The parking lot of my local Shaw's is swimming in rose hip bushes. All summer, I watched as their papery pink blossoms hardened into tiny fruits that ripened to deep, satisfying red. Each orb packs a zingy, almost tropical flavor, and I've wanted to gather them by the bushel.
But I haven't, because lord knows what they've been sprayed with. Fortunately, rose hips are not hard to find — they grow all over the place. Their fruits also get softer and sweeter just after the first frost, so now is the time to spring if you want to subjugate them into some kind of edible morsel.
When wresting rose hips from their mother shrub, however, it helps to be masochistic — the bush's thorns can find and prick your tenderest parts. Leather gloves can reduce the carnage. Or, you can use a convoluted system of pulling down high branches with tongs to gingerly pluck the fruit off by hand, as I did.
Why are rose hips worth the bloodshed? Because they're tangy and slightly sweet. Because they're packed with vitamin C, and because they probably grow within a stone's throw of where you sit. Tea, syrups, jams... you can use rose hips for all of them. The Swedes even make a soup from rose hips called nyponsoppa.
Some recipes for rose-hip syrup are cumbersome, calling for triple infusions and multiple mashing. Since I shun anything too involved and wanted a quasi-quick sauce for a dinner this weekend, I reduced some into a rough-and-ready rose-hip glaze.
Little more than a reduced rose-hip syrup, it's simple to make, deseeding nothwithstanding. First, top, tail and halve each rose hip, scooping out the seeds and miniscule hairs inside (they can irritate your throat). Coarsely chop the remaining fruit, then place in a saucepan and cover with twice as much water. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook on very low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the liquid has been reduced by about half.
Pour the rose hip mixture through a funnel or sieve lined with cheesecloth (you need something really fine to filter out any remaining hairs). Press the mash in order to squeeze out its richest juices. Then, take the extracted liquid — mine was a deep amber at this point — and return it to a low simmer. Depending on your volume and sweet tooth, add a few tablespoons of sugar and stir to dissolve. Reduce the syrup down until it's a glaze that can coat the back of a spoon. Dip your finger in, and oooh and aaah.
I drizzled this glaze over braised short ribs and risotto, then again the next morning over apples and yogurt. Its uses are almost endless. Rose hips will shivel and harden soon, though, so the time is high — go forth and pluck before they disappear under icicles. It'll be sooner than you think.