Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rose Petal Jam

The backyard roses seem to be done for a while.  Not sure if the smaller bushes in the front will put out enough for me to make another batch of rose petal jam or not.  In my quest to make the most of the urban homestead (aka dad's house), I have been looking for new ideas for what to do with roses.  The lemons and grapefruit are done for a few months.  The peas are petering out in the heat.  The tomatoes, melons and squash are still in their early stages.  I've dried about five gallon bags of rose petals, put up 2 quarts of rose petal jam, (we've already eaten almost a quart), and I have a quart jar of dried rose hips to use for jam and/or syrup for fall.  We've enjoyed vases of roses in every room of the house for the last 2 months.  I was hoping for enough rose petals for another batch of jam and an experiment with infused oil, but looks like this is it for now.  Looks like the family won't have to suffer through trying a few rose petals in the salad, either.  Yet.

I like the rose petal jam for several reasons.  It uses up rose petals.  Its sensual aroma permeates the house while it's cooking.  All that are needed are rose petals, one whole lemon, including seeds (another use for the lemons from dad's tree), water and sugar.  It has a light, delicate flavor.  Did I mention that it's a product we can nearly wholly produce in the back yard?  Roses, lemons, done.

I found several recipes in an online search, and I picked out two that looked the simplest.  Before I share my own tweak on the formula, I'd like to note a couple of items I ran into in making two separate batches of the jam.

- I used only backyard roses.  We had plenty of commercial roses around, due to mom's funeral, but I did not feel comfortable with using them for a food product.  Our backyard roses are not sprayed or fertilized, just mulched.

- use only perfect, clean petals.  Rinse well, tear off any wilted spots.  I did not find it necessary to remove the white bottom part, it did not seem to affect my product with any bitterness.  Use your judgement - take a taste test!

- if not using right away, cover with water and store in fridge up to 3 days.  After that I found the rose petals to be in a less than desirable condition.

- use a fresh lemon, or homemade juice.  You want the seeds, too, because they contribute the pectin.  The juice contributes acidity.  Do not overdo the lemon juice.  My first batch was a bit tart for the guys, but I liked it.  The second batch was better, but still slightly tart.  My next batch I will cut the juice a bit more.  My juice was made with the Jack LaLanne juicer, so it contains everything - peel, pulp, juice and seeds.  It is highly concentrated (and makes awesome lemonade!).  I used 3T for my second round, and plan to cut that back to 2T next time.

- it takes quite a while to cook off the water, but do not overcook.  You can tell when you've gone too far, the color darkens and the flavor is not as light and sweet.  It is a bit tricky to bring the jam to just the right stage where it will gel but not carmelize.

Now for the recipe:

Rose Petal Jam

1/2 pound rose petals (I used all colors, the result was a nice deep rose hue)
2 cups sugar
2cups water (I will reduce to 1 1/2 on my next batch to try to shorten cooking time)
juice of 2 lemons, with seeds (or 2T lemon concentrate)

Layer clean rose petals in a bowl with about half the sugar.  Bruise them well with clean hands (this releases the flavor oils).  When they are completely crushed with the sugar, cover and let sit overnight in fridge.

The next morning, combine the rest of the sugar with 2 cups water and the lemon juice.  Dissolve over low heat.  Stir in rose petals and bring to a boil.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Bring to a rolling boil and continue to cook at a rolling boil until mixture thickens.  If sugar begins to carmelize (darken) before you think it is thick enough, remove from heat immediatedly.  If you continue the jam will develop an unpleasant flavor.  Remove lemon seeds if you were using lemon juice instead of concentrate.  Pour into jelly jars, seal and label.  If not being used right away, use proper canning methods to seal jars.  If jam does not set up, it can still be used as a delicate, flavorful syrup for ice cream and pancakes.

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