Memorial Day may mark the start of the summer season for most parts of the country, but the fourth of July is when the season kicks into high gear in the mountains. So many people come to the high country because it is beautiful and wild and peaceful. Except a lot of the visitors can’t seem to leave their suburban trappings and behaviors in suburbia, turning paradise into a circus of bad manners. Jeremy and I tend to lay low during the holiday crush, because I believe in the minimization of unnecessary stress. So we drove to Crested Butte, passing through the mountain corridor just a couple of hours before it clogged up with holiday weekend travelers. We are currently enjoying the summer rains and the wildflowers as the town prepares for Independence Day festivities on and around the mountain. This is when everything starts growing and showing off.
nothing like hiking through fields of purple lupine
a hall of aspens that seems to go on forever
prairie smoke blossoms
tiny, brightly colored jelly alpine fungi
Last week in Nederland, the wild roses were in full swing, painting our local yards, trails, and hillsides with splashes of pink among the lush bushes. They were so fragrant that we couldn’t help but notice. I had been waiting for them to blossom, but the late spring meant the wild roses growing in front of our house were a few weeks behind schedule. Jeremy and I spent a couple of hours last weekend foraging wild rose petals for a few recipes. You can always use commercial roses as long as they are unsprayed, but wild roses are particularly fragrant and wonderful.
There’s no need to pluck the entire flower, just the petals. It’s easiest to do with the flowers that aren’t flat open, but somewhat concave. You merely close your fingers over the top half of the petals as if to close the blossom. Give a gentle tug and most if not all of the petals should release with a light snap. I leave the center of each rose – the reproductive parts – on the stem and make sure to touch each stamen with my thumb in the hopes that I’ll help to pollinate each flower to produce rose hips for wildlife in the fall. If you find a good bundle of wild rose bushes in bloom, it doesn’t take much time to collect a few cups of petals.
i store them in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator
Of course, we humans aren’t the only ones fond of roses. There are plenty of little crawlies who like to hitch a ride on the rose petals back to your place. To reduce the number of new friends, I gently flick the blossom before I pluck it. This usually evicts 80% of the hitchhikers. Back home, I empty the petals into a large mesh colander covered with a splatter guard, and shake the petals over a table until no more little bugs fall out. It takes me about 10 minutes until the bugs run clear, but that’s easier than rinsing the petals with water, which you can do instead of or in addition to the shaking to clean your rose petals.
toss the petals in a colander
While researching wild rose recipes, I came across this simple, yet delightful wild rose petal jam. It’s rather quick to whip up and it makes for a charming homemade gift. Best of all, it’s delicious. The rose flavor is delicate without being overpowering in that way that makes you think you’re eating lotion or soap. It comes out a brilliant pink color which is all natural.
rose petals, pectin, water, lemon juice, sugar
I used Pomona’s Pectin in my recipe, but you can use a regular powdered pectin or a liquid pectin to help the jam firm up. My friend, Marisa, of Food in Jars, has a nice little write up on pectin conversions. If using powdered pectin, mix it in with the sugar to avoid clumping when you add it to your fruit. If using liquid pectin, add it right before you final simmer. Or omit pectin altogether and simmer the rose petal liquid into a thick syrup if you prefer. What’s different about Pomona’s pectin is that the powdered pectin is activated by calcium. The calcium comes in the form of a powder and is mixed with water to make a calcium liquid. Pomona’s pectin gets mixed into the sugar just like regular powdered pectin, but the calcium liquid needs to be added to the jam base so that the pectin will help the jam set.
stir the pectin into the sugar
The base of the jam is a wild rose petal tea. Bring water and rose petals to a boil, then simmer for several minutes. It will result in a dull pink mass of wet petals and rose petal tea. Don’t despair, the addition of lemon juice transforms the rose tea into the bright hue you see below. It’s the same neat trick that happens when making lavender lemonade. Better living through chemistry, folks.
place the rose petals and water in a saucepan
simmer to make rose petal tea
adding lemon juice bumps up the hue
this is also when you add the calcium water
Stir the sugar into the rose petal tea and simmer until the jam reaches your desired thickness. I like to use David Lebovitz‘ method for testing the set of a jam. I place a white plate in the freezer for a few minutes, then when I’m ready to test the state of the jam, I spoon a little on the plate and return it to the freezer for a minute. Then I run my finger through it to check the firmness. Remember, jams will always be more runny when hot than when they have cooled. My first batch was a tad too thick, but the second batch was lighter and more spreadable as I reduced the cooking time.
add the sugar to the rose petal tea
simmer until the jam is the right consistency
fill jars with hot jam and let cool
I’m not a fanatic about rose-flavored things and Jeremy even less so, which is why I was surprised at how much we both liked the end result. You can definitely taste that it is rose, but it isn’t overwhelming. I made some fresh scones to try with the jam and whoa! What an amazing combination. It was so good that I went out to collect more rose petals and made a double batch to give to friends. If you can get your hands on wild roses – fresh or dried – this jam is worth a try.
scones, rose petal jam, and clotted cream
sweet, wild, and rosy
1 oz or 2 cups lightly packed fresh wild rose petals or petals of unsprayed roses*
1 1/2 cups water
scant 1 tsp Pomona’s fruit pectin**
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tbsps fresh lemon juice
scant 1 tsp calcium water (if using Pomona’s pectin)***
*1 cup of fresh rose petals equals 1/3 cup of dried rose petals
**You can substitute 1 tsp powdered pectin for Pomona’s fruit pectin (you’ll still want to stir the powdered pectin into the sugar before adding to the rose petal tea) or 1 tbsp liquid pectin which should be stirred in after adding the lemon juice.
***To make calcium water, mix 1/2 tsp calcium powder with 1/2 cup water and shake well.
Combine the rose petals and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, stir the Pomona’s pectin into the sugar. When the rose petal tea is done simmering, stir in the lemon juice and calcium water. Bring the liquid to a full boil and add the sugar mixture, stirring vigorously for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Return the jam to a full boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you like your jam. The final set jam will be thicker than its consistency when hot. Pour into canning jars and let cool. Refrigerate or freeze for up to several months. Makes 2 cups.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
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