Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lighthouse Rose Hips Jam

The late Barbara Beebe Gaspar, whose father was a lightkeeper in New London, Connecticut and on Block Island, Rhode Island, gave me many great interviews and pictures of her family's life on the lighthouses. I thought of her last week on a trip to New England. The Rosa Rugosa rose hips were everywhere along the shore, round and red like cherry tomatoes. They made me think of Barbara Beebe Gaspar's Rose Hip Jam.

She learned the recipe from her mother, a resourceful lightkeeper's wife who used many natural materials and plants around her home. This time of year, Mrs. Beebe always sent her children to gather rose hips for jam. The area around the Old North Light on Block Island had lots of beach roses, as did the family's later home at Southeast Lighthouse.

"Often" Barbara remembered, "we'd gather them on our way home from school. The smell of them cooking on the stove was slightly floral and tangy."

Rose hips are edible, of course, and packed with vitamin C. If you live near the beach and have access to beach roses--Rosa Rugosa--try Barbara's jam. It's sweet and delicious. Barbara told me: "This jam is quite an effort to prepare, but it's worth it!"

Her recipe appeared in my 1996 book, Lighthouse Victuals & Verse (now out of print). It's reprinted below.

4 cups of rose hips puree (see puree recipe below)
1 teaspoon of butter
1 cup canned crushed pineapple
1/2 a lemon with rind, sliced very thin and cooked until tender
5 cups of sugar
1/2 a package of Sure-Gel

Make the puree first: Remove stems from rose hips and wash them. You'll need about 8-10 cups of raw rose hips to make 4 cups of puree. Put them into a kettle and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain off most of the juice.

Put puree into a blender for a few seconds to make it smooth. (Barbara's mother didn't have a blender, so she went to the next step.) Pour blended puree through a food mill to remove the seeds.
Mix together puree, butter, pineapple, and lemon. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Add Sure-Gel and cook until thick.

Pour into sterile jam jars and seal with paraffin. The jam is a rose color, perfect for toast!

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