Like sloes and parsnips, rosehips are recommended to be picked after the first frost. Well, I don't think we've had a frost here yet but I've been eating parsnips for several weeks now and my sloe wine is well underway. As I understand it, the frost itself doesn't make a difference, it's just an indicator of time of year. Some people say otherwise, though, so I'd have to do some experiments to be sure on this.
I went put looking for elderberries the other day (and found some!) and on the way I spotted some cheery red rosehips in the hedge.
Rose hips (Rosa canina, probably) not in the hedge.
These were in my garden a couple of years ago, and in rather worse condition than the ones in the hedge the other day.
They certainly looked ripe and closer inspection revealed several to be already going over. I've missed out on rosehips before (the ones in the photo - and that was only September) by waiting for the frost so I wasn't going to leave these to spoil; I picked as many as I could reach.
My plan was to preserve them as fruit leather, combined with another fruit. On my post on crab apples, John suggested making fruit leather from those. These have a number of advantages over the haws I've used before, being less fiddly, more flavourful, and lying about on the grass just behind my house. The seemed good enough reasons to try crab apples with my rosehips.
Having gathered my hips, I then needed to de-seed them. Rosehips are packed full of seeds and fine, irritating hairs, neither of which I wanted in my fruit leather.
The only effective way I've found of de-seeding rosehips involves a small knife and a lot of patience. Whilst engaged in this task, I pondered crab apples. The jellies I'd made with them a few weeks ago hold their shape very well when cut - I wondered if it might be possible to make something like a jelly sweet (candy), halfway between a spreadable jelly and a chewy fruit leather. If I included the fruit pulp as well as the juice, I guess that would make it a fruit 'cheese'.
I stewed my 4 oz rosehips (weighed after de-seeding) with 6 oz crab apples (including seeds) and as little water as I could get away with. When they were disintegrating soft I pushed the pulp through a sieve, added sugar to taste - about 6 oz - then about the same again, and boiled until it passed the wrinkle test, and then some.
I carefully poured the thick mixture into little chocolate moulds and waited. When it was cool I turned one out and it held its shape encouragingly... until I poked it. Hmm, not enough pectin. I have a stash of lemon pips kept for occasions just such as this. I soaked some (probably not for long enough) and boiled them with a few more crab apples, pushed through a sieve, mixed in the rest of the not-quite-set pulp, melted and boiled that and tried again.
Next morning... same result. I though crab apples were supposed to be high in pectin? I had noticed that these windfalls looked considerably riper than the ones I was using a few weeks ago. I guess that must be the difference. Oh well, revert to Plan A.
I spread the mixture out on baking trays and put them in the oven on its lowest possible setting to dry. Whilst I had the oven in drying mode, I went out in search of mushrooms to go in at the same time. I found three blusher mushrooms, so they're now sliced, dried and stored in a jar.
Back to the fruit leather... the finished sheets were stickier than anything I've ever created in my kitchen before. I folded them and put them back in the oven for a while on the drying rack, but it didn't reduce the stickiness much.
The sheet on the right was on the top shelf in the oven, which is why it's darker. It was also more brittle. I hadn't tried to prise it off the drying rack at this stage, but when I did, it broke in many interesting ways.
If I cut these sheets and stacked them I'd end up with a solid block. If I wrapped each piece in greaseproof paper I could spend an afternoon trying to unwrap one piece. What to do? They certainly need wrapping, but minimising surface area would be a good idea. How about folding strips up into little blocks and treating them as toffees? They're too sweet for fruit leather anyway. This is what I did (with the softer sheet, anyway. The brittle sheet took more of a 3D jigsaw puzzle approach), taking the added precaution of rubbing a little sunflower oil onto the paper first.
So I was aiming for fruit leather and I ended up with fruit toffees. I've had worse culinary disasters. Of course, it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to unwrap these in a few months time.
Edit: I've never bothered making rosehip syrup before because I wasn't sure what to do with it. The other day (about the 10th Nov) I decided I'd like to try some with pancakes, so picked some hips from the garden and made a small batch of syrup. As well as pouring on pancakes, I had enough to try it as a cordial, i.e. mix it with water to make a drink. This is delicious! I can't believe it's taken me so long to try this - I've been picking rosehips for years. It's also much easier than any other way I've used them, as you don't need to de-seed the hips.
Most recipes call for mincing the fruit first, but I didn't even bother with that. I just stewed the fruit with a little water until it was soft (though many of the skins were still intact, holding the pulp and seeds inside), lined a basin with a straining-cloth, dumped the fruit and water in and mashed until all the hips were squashed, then tied and hung up to strain, finishing with a good squeeze when it was cool. In fact, the hanging-up stage could be omitted if you're going to squeeze it anyway - just leave it to cool then squeeze. The final step was adding sugar to taste. It was quite a thin syrup compared with other cordials I've made, but not lacking in flavour. I will definitely be making this again!Also harvesting this week
Crab apples, as mentioned in the post
Blusher mushrooms (some have been dried)
Courgettes/marrows (not mine; some are lacto-fermenting)
Runner beans (not mine, and too old, really)
Nettles, Vetch, Lavender, Rosemary and Apple mint (OK, I thought it was lemon balm when I picked it, but never mind) for an experiment in lacto-fermentation
Elderberries - added to sloe wine
Tawny grisette mushroom
Brown birch boletes
Hazelnuts - there are still a few!
Crab apple jelly
Crab apple and rowan jelly
Blackberry wine (last year's, not mine)
Fizzy blackberry wine (this year's, mine)
Foraged food challenge summary page here.