Experiments in free(ish) jelly

It’s been a fantastic year for berries, so I decided the time had come to experiment with rosehip and hawthorn jellies.

Finding a sufficiency of rosehips and haws to cook up was straightforward; half an hour in the local park with a shopping-bag produced enough for a small jar’s worth each of rosehip and hawthorn jelly. I took maybe a third, and left the rest for the birds. There’s plenty I can’t reach, anyway.

My first attempt at rosehip jelly turned out more like a cross between jelly and syrup. Rosehips don’t have much pectin, but I didn’t have any to hand, so I threw some lemon juice in, and relied on boiling it down to get it to setting-point. This was probably the root of the problem. It was also a little too sweet (at 1 lb sugar to 1 pt juice).

My first attempt at hawthorn jelly turned into hawthorn toffee instead, and had to be boiled back out of the jar. Haws do have plenty of pectin, but more importantly, there was a small quantity to start with (so easier to make mistakes), and I got involved with something else and went slightly too long without checking on it. It was very tasty, though (at 0.75 lb sugar to 1 pt juice).

Last weekend, I had another go at rosehip jelly, but with a double-handful of haws in to provide the pectin. Initial tastings indicate that it’s done fairly well, although I thought I might have detected a slight underlying bitterness. I’ll see what happens when I finish the test-jellies and open one of the jars.

Basic recipe:
– Pick over the hips or haws. In theory you should pick off all the twig parts, but I only took out the worst of them, on the grounds that it gets sieved anyway.
– Put into a pan, and cover generously with water. Boil for a while, mashing with a potato masher after 10 min or so.
– Strain through a jelly bag (or a muslin cloth) after about 30 min. If you leave the bag to drip, the jelly will be clear, but you’ll have less of it. I always squeeze, myself. If you haven’t got time to finish the job today, you can put the juice in the fridge overnight at this point.
– Put the juice into a pan with 0.8 lb sugar to 1 pt juice (this is my current ratio; experiment according to the sweetness of your tooth). Rosehips need either added pectin, or pectin-containing sugar.
– Bring to a boil and simmer until it sets. Test for setting by spooning a dab onto a plate and leaving it for a minute. Pull your finger across the dab, and if it wrinkles, it’s good to go.
– Put into sterilised jars (sterilise by washing with hot water and putting in a 100deg oven until dry, after which you must REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE HOT), put a jam paper circle over the top, and screw on the lid.
– Label once cool.

(It’s only free-ish because the sugar costs money.)