Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rosing to the Occasion

I've always thought I'd like to make rose petal jelly. I certainly have enough roses (this being one of the 4 climbing roses on the front of the house and those are only the pink roses)!

In past years, I've collected the petals for pot pourri and dried the roses for arrangements, but pulling out the canning equipment has always seemed to big a a hassle.

I figured out why: the roses bloom during the height of the last of the extracurricular activities (CCD, co-op, scouts) and during the final push of "serious" school which is already competing (and losing) against the nice weather.

Bottom line: if I don't try it this year because I'm busy, it'll never happen. I'll always be busy!

So the girls picked rose petals - how is that for a charming occupation?

The recipe was simple:
3 c. (pressed down) rose petals (rinsed off)
3c. boiling water
3 c. sugar
1 pkg powdered pectin

Steep the petals in the boiling water for 30 to 60 minutes (mine went 2 hours).
Strain, bring to a boil.
Add sugar, boil.
Add pectin, bring to a rolling boil for 60 seconds.
Ladle into hot jars, seal (I use rings and lids) , process in boiling water 5-10 minutes.

Very interesting! When you steep the (bright pink) petals, the petals turn white and the water turns brown. That seems explainable by the color compounds not being heat stable. BUT, wonder of wonders, after 10 - 15 minutes, the water slowly turns pink. In fact, after the sugar and pectin are added, the jelly is an even darker pink than the fresh petals - more the color of the dried petals. What is happening???

I have no idea! If you do, leave it in the comments. If I can find out, I will post again about it.

The science in the rose jelly that I do know about is the pectin/sugar magic. Pectin is a a very large but compactly folded molecule. When you heat it, like most large molecules, it begins to unfold and all those neatly packed angles stick out and get caught on other things (this is why eggs turn from liquid to solid in the frying pan). In the presence of the right proportion of sugar, pectin forms a fine network with the sugar (which is also unfolding) and this network is strong enough to hold the water as a gel. Gel- jell-jelly! Yum!

The jelly is setting up. While we wait, we are drinking rose petal tea. Again, you have to wait for it to turn pink again. The kids thought to float fresh petals in the fancy tea cups. Now that is fancy tea! And yes, I should have taken a picture of it for you.

We still have more petals, so we are thinking of making beads out of them, although I don't think we'll get enough to make the traditional rose rosary.

PS: Do I need to mention that you should never use roses that have been sprayed with chemicals? Didn't think so, but just in case...

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