This past weekend, my sweetheart and I hopped in the car and drove to the beautiful Maine coast for a few days away. Along with the ocean, lobsters and blueberry pie, I think what I love most about Maine is the rugosa rose bushes that grow so plentifully along the coast. They produce the most deliciously fragrant blossoms and the largest, sweetest hips of any rose I have known. So of course, before bidding Maine adieu, we spent one deeply gratifying morning plucking big rosy hips and fuchsia petals with warm sand under our toes and the expanse of the ocean shimmering beyond.
Rose hips are a much overlooked medicine and culinary delight. While they may pale in comparison to the ethereal glamorousness of the flowers, they do possess an earthy wholesomeness that is just as enchanting in its own way. Sweet, tangy and almost spicy – they are reminiscent of a cranberry in flavor, and shine out nutritionally with loads of vitamin C, flavanoids, carotenoids and pectin. I use them often in teas to boost immune function, aid in convalescence from stomach ailments, and support recovery from connective tissue injuries. They also make a pleasant cooling summer tea combined with hibiscus flowers.
But what I love them for most is their deliciousness! While there are lots of equally yummy things to do with rose hips – jams, jellies, syrups – I have found rose hip butter to be my favorite. Creamy, sweet and tangy – it is such a comforting treat spread on warm bread or scones. I just love it – especially combined with the sweetness of fresh autumn apples and the warmth of fresh ginger. I have to admit that I also tend to choose this recipe because it saves the tedious work of scraping out the seeds and endless collection of irritating hairs from the inside of each hip. Here’s how I make it:
Rose Hip Butter with Apple and Ginger
Start by removing the stems and scraggly green ends from each hip. Discard any that are overly blemished or show signs of bug infestation. Place the rest in a large stock pot. Do not use aluminum or iron pans as they strip vitamin C.
For every quart of rose hips, add 2 large apples or 3 smaller ones. Chop them roughly – you don’t need to worry about removing the seeds or cores. Add to the pot with the hips.
Add 4-10 slices of fresh ginger root, adjusting for your spice preference.
Add enough water to the hips, apples and ginger to cover by an inch or two. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the hips are softened and falling apart. You can speed this process along by mashing gently with a potato masher from time to time. Add more water if necessary.
Once everything is sufficiently mushy and broken down, turn of the heat and let cool slightly. Then, run the mixture through a food mill, chinois sieve, or champion juicer to separate out the seeds and hairs from the mixture. You should have a thin, apple sauce like concoction that has a very tart flavor at this point.
Measure the amount of liquid you have. For every cup, add 1/2 cup sugar to the blend (rapadura is a nice choice). Return to a clean pan with wide, thick bottom. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. After about 10 minutes, start checking the consistency by spooning a little onto a cold plate. When the butter is thick and smooth and won’t run when you tilt the plate, turn off the heat and let cool.
While the butter is cooling, sterilize your jars by boiling in a hot water bath for 10 minutes or so. Immediately pour the butter into the jars when you remove them from the water, and then cap tightly and return to the hot water bath for an additional 10 minutes to create a vacuum seal.
Store your butter in a cool, dark place until you use it. I love it on soda bread hot out of the oven with a steaming mug of hot apple cider. But I trust you’ll find your own favorite use.