Thou Shalt Not Over-Step the Bounds of Foraging?…Think again.
Over the summer, Bea and I went down to the lakefront to gather Staghorn Sumac berries for our special Jelly and Ice Cream Day. We ended up oversteeping those berries, thus cancelling our plans to make jelly with them. As Nathalie Foy pointed out in a recent post on foraging, there’s nothing like finding and being fed by the fruit of your own city! For us, the finding, in itself, had been extraordinary. Not to be defeated in the kitchen, however, and wanting to be fed, we canvassed our local area for yet more sumac (a trip to a local sports field did the trick). And, with a shorter steep-time for our sumac berries (this time, we steeped them in apple juice instead of water, too), we were able to achieve success in Foraged Sumac Jelly making!! Hip Hip Hooray!!
But what of our latest exploits? Last week, I asked the kids to help me gather the darkest, most fragrant rose petals they could find in order to make the Rose Petal Jelly we had read about (and kept drooling over) on The Creamer Chronicles blog. Unfortunately, early in the spring, our dog Elvis attacked and uprooted our two young backyard rose-bushes, thorns and all. Wanting to avoid chemically treated plants (as the recipe recommends), we actually thought it best to avoid the florist’s shop in favour of the organic roses that ramble in some of our neighbours’ gardens. We had our eyes on a few particular bushes on our walk to and from school because we are familiar with those gardens and with the general gardening practices of the people we see out in those yards (think home-made compost and clean tools as opposed to bottles of spray). Therefore, we had few concerns about the rose bushes we chose to forage from.
Still, would this constitute stealing? Would we make the effort to knock on doors and ask permission? Or, like the father in the Beauty and the Beast tale, would we simply pick our roses and face the consequences as they came? We decided that we would strike a kind of happy medium by only gathering the petals from roses that looked as if they were about to lose their petals anyway.
Of course, it’s the end of the blooming season here, so we were able to gather an entire two cups of petals with little or no trouble. We carried a few paper bags around with us, and, placing our hands under a flower here or there, we basically let the petals fall into our hands, first, and then, into the bags. We didn’t look to hide what we were doing from anyone. We simply went about our business. And we only gathered a flower or two’s worth of petals from any one garden on our “safe” map.
When we got the petals home, we gave them a good rinse and strain in the sink. Then, we rinsed and strained again. I also considered using the organic “veggie soak” liquid we keep under the sink, but I figured that the rinsing and the boiling would be sufficient. Again, we know where our roses came from – we’ve spied on those gardeners time enough!
Next, we made our rose-petal tea! We wanted more tea than the recipe recommended (some to drink and some to gel). So we boiled 2 cups of rose petals in about 6 cups of water for about 10 minutes. The rose petals lost all of their colour! They turned white, looking like smattered bits of thin white medical gloves. The kids liked them because they looked “creepy!”
Then, we strained our tea through a jelly bag into a measuring cup. Ew! It was a dark, ugly purple! Was this our punishment for stealing the petals? What were we to do?
Add lemon juice, of course, as the recipe writer recommended! We made a few tweaks to the recipe, however, because we had less lemon juice on hand than recommended and because of our own personal tastes and preferences. So, we placed 2 2/3 cups of our rose-petal tea into a pot on the stove (reserving the rest for tea drinking!). Then, we added 1/3 cup freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice to the brew. As promised, the colour immediately shifted from dark purple to a lovely, orangey-pink! Next we added 4 1/2 cups sugar (slightly more than the original recipe), and after bringing our brew to a boil, a foil sachet of liquid pectin (we prefer liquid pectin to powdered pectin when making jellies). We boiled this mixture hard for about a minute and funned our jelly in 5 half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-in headspace. At last, we water-processed our jars for 10 minutes.
Voila! FORAGED Rose Petal Jelly!
Instead of gifting this jelly to friends and relatives, as originally planned, we’re thinking about “Jelly Bombing” the gardeners whose rose-petals we stole in the first place (i.e. leaving jelly jars at their front doors with kindly little notes from “anonymous” wishing them joy and thanking them for their contribution to our pantry). Or perhaps, this tasty jelly will not even make it out of our kitchen…It looks and tastes fantastic on toast or stirred into yogurt. It might also make for a fantastic butter cookie filling…hmm…So far, no beasts have come forward to demand repayment for their roses, anyway!!
FORAGED ROSE PETAL JELLY
- 2 2/3 cup strained rose petal tea made by boiling and straining:
- 2 cups foraged rose petals chemical-free
- 6 cups water
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 foil pouch liquid pectin
- In a saucepan, bring rose petal tea, lemon juice, and sugar to a boil.
- Add a foil sachet of liquid pectin and boil hard for about a minute.
- Funned jelly in 5 half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-in headspace.
- Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.