Last Sunday we had a lovely morning at Stoneywish Nature Reserve recommended by my friend Briah. Because of the recent wet weather it was really quiet and we had the place to ourselves, so Leo our 18 months old could run around happily checking out the farm animals, wooden structures at the playground, the teepees and feed the ducks and the fish in the pond - which is the cleanest and most full of wildlife I have ever seen. There were few blackberries left which he all pretty much ate off the hedgerow there and then, but there were plenty of rosehips to pick from now until Christmas. Not entirely sure if it's ok to pick the hedgerows in a Nature Reserve, I had a go anyway as there were so much of it and picked a small amount (about half a large freezer bag) so there is always plenty left for the birds too.
When I was searching for a good rosehip cordial recipe I found a great variety of them. Most will tell you to boil the fruit with water, then add sugar and carry on boiling for quite sometime to reduce to a syrup. Rosehips have one of the highest vitamin C (and other vitamins) contents among the hedgerow berries, which tend to diminish at temperatures even as low as 50-60C. Its flavours might improve with cooking, but the winter goodness that is so excellent to keep away colds will completely disappear with lengthy boiling. Some recipes suggest longer soaking time in cooler water, then adding a sugar syrup separately, which I chose to do in the end.
Picking rosehips is best around the end of October when the first frosts arrive. Make sure the berries are bright red and ripe but not yet soft. Wear some gloves and clothes you don't mind ruining, the bushes are full of thorns.
800g granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Top and tail the rosehips removing the green stalk at one end and the black tip at the other. Wash and rinse. Chop the hips up in a food processor into small pieces. Cover them with 500 ml boiling water and 250ml cold water, give it a good stir, cool down and stick in the fridge for a couple of days. If you can remember give it a stir every so often. After two days of soaking, strain the liquid through a fine muslin to get rid of any hips and seeds, discard these, the tiny hairs on them can irritate the throat. Make the sugar syrup by gently heating the sugar with 250ml water until dissolves (do not stir). Boil it for a few minutes to thicken, cool it down slightly then gently pour into the strained rosehip juice, adding the lemon juice to it, stirring to mix well. Pour into sterilised bottles or plastic tupperware for freezing later. Allow to cool down completely before putting in the fridge or freezer. It will keep for a week in the fridge, which is why it is handy to freeze some. This makes a tasty Christmas present too if you can bear giving some away! The above quantity made us 1.5 litres of cordial.