Sunday, September 23, 2007

What I did with my Sunday morning

I've been busy this morning. I've been turning these:

Into this:

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.


  1. Roasted a pig yesterday, today I'm making apple butter (the apples are on the stove, cooking). Yes, some guy up here actually manages to grow apples, so I buy them and make apple butter. going to smoke salmon in a few hours.

    Egads, I sound like an ad out of the Mother Earth News.

    Right now, I need to go outside and move some stuff around in the yard so we'll be ready for when the snow comes.

    One of my friends uses honey and a little apple juice to make Rose Hip Leather. You could always give that a try for variety.

  2. Hmmm, apple butter. On hot cinnamon toast.

    What are you using to smoke your salmon? I usually use a combination of dried alder chips and green twigs.

    I'll have to give the leather idea a try.

    And I'm right outside with you today. Got to get the chains and plows mounted on the 4-wheelers, and a dozen other things. We've got snow at least 1/2 way down the mountains. It's coming fast, it smells like snow today.

  3. Hmm. Cookingwise, not much. Made some fish curry last night for dinner and plan to take the leftovers into work tomorrow for lunch.

    This weekend is the first where the new takeout manager and his family have been running the show. Apparently the former manager wanted to train them properly, but they refused, insisting that they know what they're doing. It's pretty clear to me that they have no idea what they're doing. *sigh* Hopefully they'll figure themselves out soon.

  4. Sorry to hear the new owners are looking too promising, MWT. Like I said over on your blog, though I usually like change, I hate it when restaurants change. Hopefully they'll figure it out soon

  5. Fish Curry? MWT are you supposed to be eating the research? Guess it's a good thing you're not a veterinarian. Heh heh!

  6. How very odd. I, too, made Apple Butter today. I make a couple of batches of homemade jam/jelly each month, and take it to my Gram's assisted living home for the residents. My recipe is from Tennessee apple country, and rocks the house.

    I eat it on pancakes instead of syrup. Syrup is just too heavy for me.

  7. Well, it is that time of year. What's fall without jam making? Last month I made raspberry jam, jelly, cran-raspberry for two weeks. I'm jelly-out for a while. Rose-hip is always the last of the season, and it's a good thing that it is, because it's a nasty, sticky business. If the hips ripened first, I probably won't bother with anything else.

    I like apple butter on pancakes too, but I like it best on homemade cinnamon toast. But I don't get fresh apples like Tania, so I don't make it much.

  8. Heh heh indeed... despite that I'm not actually doing anything involving fish, I still get to eat other people's research. A couple weeks back we had a sushi tasting. One of the labs is growing black sea bass on different types of feed, and they wanted to know which tasted better. Turns out I liked the wild-caught sample best out of those.

    Then, every time they let me go on cruises, the crew goes deep sea fishing and we all get to eat the catch. The engineer caught a 100 lb yellowfin tuna once. We had sushi straight off the back deck, while the muscles were still quivering and its blood was spattered everywhere. Barbaric but you can't beat the experience. ;)

    My fish curry was much more mundane than all that though; it was just frozen tilapia, and the curry sauce came out of a jar with instructions on what else to add (tomatoes, onions, sugar, yogurt).

  9. Turns out I liked the wild-caught sample best out of those.

    Nothing beats pacific wild salmon either. The farm fish are seriously lacking something.

  10. same tastes apply to milk and beef. People prefer milk and beef that's raise on a variety of grasses. Corn and hay feed cattle and milk just lack something (and it makes the cows gassy).

  11. (and it makes the cows gassy)

    Heh, milk makes me gassy.

    I like free range eggs too, factory-farm eggs are just blah. No flavor. I grew up with fresh eggs straight from the hen house and that's what I like. I want my eggs to taste like eggs, not grain.

  12. Well, I made a gloriously erudite and topical reply. Blogger has eaten it. Grr.

    To sum up:

    I use alder for smoking, and try apple butter on pork and if you like cheddar cheese with apple pie, put a litttle bit of apple butter on a chunk of cheddar. John loves it.

    The snow is coming, we had an advance scouting mission of a few flakes the other morning.

  13. Yeah, I could definitely tell which fish had eaten manufactured pellets and which fish had eaten feeder tilapia. Wild-caught, of course, had the most complex taste to their flesh. Think I'll go suggest that they vary the species of feeder fish they use, though it would likely drive up price of the final product. Other aquaculture operations I've seen have used shrimp and silverfish.

    The really sad thing is, when we all voted on which we liked best, it was evenly split three-way between pellets, feeder tilapia, and wild-caught. Some people liked all of them. Guess everyone else's tastebuds are screwed up by eating too much manufactured food.

  14. Tania, yeah I've noticed some strange behavior from blogger. It has eaten or morphed several of my posts. It seems particularly sensitive to text pasted in from other sources, but I think this is because the paste also includes hidden control codes which blogger interprets strangely. I know this is true when I move data over from Word and forget to do a Text Only copy.

    I'm not a fan of cheddar and apple pie. I know, I'm weird. I like cheddar (Tillamook!) and I like apples, I just don't like them together. But, I will try apple butter on pork chops, if it ever quits raining here I'll do some on the grill with apple butter glaze.

    MWT, yeah, I really don't care for tank raised fish, probably because I have lived in Alaska so long. Once you've eaten Reds or Silvers cooked over charcoal fresh from the Little Su everything else pretty much tastes like wet cardboard. I suspect, however, that farm raised fish are the future, wild stocks simply cannot keep up with demand. In twenty years I think farm raised salmon will be the norm, even here. Also I suspect that if we don't figure out how to farm Atlantic Cod, my grandkids will never eat one. And that sucks, because I think cod makes the best fish and chips. When I lived in Iceland, we used to have Esa (cod) fish fries twice a week, man I miss those.

  15. Well, there is still Pacific cod. As far as I know those stocks are still doing okay.

    I fully agree about the difference between farmed and wild salmon. Normally I just broil it and eat it plain. Wild salmon tastes great with no garnishments whatsoever. Farm salmon works better with some kind of sauce...


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