Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You're a Flower, You Are

The flower preserving experiments continue. This time I decided to try to make rose petal jam, from a recipe I found in The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea many years ago. We have a very old rosebush with dense pink blooms that smell just like perfume, so I figured it couldn't be all bad, right?

Well. It wasn't all bad. I think part of the problem may have been the fact that I don't have a kitchen scale (though I really need one; I have a lot of British cookbooks), so I have only the vaguest idea of how much a half pound of rose petals actually is. But even then, I think the 5 cups of water the recipe called for would have been excessive. Maybe not, maybe I just needed more roses. Who knows?

So I started out like I was supposed to, pulled off the petals, chopped them up, covered them with sugar and let them stand overnight for two days, because I'm lazy like that (it was perfectly fine, sugar makes a very good anaerobic barrier, if that is the word I want). When I was ready, I dissolved a little more sugar in the water and added lemon juice and the rose petals and their lovely rose scented sugar. It was immediately obvious there was way too much water, but I thought it would cook down.

It didn't, of course, not so you'd notice, and I could see after a while jam was not going to happen from this. I ladled off a quart! of the liquid, which was a pretty coral color and smelled lovely, thinking it would be a good syrup, like the lavender syrup I made a couple of months ago that turned out to be a Very Good Idea. (Lavender syrup over sliced strawberries = oh hell yes). Then I set everything aside until I could pick more roses the next day.

Which I did, and added the petals (unchopped this time) to the previous ones, and took out a couple more ladlesful of the liquid just to be on the safe side. I combined this with the syrup from the day before along with another handful of rose petals and set that to reduce and thicken a bit. 

I still had my suspicions about the jelling properties of my jam, so I threw in a tablespoon of powdered pectin for insurance. I cooked this for some indeterminate amount of time, certainly longer than the 5 minutes the recipe called for, until a little of it on a cold plate started to thicken, then poured it into my jars and sealed them.

Et voila, two half-pints of rose petal jam and a honey bear full to the eyes of rose petal syrup. (You can see my previous dandelion and violet jelly in the background.) I was very pleased with the way the color deepened the longer I cooked both the syrup and the jam, considering the roses were pink and not red. Another bonus was the somewhat candied rose petals I strained out of the syrup and later ate over Greek yogurt. How Oriental of me! (And Oriental is the word I want in this case.) They were delicious and surprisingly chewy. Definitely something to try again.

So the roses were the clear winners in the Things To Make With Flowers contest this year, unsurprisingly. The dandelion jelly was OK but not good enough to bother with, and the violet jelly is fine, but  not as intense as my jaded palate would like. I will probably try that again next year, though; Lord knows we have no shortage of violets.  

Also, I think I may concentrate more on making the flavored simple syrups, since I actually use those. They're fabulous in hot green tea or over sliced fruit or yogurt. I like the idea of jams and jellies, but in practice I hardly ever eat them, because I prefer a savory breakfast to a sweet one. Now I need to go do something with all the mint that's coming up.