Round my neck of the woods you can't walk a few meters without bumping into a bush dripping with bright red rosehips; they are everywhere!
Considering they have more vitamin C than oranges, as well as vitamins A, K and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, it really surprises me that more people don't make use of the fruits, especially going into the cold season when everyone seems to come down with something or other.
The ones pictured are the fruits of the dog rose, a common countryside variety with small white to pale pink open flowers. They have a very delicate flavour, almost unnoticeable; I capitalise on that and flavour them any way I fancy and that I think the kids will like; but you could bring out the flavour by adding rosewater instead of the flavours suggested here.
Since I was using lemons (and oranges) I decided to add making a citrus vinegar infusion to the instructions to make use of the peels. Feel free to omit this if you aren't using citrus fruits and obviously if you have no use for citrus vinegar (though I will provide some ideas if you fancy giving it a try; waste not I say!)
So, go and take a walk in the fresh Autum air and grab yourself a bagfull of these beauties! Then cook 'em up, bottle them and Bob's your aunty: a cupboard full of rosehip syrup to last you well into the Spring! Just watch out for any thorns...
Step 1: Wash and Gather
Go through your rosehips and remove any that may be a bit squishy; they should be firm, but yeild to a gentle squeeze, not go squish. Remove any stalks or leaves as well, and in case you have to store them, soak them in a solution of water and vinegar (1tbs per cup of water should do) for around 10mins, drain and store in the fridge up to three days.
When you're ready to cook them, give them a rinse and gather the rest of your supplies. Some items suggested weren't pictured; mainly because I get too excited to think too far ahead.
Rosehips (I had just over 1.5kg / 3lbs)
2 Jars of honey (the best you can afford ideally but whatever you have in the cupboard)
3 loose weave cotton or muslin cloths
Rolling pin or wooden mallet
2 large pots
One large empty jar
A good number of small jars to put your syrups in (once open the syrup only lasts a few days in the fridge before it starts to ferment so smaller is better!)
Cold water sterilisation liquid
Small helper (optional!)
It looks like a long list but most of these items you should be able to scrounge from the cupboards. That said, I am a squirrel so I may well have stuff in my cupboards you'd need to go shopping for!
Step 2: Vent Your Frustrations
Lay out a small handful of hips in the middle of one of your cloths on top of a chopping board. Once you get the feel for it you can add more hips and go a bit faster, but start with less. Cover the hips with two corners of the cloth.
Using your rolling pin or mallet, give them a light bashing (or depending on your mood, feel free to picture the object of your frustration's head; they make a great popping sound!)
Open up the cloth and check to make sure you got them all, bashing any still closed as you find them. Careful, they ping like mad! Add them to your pot.
Continue bashing the hips and adding them to your pot(s) to one third full. Once all your hips are in the pots, fill them with water to nearly full and turn on the heat to medium high.
Get to work on your citrus fruits; I decided to do the bigger potful with cinnamon orange since my previous batch I'd done earlier in the season was honey and lemon and I still had a jar of that in the cupboard. Either juice them first and chop up the peel or peel them first with a vegetable peeler which avoids the pith.
Keep the lemon juice separate from the orange and clementines. Once the hips have simmered for about 20mins add in the requisite juice to each pot for a further 5 mins. To the orange add a couple of teaspoons cinnamon (or 1 whole stick if using whole cinnamon).
Chop the peels and add to the big jar.
Once your hips have simmered for about 25mins including the juice from the citrus, take the pots off the heat. While waiting for them to cool, add vingar right to the top of your big jar with the peels, shake well and put in a cool dark place. Forget about it for a few weeks, but give it a shake when you do happen to think of it.
You can use this citrus vinegar to make an all-round-the-house cleanser, just put half a cup of your citrus vinegar in a spray bottle with a cup of boiled water and that's it! You can also add half a cup to a full kettle of just boiled water and allow to stand for a good 8hours to descale the kettle. Pop your shower head in there at the same time. Simply searching for natual cleaning recipes will give you loads more ideas to make use of this easy recipe.
Put all your jars into a sink full of water with the cold water steriliser made up to the instructions given on the bottle. Bear in mind that you may well need more jars than you think! Make sure they are fully submerged and soak for a minimum of the recommended time.
Once your pots of syrup have cooled to lukewarm, strain them one batch at a time. To strain, line your strainer with a fresh cloth (this is important as the little hairs inside the hips can irritate the throat) and place it over your big bowl. Pour the first batch out, gather up the corners and edges of the cloth and squeeze out the juice.
Use a fresh cloth for the second batch (and any subsequent batches you may have, depending on how many hips you picked and how big your pots were).
Step 6: Nearly Done!
To the lemon batch I added about two thirds of a jar of honey and some vanilla extract before pouring into the jars. Do not be tempted to rinse the jars before filling them, just dry the outside if you want.
To the orange batch I added the rest of the one jar of honey and the whole of the second jar (or to taste; you want it really sweet if you plan to dilute it later as I do, if you plan to just gulp it down by the spoonful, or perhaps drizzle over ice cream, you needn't make it quite so sweet). I also added a bit of orange essence for a more intense orange flavour.
Label your jars and you're done! Don't forget to add instructions if you plan to give some to friends and family; I suggest 2tsp per day for kiddies and 2tbs per day for adults. Also add the date, a reminder to consume within a few days of opening and instructions to store it in the fridge.
Voila! Enjoy your syrup as you wish, but I for one think it adds a great dimension of flavour to my old favourite, the humble gin and tonic!