Making Rosehip Syrup from a War Time Recipe
Rosehip syrup was used in both world wars as a source of vitamin C and a soothing home remedy for coughs and colds, so as the first rosehips appeared this autumn I was eager to try out the kind of recipe that Elin, the heroine of ‘We That Are Left‘, might have made during the 1914 – 18 war.
With most of my recipes for the book I’ve tried to be as authentic as possible, with many coming from newpapers of the time. But many are also traditional ones that would have been passed down generations of women to keep their families safe and healthy in a world where a visit to the doctor cost money that poorer families simply could not spare. Many older people I spoke to still remember rosehip syrup as a remedy from their childhood. Some remembered gathering the hips, and all remembered the delicious taste as it was spooned into them – much nicer (and of course far cheaper) than shop bought medicine!
There are plenty of recipes still out there. In the end I went with this one from the BBC ‘Woman’s Hour’ website, which is the one given out by the Ministry of Food in 1943 during the Second World War. You can find the link HERE
So first I needed to gather 2lbs (900gm) of hips. These would have been crushed, but I used a food processor and a potato masher. They were then put into 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water. I brought it back to the boil then left it for around 15 – 20 mins. The smell was exquisite! My whole house was suffused with a warm, fruity, slightly fluffy scent. I sat there with a cup of tea just breathing it in.
The next part is to strain this through a jelly bag or muslin. It has to be that fine to strain out the hairs that can be an irritant. I got my straining bag from a kitchen shop in Conwy for just a few pounds. The bag is hung up and left to drip. A rusty coloured cloudy liquid appears in the pan underneath. When it’s all done, you can put the rosehips back in a pan and add 852 ml of boiling water and do the whole thing again to get the last bit of goodness out.
Then it was a matter of boiling it all down and until it thickens, then adding just over 1lb (560gr) of sugar and boiling for about 5 mins more. Then it’s ready to bottle.
I’m not sure it’s an exact science. I’d like to keep on experimenting to see the best taste for me. The first batch was delicious and the colour was beautiful, but it was very sweet. Which I suppose is the point, as it needs to keep and it is a syrup to be used in small doses. I haven’t tried it on icecream yet, but it was very soothing when I came down with a cold, and I have to say I recovered very quickly. I did put a small amount in hot water, which was very comforting.
I’m off to find more rosehips, and rosehip syrup is definitely on my list of autumn treats!