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07 November 2011

Adventures in Cooking – Rosehip Syrup


Do you have a favourite foodstuff you remember from childhood that is no longer available but that you’d love to magically taste again?


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For me that foodstuff was something you may not even have heard of – rosehip syrup.  During the war citrus fruits were extremely scarce in the UK and a cottage industry grew up picking homegrown rosehips and preserving them as syrup, as they are apparently astonishingly high in vitamin C and packed with antioxidants.

Even into the 70s rosehip syrup was available at the ‘chemists’ and we always had a bottle in the house, either drinking it diluted as a cordial or eating it spooned neat over tinned rice pudding or stirred into ice cream.  Because, you see, even though it was born out of austerity, rosehip syrup is extremely very delicious indeed.  Imagine a complex but delicate sugar syrup redolent with tastes of tangerine and apple and perhaps the odd echo of something tropical, mango perhaps, in the background, and you’ll see where I’m coming from.  Unfortunately for me, the manufacturers Delrosa stopped selling rosehip syrup in the UK some time in the 70s, though it is apparently still available in some developing countries.

So it happened that I was out blackberrying in Seattle one day in September and came across a row of rosa rugosa bushes, complete with fat, juicy sunset-coloured hips. Would it be possible to recreate my childhood memories? I decided to pick some and find out.




It seems I’m not the only person trying to recreate their British childhood and if you search there are a number of recipes online. I decided to follow the instructions given in this blog as they seemed very thorough.

The process is, however, surprisingly easy.

I had around 1/2 lb of rosehips which I ground to a pulp in the food processor.  Did you know that rosehips are full to bursting with hundreds of tiny seeds?


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The next step is to add the rosehip pulp to 3/4 pint of boiling water, turn off the heat and leave it to stand and infuse for 15 minutes. Filter the pulp through muslin or cheesecloth set in a sieve, until fully strained, about 10 minutes.   Take the pulp left in the muslin, place it back into the saucepan and this time add 1/2 pint of boiling water and repeat the whole process.  It’s important to make sure that the little itchy hairs which are apparently inside some rosehips (I didn’t see any in mine) don’t get into your final infusion.




When the infused liquid has fully filtered through, tip it back into the saucepan and reduce it down to half a pint.  Add 5 oz of sugar, boil it all up together until a syrup forms, about 5 minutes, and then pour your finished syrup into sterilised jars or bottles.

I served it to the Minx poured over Greek yogurt and fresh berries, or you could add it to sparkling wine to make an elegant cocktail, soak it into a rich, dense almondy cake, use it in place of maple syrup on pancakes or waffles or swirl it into ice cream or whipped cream.




Or you could do as I did.  Take a dessertspoonful, add some chilled sparkling water and travel thirty odd years back in time.

If you could, which foodstuff would you make magically reappear?  Have you ever tried to recreate it from scratch? Am I weird that I like eating roses?  Talk to me!


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My mother used to collect rosehips with the Brownies during the war and sell them for charity!

As for roses, we have them here - on Chios and on Pelion they have marvellously aromatic roses and they make a spoon sweet with the rose petals. It's amazing over kaimaki ice cream, or even plain vanilla. Or just by itself.

And I have a special place in my heart for very fresh Turkish delight in rose flavour with pistachios... But it mustn't be stale.

I do have a certain amount of nostalgia for my grandmother's apple pie of an evening (my mother didn't write down any of her mother's recipes), sometimes with this really good dairy ice cream we used to get at the shop in the village and take home in newspaper. It was always slightly melted when we got to it, because my grandmother never bought a fridge.

Unfortunately due to the first ten years of my life being stateside, my nostalgia palate is very immature and very very sweet. It has to be all the crappy candy that you guys find utterly disastrous - tootsie rolls, reeces pieces etc etc. I did make homemade reeces pieces following a recipe from Nigella's domestic goddess and unsurprisingly, it was DELICIOUS and disgustingly sickly. Perfect.

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