The end of August is approaching. The days are slowly getting shorter and shorter, the nights are chilly and the mornings even colder. I am not complaining. I will take any excuse for warm socks and hot cereal with tea in the morning.
As much as I love the changing of the seasons, (and there have been summers in my past that I have literally counted down the days until September 1st) this summer has taken me by surprise with how quickly she came and went. She stayed just long enough to give me a few pints of strawberries and raspberries, a couple bushels of peaches, a few ears of corn on the cob – and certainly enough mussels to feed an army – but suddenly we are left with ruby red rose hips and a kiss on the cheek. The rose hips have always been summers final warning – telling us that she is getting ready to start packing up. We only have a few more weeks until she boards up the windows on the summer house and heads to Florida for the next nine months.
Just like any transition, it is exciting and full of wonder but also a little bit sad. Another season is gone, and we wait eagerly for another to begin. Left slightly in limbo, not sure what to do next. We are ready for warm kitchens with hearty soups simmering and crusty breads baking, but we aren't ready to give up our summer bounty just yet. It isn't quite time to cover up the grill and put the patio set in the shed. The gardens still have some growing to do, and we have plenty of preparations to make. We still need to get ready for fall. We need to preserve the flavors of this summer to enjoy deep into the snowy days that we know are coming.
Rose hips, specifically the rose hips that come from the beach roses (or rosa rugosa) have enchanted me my whole life. They smell delicious, look like red ripe cherry tomatoes, and make the perfect pretend mermaid lipstick when you are eight years old. When you are twenty nine years old, they make delicious jam that tastes like sweet summer afternoons. I have always been told that people made jam out of them, and when I was little I thought it was the neatest thing that you could pick something right off the beach. I had never tried it until this summer.
Full disclosure: this was my first time really foraging for something. The beach roses have many thorns, and even the rose hips have little prickers around the stem. I went prepared with thick work gloves and some garden shears, and if you are planning on foraging for some rose hips I suggest you do the same - those things hurt! They also have a TON of seeds, so be prepared to clean and rinse and clean again. Another note on rose hips - little grubs love them too, so if you are squeamish with dealing with insects, foraging probably isn't for you. Thats okay tho - you can always make peach or apricot jam this time of year too! I guess we have to expect to share delicious fruit and vegetables with woodland creatures.
Other than the grubs, the rose hip jam turned out really perfect. It was thick and glossy, with just the right balance of sweet and tart. The rose hips have a very earthy taste and texture, almost like a cross between a tomato and a root vegetable. They are a bit sweet, but they also get that musty flavor like a pumpkin or a squash gets - which personally, I love. I made some homemade english muffins to carry this jam on. Spread with a bit of salted butter and a giant spoonful of jam, it is the perfect way to ease into our transition of seasons.
• Rose Hip Jam •
makes 6 8oz jars
• 2 quarts large rosehips
• 1 large orange
• 1 large green apple
• zest and juice of 2 lemons
• 6 cups water
• 5 cups sugar
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 6 8-ounce canning jars and fresh lids
Prepare the rose hips. Cut away and discard the green scraggly ends. Cut the rosehips in half and scrape out and discard all of the seeds and thistle-ly hairy bits. With the remaining rose hip pieces, discard any bits that are blemished. Then roughly chop the rose hips. You will need 4 cups of clean, chopped rose hip.
Prep the orange. Cut off and discard the ends of the orange. Slice the orange lengthwise into wedges. Remove (and reserve) any seeds, and if you can, remove and reserve membranes. Take the wedges and cut each one of them so that you have a bunch of little triangles of orange.
Prep the apple. Peel the apple, reserving the peel. Then grate the apple with a cheese grater (large hole). Chop up the core and reserve.
Place the chopped rose hips, grated apple, and chopped orange into a large (8-quart) wide pot. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the pot. Add the water to the pot. Take the apple core pieces, apple peel, and any orange seeds and membrane and place in a double layer of cheese cloth. Wrap them up and place in the pot with the chopped fruit and rosehips. (This will be a source of pectin.)
Prepare canning jars. You'll need 6 to 7 half-pint canning jars and lids. Sterilize the jars by either running them through the dishwasher, right before canning, or placing them on a rack in a large pot of water that you bring to a boil for 10 minutes, or by placing them in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. To sterilize the lids, bring a kettle of a couple cups of water to a boil. Place lids in a shallow bowl and pour the boiling water over them.
Bring mixture to a boil, partially covered, for 30 minutes or so, or until the orange peels can be easily cut through without resistance. Remove from heat. Remove the cheesecloth pectin bag and place in a bowl to cool. Once cool enough to handle easily, gently squeeze the cheesecloth pouch to extract more of the pectin (it will be sort of gloppy). Add the extracted pectin-y juice back into the pan with the rosehips.
Measure out the sugar and add to the rosehip mixture. Heat to high, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has all dissolved. Add butter (will help keep the foaming down). Bring to a rapid boil, uncovered, reduce heat to medium high. Place a small plate in your freezer. After about 25 minutes begin testing the jam by placing a small amount on the chilled plate. Allow 30 seconds to pass and then run your finger through it to see what the cooled consistency will be. Boil for a few minutes longer if desired for a thicker jam. Do not overcook or the mixture will caramelize and give you an odd taste.
Ladle the mixture into hot, sterilized canning jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a dampened paper towel. Seal them with the sterilized lids, leaving 1/4 inch of head space.
To ensure a good seal, and to guard against mold, if you want, you can process the jars in a water bath for 5 minutes (bacteria is already killed by the sugar). To process, place the jars on a rack in a large, tall stock pot. Cover with an inch of water and bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat, remove the jars from the water, and let cool. As the jars cool you should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. The lids should seal; if not, store in the refrigerator.
• Homemade English Muffins •
makes 6 muffins
• 2 1/4 cups bread flour
• 1/2 tablespoon sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon butter at room temperature
• 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup warm water
• 3/4 cup milk
Combine the yeast with the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar to the water before pouring in the yeast, just to really get things going.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the butter, this will be a little clumpy and that's ok. Now pour in the yeast water and milk. Stir until a dough ball forms. If you are using a stand mixer and dough hook to knead the dough, this will take about 6 minutes until the dough becomes elastic like. If you knead by hand it will probably take 8-10 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 60-90 minutes).
Plop the dough out on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into six equal parts. Roll each muffin into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and a little bit of cornmeal. Cover, and allow to rise for an additional hour.
Heat a cast iron skillet (or other oven safe pan) over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil. You don't want too much as our goal isn't to fry the dough, but we don't want it to stick to the pan either. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side. You want each side to get very brown, but not burnt.
Once you've cooked each side, put the skillet in the oven at 400°F for 10-12 minutes until the english muffins are cooked through.
listening to: Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra