Cutting the red roses was not an easy task. Their fullness, ripe and fragrant, climbing up, circling my son's bedroom window, gave an air of romance, made me dreamy, made me forget the neighbors next door, and because of those reasons, the idea of cutting the roses to make rose jam just didn't feel right.
Everyday Annie asked me if I had cut the red roses, everyday I answered, "Not yet." Everyday she shook her head saying, "They will grow back, but if you do not cut them you won't have rose jam tomorrow." It sounded simple, yet those red roses meant something to me, and cutting them subtracted the feeling they gave to me.
Reluctantly I gave the scissor to Sacha, the first cut was the deepest, petals floated down like a gentle rain, covering the ground red around the ladder. I wondered if the rose vine felt pain, or was it just me?
After the red rose vine was cut bare, I stared at its emptiness, noticing the peeling paint of Sacha's shutters that frame his bedroom window, without the roses as a shield the neighbor's constant chatter rattled my brain... plucking the petals I wondered why I was making rose jam? I know the taste is like eating a rose, but was it worth the reality of cutting beauty away?
To make rose jam you need fragrant roses that have not been chemically treated. Whatever color of rose you use that will be the color of the jam. Many suggest to tear off the white tip at the edge of the rose petal, because it will the rose jam bitter. Though Annie waved her hands at me and said, "Honestly, do you think my mother had time to do that when she made her rose jam? I never saw her do that. Leave the white tip, it doesn't matter."
I trusted her memorable past experience and left the rose petals intact.
-Cut the roses in the morning, just as they are beginning to release their perfume.
-Pluck the petals from the rose blooms and set them aside to dry, (this takes a few days),
-Fifty roses give about 100 grams of dried rose petals,
-Weigh the dried rose petals, put them in a large, cooking pan,
-Add the dried rose petals, cover them with equal amounts of sugar,
-Sprinkle fresh squeezed lemon juice over the sugar,
-Add a cup of water,
-Cover and set aside for twenty-four hours.
-Add another cup of water, and slowly bring to a boil, stir often, add water if you think it is becoming too thick.
-Cook until the juice ripples from a wooden spoon, and when the rose petals are tender.
-Ladle the rose jam into sterile jars, cover tightly with sterile lids,
-Turn the covered, filled jam jars upside down and let set for twenty four hours.
Rose jam from the moment you cut the roses until you spread it on your toast takes about five days to make. Rose jam made this way is preserved for years if the jar's seal is not opened.
The rose jam will look like this when you are cooking it.
The red rose jam juice is vibrant and sweet. If you want you can make jelly with it, subtracting the petals.
Or add it to chilled white wine, or vodka.
I prefer thick jam, so I add very little water. If you prefer jam more jelly like, you will need to add more than two cups of water.
The first time I made a batch of rose jam I tried a different recipe (not Annie's which is above) and the rose jam was very bitter, and the texture like eating wet jeans. I gagged. Annie scolded me for not following her tried-true recipe. I was angry at myself for wasting the roses, and since then have never faltered from her advice.
If only I didn't have to cut the roses to make the jam... making rose jam would be pure pleasure to make.
The rose jam is a delicacy, a royal taste, and as much as I love it, I feel sad about cutting the roses in bloom. There is a price to pay for everything.