I've been busy this morning. I've been turning these:
What the hell are those, I hear you ask. Well, they are the fruiting body of the Prickly Wild Rose, around here usually referred to as the Sitka Rose. Called rose hips, they are extremely high in vitamin C, and are a common berry used in many traditional Alaskan dishes, jams, and candies and syrups. The Prickly Rose and Woods Rose are fairly common throughout the area were I live, mostly in bogs and clearings along the edge of the woods, my property is thick with them. The Nootka Rose is similar, but mostly grows only on Kodiak Island and the Cook Inlet area. Woods Roses produce large pink flowers and grow as far south as the central United States, but only in the Rocky Mountains.
Making jam from rose hips is a labor intensive process. First they've got to be picked. The best time to pick them is right after the first frost, which for us was about two days ago. Picking rose hips is a wet, sticky process, usually in the rain because that's the type of weather we have in the fall. Like their domestic cousins, wild roses have thorns, little tiny sharp thorns, lots of them. Once picked, the hips have to be washed in cold water and have the dried flower buds pulled off the end, this is a major pain. My son and I picked about 6lbs, and sat on the floor in the living room watching Star Wars episodes IV and V all the way through while we were preparing the berries. Once that's done, you need to boil them, 2 cups hips with 2 cups water for about 15 minutes to soften them, then they need to be run through a food mill, and the resulting pulp and liquid drained through a jelly bag. Most people give up at this point because the smell is fairly disgusting, kind of a cross between rhubarb, hot tomato juice, and boiled grass.
Once you've got the clarified juice, you turn it into jam just like any other fruit juice. In my case I use 4 cups rose hip juice, 5 1/2 cups of sugar, and one pack of pectin. What you get for your efforts is a jelly that has the color of rich port wine, tastes and smells like tupelo honey, and is high in vitamin C.
And what have you done with your day? I hope you didn't waste it.
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