For those who are from a climate fortunate enough to have a real autumn, today is the equinox—the initiation of nature into that buffer zone between summer and winter. For the residents of areas like Southern California, where everything is a blur year-round, please try to imagine the trees’ leaves changing into bright oranges, reds, yellows, piling at your feet, and a nip to the air you are unaccustomed to feeling at any time.
At any rate, this is the time of year when some people, whether farm families, homesteaders, or over-the-hill hippies (anybody under 50 years old can google that) use the fruits, vegetables and other goods they are harvesting to preserve. These products of the earth will get them through the winter and often beyond, even till the next year’s harvest. Others, frankly, are just too scrumptious to keep long. From the kitchen to the tummy in a very short time, but worth all the work and the waiting.
If you’re not lucky enough to have any harvest or even access to delights of the field and garden from a farmers’ market, take heart. There will always be resources in natural food stores here in SoCal to keep a good stock in the freezer or fridge. A good example is any type of berry, or even a mixed supply, waiting for you to rip open the bag and gorge. You don’t need to be from a place like Michigan (although it would help) to make your own jam, jelly, conserves, etc. In fact, you can even add some pizzazz to your homemade stuff.
One way to not only perk up flavor but nutritional quality of your preserves is to add rose hips. These are the little round parts at the base of the rose flower, which contain seeds. Europeans have used these for ages, knowing they are abundant in Vitamin C. Go into a store carrying European foods and you’ll find jams, jellies, teas, all containing rose hips. Once you find some of these potent pods, take them home and go wild.
In the event you find rose hips scarce, or can’t grow your own (unsprayed, at least if not certifiably organic) roses to supply the parts, use them sparingly by brewing them as a strong tea, unsweetened, and add the fluid to your mix of berries and whatnot, for a blast of extra health and taste. Strawberries, being related biologically to roses, will pair well with this ingredient. Apples, as well, are from the same family and both contain pectin, therefore will help set the resulting preserve of any type. Some people prefer to not use any added pectin despite it being actually quite natural. This would involve use of much more sweetener and boiling, however. Your own dietary needs, taste preference and judgment can determine which way you care to go in this matter.
Same goes for the type of canning you wish to use: whether a bath, or refrigerator style, is up to the individual and won’t be elaborated upon here. Just make sure your jar(s) and lid(s) are sterilized before filling, in boiling water. Refrigeration is always a good measure what with the heat we have here in California. You likely won’t let it linger that long, once you’ve let it cool enough to taste. Who says preserves can’t be healthy and delicious at the same time?
An internet search only revealed one source of rose hips in bulk locally: www.groundworkcoffee.com/products/rose-hips . There are many supermarkets such as Ralph’s that carry a variety of teas containing rose hips, but you’ll also have other ingredients (usually hibiscus) added to the mix. Again, you may want to use your own judgment in this regard. Be sure to check out the other ingredients to ascertain whether they are appropriate to your health, no matter what they taste may be. Otherwise, enjoy all the added benefits they contain.