Here in the United States, county & state fairs are fun, bustling summer time events celebrating our agricultural heritage and excellence. Local folk can compete for cash prizes and awards in various arenas, like livestock, handcrafts, gardening, art, wine-making, and charmingly quaint competitions such as the best homemade jams & preserves.
I’ve decided to participate this summer. One category of interest is ORGANIC HOME-GROWN PRESERVED FOODS. Had been planning to enter the Meyer Lemon Marmalade I made two months ago, but upon reading the competition guidelines realized it doesn’t fit the stated “Marmalade requirements:”
1. Rinds cut into thin slices (mine is ‘chunky’)
2. Clear syrup (mine is cloudy from lemon pulp)
3. Canned in traditional canning jars (I reused assorted non-standard jars)
4. Submitting TWO identical jars of marmalade. One for opening and taste testing. The other for display, if the entry is selected. (I had given away 6 jars of Lemon Marmalade…and we’ve already eaten one of the remaining two jars.)
My two little potted Meyer Lemon trees won’t have lemons again ’til later in the year. But what I do still have is a garden full of roses!
Mid-April ’til the end of May is peak springtime rose bloom season in northern California. My heritage rose garden is winding down from its magnificent showing, but one hybrid musk shrub rose ‘Eva’ is still a’bloom with hundreds of red roses.
I’ve wanted to cook rosy confections for several years. Have found and collected an interesting stash of rose-based recipes. Almost made a rose hip & wine jam this past winter… The washed rose hips mildewed in the refrigerator before I got around to it. The wine is still sitting on my kitchen counter.
One of my cookbooks “A Passion For Preserves” by Frederica Langeland (Friedman / Fairfax Publishers, New York 1997) had an easy sounding recipe for Rose Petal Jam.
*3 cups Rose Petals, tightly packed (about 40 roses)
Cynthe’s TIP: Use fragrant (red or pink) organically cultivated blooms
*3 cups filtered Water
*3 cups Organic Cane Sugar
*4 Tablespoons Organic local Honey
Cynthe’s TIP: I used Star Thistle. A more delicately flavored honey like Orange Blossom or Tupelo might be better.
*2 drops pure Rose Essential Oil (my improvisation since the honey seemed a bit strong)
*3-4 Tablespoons organic Meyer Lemon Juice (for pectin to jell the jam)
Cynthe’s TIP: I used all the juice from 1 large Meyer Lemon along with the rind and seeds tied in a cheesecloth packet.
Went out to the garden around 8am this past Saturday morning to gather roses. Ran the sprinkler system the evening before, so the roses would be plump and vibrant in the morning when I harvested them. Gathered a couple of large mixing bowls full for this project.
1) Cut the rose petal into strips with clean scissors, discarding the white base, which is tough (and bitter).
Cynthe’s TIP: This an easy, but time consuming task. I stacked 5-8 petals together and then trimmed off the white base before cutting them into strips. Listening to nice music, doing a mantra, or having a friend to help and chat with keeps one patient.
2) Put the petals in a pan with water; cook for 10 minutes, then lift out and drain. reserving the liquid.
3) Add the sugar and honey and cook over medium high heat until syrupy (about 20-30 minutes). Skim off & discard any foam that forms with a spoon, which will cloud the finished jam if you leave it in.
4) Return the rose petals to the syrup and continue to cook gently for about 10-20 minutes more.
COMMENT: At this stage, the rose petals lose their unattractive bleached fleshy appearance, becoming beautifully transparent infused with color.
5) Add the rose essential oil and lemon juice. Simmer until set, another 10-15 minutes. (The sugar syrup will set once its reached a temperature of 220-222F. Test for set by tipping a spoonful of syrup to see if it coats the surface and runs off in a ‘sheet’ or in a couple of blobs. If still a single stream, it’s not ready…continue to cook and test again in 5 minutes.)
COMMENT: Depending on the color of roses used, you may wish to add food coloring to make it pink. Red roses yield a deep pinkish-red color.
CYNTHE’s TIP: Sterilize your clean, washed & well dried jars, by placing them on a cookie sheet in a 200F oven for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, place the lids and sealing rims in a ceramic or metal mixing bowl. Boil a teakettle of water and pour the boiling water over the lids/rims until covered. Let them sit in the hot water until you’re ready to use them.
6) Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a dampened paper towel or clean cloth, put the lids in place and tighten down. Invert the jars for a few minutes, turn upright and let cool completely.
Check the vacuum seals, date, label and store in a cool, dry, dark cabinet. (If I hadn’t made the jam as a competition entry requiring 8oz jars, I would have used small 4oz jars to give away as special gourmet food gifts.)
COMMENT: This lovely, subtle, sophisticated jam needs a day or two (a month is even better) to mellow, blending the flavors. The honey tones are dominant, the rose more of a aromatic nuance and secondary flavor. It’s best for savoring ~ not a ‘gobble it down’ jam.
It’s delicious spooned into plain yogurt or drizzled over fresh creamy goat cheese. YUM! Probably wonderful over vanilla ice cream, I’d imagine. Could also be used as a filling between cake layers, as a glaze for cheese cake, pound cake, a fruit tart or to flavor a fruit salad dressing. Rose Petal Jam is a sophisticated delicacy…and I’ll definitely be making more!