Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Return of the Purple Box

I was picking rose hips today and it suddenly occurred to me that I started this blog sometime around around rose hip season last year. I went and looked, and sure enough, I missed my 1 year blog anniversary!

Rose hips are part of why I started this blog. I wanted to make rose hip jelly and I did a lot of research without being able to find an actual rose hip jelly recipe. Here's my original Purple Box blog. It was my first year making jams and jellies.

My rose hip jelly didn't jell last year. It made lovely syrup, though, except for a tomato-juice smell. It didn't taste like tomato juice, but the odor was there. See, in the old days you needed natural pectin or a lot of sugar, usually both, to get jams and jellies to jell, and even then you boiled it to death, bringing it up to a certain temperature and still you crossed your fingers.

I two mistakes I made last year. First, I picked the rose hips before the first frost. They were just so big and juicy, and it was lovely out. Letting them stay on the plant until after the first frost causes the sugars and flavor to concentrate and dries the pulpy part of the fruit. Second, I processed the fruit twice trying to get more juice, and I squeezed it a lot when I was straining and ran it through a food mill. This caused a lot of pulp to get int he juice, making it cloudy and giving it that tomato smell.

I think I've got it figured out this year. Ha. First, I'm picking after the first frost (and the second frost). I'll process the fruit right for juice, not squeezing or milling: you're supposed to hang the pulp in a jelly bag or cheese cloth and let it dip.

Next, I'll skip the boiling it to death phase. I've found a sugar-free pectin that I like very much. Pectin is a natural component in a lot of fruit, especially apples, that with sugar makes jellies jell. Someday I suppose I'll learn how to do it the way grandma did it... actually, great-grandma, 'cause my grandma used pectin to make freezer jam. But until then I'm going to use Ball No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin. The recipes that come with this pectin (always use tested recipes!) come down to use four cups of juice to one box of pectin and up to three cups of sugar. I pretty much abandoned my regular, sugar-full recipes for this, as it makes a healthier food. For example, strawberry jam uses seven cups of sugar, but with this pectin I cut that way down.

Anyway, my theory is that I can get a practically guaranteed jell. My concern is that it's sweet enough, but my rose hip syrup last year was terribly sweet.

The other option is to use regular pectin and add some unsweetened apple juice. Apples are the main source for pectin. But first I'll try the low sugar recipe.

I haven't got enough rose hips yet, it takes an awful lot when you need to make four cups of juice by simmering the dried rose hips in four cups of water. I've been cleaning what I have, which with fruit means taking off the stems and that dead flower bit at the other end. When you clean rose hips your fingers turn orange from the pulp. My hands kind of look like I've gone through a giant bag of Cheetos.

The jelly adventures continue!

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