A few weeks ago I decided to indulge my frugal instincts and make Rosehip syrup. During WW2, with regular sources of vitamin C hard to come by, the Ministry of Health promoted the collection of rosehips in its wartime pamphlet ‘Hedgerow Harvest’. With oranges off the menu, the Ministry saw rosehip syrup as an ideal way to get vitamins into young children, as the hips contain up to 20 times more vitamin C than oranges, as well as a healthy dose of vitamin A and iron.
The process itself wasn’t that difficult, although harvesting them did involve tackling a very thorny rose, so gloves and long sleeves are recommended. Then it was just a question of getting them back to the kitchen, chopping off any remaining stems and giving them a good wash before blasting them in a food processor.
I loosely followed this River Cottage recipe, but halved the quantity of sugar as I like things quite tart, but I suggest tasting as you go to reach your preferred sweetness.
So after adding the now roughly chopped rosehips to water (just enough to cover) and simmering at a low temperature for around 15 mins, it was time to strain them. As you can see in the picture, rosehips contain a lot of seeds, as well as an array of potentially irritating little hairs, which obviously you don’t want to swallow. Straining is therefore crucial if you want to create something edible. I still haven’t got around to buying a muslin though, and if you’re just doing this as a one off then a jay cloth, thin tea towel or any other clean cotton material will do just fine. As you can see, I also added some pegs to keep everything in place.
I then left the contents, which at this point looked like a thick tomato sauce with maggots in it, to strain slowly for 30 minutes, before adding a dash more water and giving it a good squeeze to get out any remaining juices. I then repeated the process one more time, though for a more impatient 15 minutes, before returning the strained juice to a clean saucepan and adding spoonfuls of sugar, tasting as I went until I reached my preferred sweetness.
Next, let the syrup simmer for a few minutes until all the sugar has dissolved, before decanting it into a sterlised bottle. The end result was a warm orangey red in colour and really quite delicious, so if you’ve got a rose in your back garden or know of one on some public land nearby, then get picking soon.
And given that we’re not exactly short of vitamin C sources these days, I can recommend some more decadent uses for it, namely adding it to cocktails and prosecco or drizzling it over ice-cream. Not so frugal after all…