I've always had a love affair with roses, but never have I thought that I would adore them in a food sense. Roses have always featured prominently in my mother and grandmothers gardens and before we moved to the woods, I too had many different varieties growing in my garden. There, voracious deer and rampant black spot effectively worked to put an end to my rose garden dreams. My only source for roses sadly became the grocery store or the local warehouse store where rarely could I find the gorgeous fragrant blooms I so frequently took for granted.
A few years ago I noticed that some native wild roses had taken up residence in amongst the shrubbery on our property and I was thrilled to say the least. While their blooms are not as prolific as their domestic rose cousins, their sweet scent and delicate flowers are for me a happy compromise. The deer, remarkably leave them alone (at least for now anyway).
I've taken to growing some different domestic varieties in pots this year, out of reach of those pesky deer and my fingers are crossed for a good result. In the meantime, while I wait for my roses to grow and bloom I decided to get my rose fix by making rose petal jelly.
Rose petal jelly reminds me of sweet scones with whipped cream, berries and hot tea. Light, ladylike food that I imagine grandmothers of old enjoyed when people actually took the time to have an afternoon tea. It also reminds me of the food enjoyed by the field mice in Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge books. When my boys were little I read to them the stories of Mr. and Mrs. Primrose, Lord and Lady Woodmouse and the intrepid little mouse Wilfred, who regularly enjoyed blackberry puddings, primrose biscuits and bluebell tarts.
Photo curtesy of: http://www.bramblyhedge.co.uk/?page=autumnstory
There is something sweet, simple and appealing about making preserves from all the things that nature provides. To make this jelly I purchased dried culinary rose petals but if you have your own unsprayed rose bushes you can use fresh petals as well. This recipe in particular has just the right amount of rose flavor. Not overpowering or cloying in the least.
Rose Petal Jelly
Adapted from Greg Atkinson's Rose Petal Jelly for The Seattle Times, 2006
Makes 11 half pint jars
7 Cups water
2/3 Cups dried culinary rose petals or 2 cups fresh, fragrant rose petals
Juice of 2 lemons
2 ( 1 3/4 oz.) boxes of powdered pectin
8 Cups sugar
Before beginning, place a small ceramic saucer in the freezer. Sterilize 11 half pint jars, lids and bands. Add water to a water bath canner and bring to a boil.
For the recipe:
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the roses. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep for 10-15 minutes.
Strain the leaves from the liquid and pour into a large open pot, discarding the petals. Add the lemon juice and pectin. Stir until completely dissolved.
Over medium high heat bring the mixture to a boil and add the sugar one cup at a time stirring continually. Boil mixture while stirring for 20 minutes or until the mixture sets. You can easily determine if your jelly has set by dribbling a small amount on the saucer that you've stored in the freezer. Run your finger through the mixture. If the mixture is set it will hold it's shape on the saucer. If it runs together you need to boil it longer. Try this again every 3-4 minutes until you achieve the desired result.
Immediately ladle the jelly in to the sterilized jars, wiping the rims and affixing the lids and bands. Boil for 10 minutes completely submerged in the water bath canner and allow to cool at room temperature.