Beach roses are a common sight here in coastal Maine, and I've always had a fondness for them – they remind me of salty air, sand, and the ocean.
When we visit the shore in June and early July, these wild, hardy shrubs (technically called Rosa Rugosa) are covered with pretty pink or white flowers. In August, as the flowers fade, the plant's small, edible, round-ish fruits – or rose hips – become more prominent, growing larger and more colorful as they ripen. My feeling is always a little bittersweet when I notice that the rose hips have turned a deep, reddish-orange and have started to soften; it's a sure sign that summer is nearing its end.
Of course, the silver lining is that these gorgeous, sour-sweet rose hips are at their peak and ready to pick! Ripe rose hips are red and slightly soft, so when you are picking, look for these. Under-ripe rose hips are hard and quite sour, while over-ripe rose hips are often mushy and bug-infested . . . you'll obviously want to avoid both of those. Also, steer clear of any rose hips that may have been sprayed with pesticides.
Rose hips can be used in all kinds of ways, but one of my favorite things to do with them is to make jelly. For something a little different this year, I thought I'd combine them with apples, as apples are in season here now as well, and I find that their sweetness offsets the tartness of the rose hips beautifully.
One thing to keep in mind when making this recipe (or any jelly recipe, for that matter) is that the amount of water you need for cooking the fruit in order to end up with the necessary amount of juice can vary a bit depending on the ripeness and juiciness of the fruit.
If, after a few hours, you find that your fruit mash is not yielding enough juice, simply dump the fruit back in the sauce pan, add a little bit more water, cover it, turn up the heat, and cook it for a couple of minutes. Then return the fruit mash to the jelly bag, hang it up again, and allow the bag to keep dripping until you have enough juice.
Tempting as it is to squeeze the jelly bag to get more juice out of it, try not to, as you'll end up squeezing some of the pulp into your juice, and that will result in a cloudy jelly.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Rose Hip-Apple Jelly Ingredients
3 pounds rose hips
3 pounds apples
6 cups water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons calcium water
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons Pomona's Pectin powder
Rose Hip-Apple Jelly Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Cut off and discard the stems of the rose hips, along with any damaged spots. Rinse well.
3. Rinse the apples and coarsely chop. There is no need to remove the peels or the cores.
4. Combine rose hips, chopped apples, and the 6 cups of water in a large sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and mashable – about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Remove pan from heat and thoroughly mash the fruit (a potato masher works well for this).
6. Transfer mashed fruit into a jelly bag. (If you don't have a jelly bag, an impromptu bag made from layers of cheesecloth wrapped around the mashed fruit and gathered at the top works equally well.) Suspend the jelly bag over a large bowl and allow the mashed fruit to drip juice into the bowl until you have accumulated the necessary quantity. This will likely take 2 to 4 hours.
7. Measure out 4 cups of the juice. If you have any extra juice, save it for another use. Pour the measured amount of juice into a sauce pan, then add the lemon juice and calcium water. Stir to combine.
8. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and the pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
9. Bring juice mixture to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the sugar-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve pectin. Return the mixture to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
10. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jelly, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
11. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water.) Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
12. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from canner.
13. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Then confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy