a mild medicine of sorts. Rose hips are often discussed as being cooling due to their high levels of bioflavenoids and other compounds that reduce inflammation and help build and repair blood vessel walls. And I agree with this observance, but when cooked, especially with honey, I find them to be warming. Not hot, but gently warming, especially to the digestive system. They also have a definite action on the circulatory system, moving stagnation and strengthening the whole vascular system. I find that this makes rose hips wonderful for reducing that general sense of irritability and seasonal doldrums that is so common this time of year. Cardamom has similar, but stronger warming and circulating effects in the body. Together they make for an uplifting, comforting combination.
Pears are a moistening food, especially for the lungs which are often stressed by the dry air this time of year. If you live in a climate where the air is cold and dry, pears (especially those cooked in liquid) are a great food to eat regularly to help moisten and feed the lungs and to treat dry, irritated coughs. Plus pears and roses are related and rose hips often have a pear-like flavor so they taste beautiful together.
Finally, cooking herbs with honey tends to increase their nutritive, warming, building properties.
Ok. Go for a long walk in the autumn air, gather two pounds of rose hips, bring them home and wash them gently but throughly to remove any bugs and dust (every year I find at least one tick in my rose hips so be warned…) Now you’re ready to make jam:
- 2 lb fresh rose hips
- 1 lb fresh pears, corded and chopped
- 5 cups water
- 2 Tbs cardamom pods, cracked slightly
- 2 tsp cinnamon chips or 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ Tbs fresh lemon juice for every cup of juice
- ⅓ cup honey for every cup of juice
- 1 tsp Pomona’s Universal Pectin for every cup of juice
- 1 tsp calcium water for every cup of juice (included in the Pomona’s box)
- Place your rose hips, pears, water, and spices in a large pot. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Let sit until it’s cool enough to handle. You’ll be straining by hand so it needs to be cool enough for you to touch without discomfort. Meanwhile, line a strainer with a large piece of muslin. Rosehips contain irritating hairs surrounding their seeds so we need to carefully strain out all the hairs.
- If you have a food mill, run your pulp through it before straining. This helps squeeze out more of the flavor from the rosehip skins. If you don’t have one just proceed to the next step.
- Working in small batches, pour some of the pulp into the muslin lined strainer. Gather up the corners of your muslin, twist, and squeeze slowly until you’ve squeezed out all the juice you can. Untwist the muslin, compost the remaining contents, and rinse your piece of muslin until most of the pulp is gone. Place it back in the strainer and repeat with more of the pulp. Yes, this gets tedious. So put on some good music, dance a little, and take a break now and then to stare at the leaves outside.
- Just when you’re starting to feel that it will never be all strained, voila!, you’re done. You should have somewhere between 7-9 cups of gorgeous rusty red colored juice that smells like a wonderful spiced pear/apple cider but with another more elusive fragrance, reminiscent of chilly walks in the woods and (maybe?) something just a bit faeirie-like.
- Measure your juice and calculate how much honey, pectin, lemon juice, and calcium water you’ll need. Prepare your calcium water according to the directions that come with your pectin.
- Add your lemon juice, calcium water, and half of your honey to your juice. Mix your pectin into the remaining half of your honey.
- Bring your honey/juice mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add the remaining honey/pectin and return to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil one minute and then remove from heat.
- Ladle into sterilized jars, cap with sterilized lids and process by water bath: 15 minutes for pint jars.