Louisa Enright's Blog

Mainely Tipping Points

Archive for August 22nd, 2011

Turkey Tracks: Rugosa Rose Hip Jam

with one comment

Turkey Tracks:  August 22, 2011

Rugosa Rose Hip Jam

I’ve been thinking about Rugosa Rose Hip Jam for the past…5 years or so.

When we moved to Maine, we bought a house on the side of a steep hill.  There’s an astonishing drop off–held in place by a large-boulder rock wall- to a small field below in the front yard, where our drainage field is located.   With visions of very young grandchildren tumbling down this death trap, we planted the slope with rugosa roses and bayberry.  Two years ago, we added another row of plants:  raspberries.

The whole slope is now impenetrable–we called it the chicken briar patch since the chickens love it so much.  They feel safe in there.  The raspberries are THRIVING on their attention, and since we’ve released the chickens from their summer pen, the June bug count has diminished significantly.

The rugosa’s hips began to catch my eye as the years passed.   For several years I thought one should wait until after the first frost as they’d be sweeter.  I read that in several places actually.  One year I collected the hips and dried them for winter nutritional teas–they’re full of vitamin C–but I never made any.  (I love my black tea with wild honey and real heavy cream too much.)  Also, it seemed to me that by the time the first frost came, the hips were all dried out and moldy looking.  Last year I got as far as finding information and recipes.

Did you know that roses are in the apple family?  I didn’t.

Here’s what some of the hips looked like on Sunday:

As you can see, a lot of them are as big as crab apples and are very red and ripe looking.   One simply must do SOMETHING with such luscious looking fruits.  So, I picked the ones that were ripe and refound the recipes.

Prepping the hips is VERY labor intensive.  You cut them in half and scrape out the seeds.  There are TONS of seeds.  I made cups of tea for John and me, and we sat outside and chatted while I prepped the hips.  It was a beautiful afternoon.

Here’s a picture of the prepped hips and the TONS of seeds and the very sharp paring knife with which I did not poke myself, though I came close a few times :

Penny joined us, as she usually does.  Miss Reynolds Georgia won’t give up her watch dog perch upstairs looking out the bedroom window.  She’s also sure it’s very dangerous outside the house–unless one is going to be taken for a ride in the car or if one has to pee:

I  cast the seeds out over the back hill/slope.  Who knows?  We have rugosas sprouting all over the place all the time here.

Rose Hip Jam

The next step is to put about an equal amount of water as one has hips and cook the two together until one has a mushy pulp.  That takes about 20-30 minutes.  I didn’t put enough water at first, and I noticed I was getting a kind of syrupy mixture.  Interesting.

Then, one has to decide what to do with the pulpy mixture.  I tried a food mill, but that didn’t work.  Too much thick pulp, too much loss.  I scraped everything into the Vita Mix, which is a very powerful blender/chopper, added a bit more water, and pulverized it all.  I had about 2 1/2 cups of pulp.

One then adds an equal amount of sugar, and I did (though I usually don’t) as I couldn’t imagine that this pulpy mass would taste nice.  I almost burned the mixture on the sides of the pans until I realized what was happening and scraped the sides down with a spatula.

Then, one cooks the mass until it begins to “jelly” according to directions.   Or, coats the spoon well.  The candy thermometer wasn’t especially helpful since the mass didn’t melt down like a berry jelly or jam does.   The mass began to coat the spoon and jell up on the plate, and it turned a deep pumpkin color that was lovely.  So, I jarred it up.

Here it is cooling:

I don’t know what I expected Rose Hip Jelly/Jam to taste like.  I had imagined a clearer jelly for one thing.  And, maybe a lemony, sharp taste, subdued by the sugar.

Well!  It’s delicious.  It tastes a lot like apple butter, but it’s different too.  There is, after all, a subtle lemony taste in there.  Both texture and color are like that of a roasted pumpkin, but not the taste.  I can definitely see using it as a cake filling, which one of the recipes suggests.  I really like it, actually, and would definitely use it on morning toast, or on oatmeal porridge, or during afternoon tea spread on something tea-like.

So, I’ll keep my eye on the hips that are still ripening and make another batch in weeks to come.

Written by louisaenright

August 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Turkey Tracks: Drying Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

with one comment

Turkey Tracks:  August 22, 2011

Drying Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

Last year for my birthday on March 17th, Margaret Rauenhorst gifted me with a quart Mason jar full of dried cherry tomatoes.

March 17th is just about the time everyone up here in the snowy north (Maine) gets really hungry for green growing things, like dandelion greens sprouting as the snow recedes.  We become filled with anticipation for what summer gardens will bring, especially as the new seed catalogs with all their glorious pictures arrived back in January.

We inhaled Margaret’s dried cherry tomatoes, each the size of a penny and tasting like dense, chewy candy.  We mostly put them on salads, made with greens grown in my neighbor’s new hoop house–Susan McBride Richmond of Golden Brook Farm.

I determined on the spot to plant a lot of cherry tomatoes to dry for next winter.  My favorites are Sun Golds, which are, sadly, hybrid plants.  (I like to plant heritage seeds.)   And, right now, out in the garden they are ripening, each like a tiny gold sunspot hiding in the green tomato leaves.  The best way to eat them, bar none, is to pick them off the vine and eat them as you stand there in the sunshine.  Or, the rain.  Or, the dusk, Or the fog.  Or, whenever and however you pause to savor something delicious!

Here they are, filling up my harvesting/mushroom basket a few days ago.  They’re still a bit green, but will ripen to a deep gold color in the kitchen.  Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow and lend themselves to containers on an apartment balcony in a city.  They can be tucked away in an odd sunny corner of the yard, too.  (We had two days of rain, so we got a BIG zuke.)

Drying them in the dehydrator has been a bit more involved than I had anticipated–in that it takes rather a long time for each one to dry out.  And, because they all ripen at differing times, I’ve been putting them in, one by one, rather than in whole groups.  In about 2 whole days and nights, I’ve only got about 10 dried enough to put in a Mason jar.  They’re somewhat sticky as they dry, and I don’t know if they will mold or not, so likely I’ll store them in the refrigerator so I don’t lose them–especially after all this energy has been expended!  Maybe I should be cutting them in half???

Here you can see my dehydrator working away with one tray inside.  (It came with…4 or 5 stackable trays and costs about $30.)  And, now, you can see the beautiful sunny gold of these tomatoes.

 And, now you can see what they look like drying inside the dyhydrator:

Aha!

I checked Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, since I remembered a recipe in there for dried cherry tomatoes.  Camille Kingsolver does cut them in half and puts them skin side down on the tray.  And, here’s Camille Kingsolver’s recipe, found on page 295.  (For this or other recipes, you can go online to www.AnimalVegetableMiracle.com.)

 DRIED TOMATO PESTO

 Put the following ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add a little water if it seems sticky, but the mixture should be thick enough to spread on a slice of bread:

2 cups dried tomatoes, 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (crispy, please), 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cut grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup dried basil, 4 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons balsamic or other good vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

BASIL OIL 

So, ok.  For the basil, I think I’d defrost and use some of my basil oil, taken from A YEAR IN MY KITCHEN, Skye Gyngell–which has been recently updated with American measurements (she’s British).  Basically, you put a LOT of basil in a food processor (3 bunches or more), 3-4 cloves of garlic, some salt, and start the processor.  Drizzle in olive oil until you have a smooth paste/sauce.  Freeze in those very small Mason jars (1/2 cup?) and enjoy all winter.  This oil is especially nice served alongside meat–grilled steak, roasted chicken, etc.