This year the fruit harvest has been good both in the gardens and in the hedgerows. Blackberries, sloes and elderberries have been plentiful and I collected some of each as they became ripe. There are also a lot of rosehips about this year but I have not collected them since I was a child when we used to remove the hairy seeds and call it itching powder. Rosehips have twenty times the level of vitamin C as oranges and during the war when shipping was disrupted and fruit from abroad was not available, large quantities of rosehips were collected by volunteers to be made into syrup. From 1943 - 1945 the annual amount collected was 450 tons. The syrup was sold for 1s 9d (about 8p) for a six ounce bottle but mothers and children could get larger quantities at reduced prices from welfare clinics.
In the latest Permaculture Magazine there was a recipe for Rosehip syrup so I decided to have a go. The recipe in the magazine seemed to be based on the recipe given out by the Ministry of Food in 1943 and which I found reprinted in Food for Free by Richard Mabey.
The original recipe used 2lb of rosehips but I just did half the quantity.
Mince 1lb of rosehips and empty straight into one and a half pints of boiling water. It is important to put the hips in the boiling water immediately after mincing to minimise the loss of vitamin C.
Stop heating and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Then filter the mixture through a jelly bag. Put the mixture remaining in the bag back in the saucepan, add 3/4 pint of boiling water, allow to stand for 10 minutes and then filter thorough the jelly bag again.
It is important to remove all the hairs that cover the seeds as these will be an irritant if swallowed. The recipe suggested refiltering the first cupful of juice to make sure all the hairs are removed.
This close up photograph of the jelly bag showed a number of these little hairs so to be sure to remove all of them I filtered the juice through a paper coffee filter!
Place the filtered juice in a saucepan and boil until the volume is reduced to 3/4 pint. Add 10 oz sugar, boil for 5 minutes and then pour into hot sterile bottles and seal.
I didn't have any bottles so I put mine in jam jars.
The original storage instructions were to store in a dark cupboard and to use the syrup within one to two weeks of opening. I think that it would keep for longer than that if it was refrigerated as there is quite a high sugar content.
I have tasted the syrup and it does taste just the same as the "Delrosa" rosehip syrup that I remember from when I was little. Although Delrosa syrup has not been available in the UK for some years, it can still be found in some countries.
I wonder whether in the future when we need to depend more on locally produced foods, we will once again be gathering rosehips on a large scale to make this vitamin C rich syrup.