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Walking through the park in the winter, it seems a given that most everything will be brown, crispy, and spiky, but the roses never fail to surprise with their bright, late season fruits: rose hips. I was always curious about rose hips, a mysterious ingredient that seems to crop up in herbal teas, but it took the experience of a rose hip-infused cocktail at a party a few years ago before I thought of the orange and red fruits in the hedgerow as something potentially delicious. The host of that particular party had infused the liquor using dried rose hips from a health food store, but I was determined to go straight to the source.
Though less familiar in the US, rose hip cordial is well known in Britain in part because the Ministry of Food recommended it for household production during World War 2. At the time, few shipments of citrus were finding their way to the country and a syrup made with rosehips, which are very high in vitamin C, was considered a good replacement.
Gathering rose hips can be spiky work. I would recommend gardening gloves and a pair of scissors or shears to clip them from their stalk rather than trying to pick them straight from the plant. While some varieties remain quite firm, others grow jammy and soft as they ripen and you don't want to crush them. Plus, if you clip the fruit, there's less chance that you'll pull or damage the plant.
Once you're finished foraging, the most labor intensive step is done. This cordial comes together quickly after the fruit is washed, trimmed, and sent for a whirl in the food processor. After that all they need is a simmer, a steep, a strain, a little sugar, and a hit of lemon, and your rose hip cordial will be complete.
The result is a slightly opaque red-orange syrup. Definitely fruity, a little floral, and with a hint of savory flavor—not unlike yellow tomatoes. Dilute it with seltzer for a sophisticated spritzer or use it as a sweet base for a winter cocktail.
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