What is Sour in The House A Bracing Walk Makes Sweet: Rose Hip Jam Donuts and another sweet surprise!
As difficult as it can be for me to believe sometimes, there are people out there who just don’t “get” foraging. Why spend an afternoon hiking in the cold fall air and plucking small fruit from thorn-covered branches, only to then spend all evening meticulously processing your harvest and cooking it into a thick jam? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just go to the grocery store for a jar of preserves?
The short answer is, of course, yes. But a simple amassing of foodstuffs is not the only thing foraging represents. We are lucky enough to live in an age of convenience. Most of us no longer rely on our own hands to produce preserved foods for the cold season ahead. We have access to ready-made products that require just a few minutes in the toaster or microwave to be ready for our convenience. We can eat on-the-move, multitasking like our production-based society has taught us to.
But foraging offers so much that the supermarket does not, from the joys of being outside in the frosty morning listening to quail burrowing in the dry bushes to the exotic flavors that wild foods provide. There is simply nothing else that tastes like rose hip jam, for example. It has a tart flavor slightly reminiscent of crisp apples, but with a complexity that is all its own. No spices need to be added to bring out the beauty of this wild flavor. No pectin is needed either, as rose hips are all packaged up to provide their own. This is slow food at its best; a chance for communion with nature, for the community of a group of family or friends processing rose hips while talking and laughing, for the warmth of the smell of preserves on the stove.
If you were to nibble on a wild rose hip in the fall, you’d find that you have to take tiny, squirrel-sized bites to keep from breaking through to the center where hard seeds and irritating hairs would fill your mouth with unpleasantness. You’d find that the little nibbles of rose hip you taste would be tannic, slightly bitter, and tart. (Though this varies greatly by time of year, type of rose hip, and number of frosts - I have tasted rose hips that were hard and crunchy, and others that were sweetened and softened by many frosts, yielding a sweet-sour paste that was an unexpected treat.) I often nibble on rose hips on my morning walks and forest wanders, though many non-foragers may wonder why I bother. Perhaps Henry David Thoreau can explain better than I:
“To appreciate the wild and sharp flavor of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The out-door air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet.”
Ah, yes. “What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet.” Indeed, it’s true - I crave the bitter tartness of the wild when my nose is red with cold and frosty air fills my lungs. It fills a void in my sensory scope of the world. It just seems to fit, the same way the scene would be empty without the rustling of little birds in the bushes below, no doubt feasting on the same seeds I carefully avoid. How many other moments of sweetness can be found on those bracing walks? How many problems solved while ruminating to the pace of your steps? How much discontent blown away by autumn winds? Foraging is its own kind of sweetness, a kind that cannot be bought or sold. Rose hip jam is but one example of what can be gleaned from the wild. Dedicate yourself to the whole experience.
Whether you’re making fluffy yeasted donuts filled with rich rose hip jam or gluten-free cider donuts with a maple glaze, these donuts are sure to be the hit of your next fall gathering. Feral apples, crabapples, and rose hips give them their special flavors.
Wild Rose Hip Jam:
I have to break it to you: rose hip jam is going to take some work. There are two main ways to tackle it, and which one you choose is totally personal preference. Just be prepared for it to take some time, patience, and dedication. Rose hips should be harvested after the first frost, if possible. They become much sweeter and a little softer, yielding a richer and smoother jam. Make sure they are completely ripe (a rich bright red) before you begin.
Inside each rose hip are a bunch of seeds surrounded by fine hairs. It’s very important to remove these hairs, as they can be irritating to the digestive system and mucous membranes they come into contact with. That means, your options are:
Remove the stems and any leaves from the rose hips, then place them in a saucepan with 2x the amount of water as the rose hips (so if you have 1 cup of rose hips, you’ll need 2 cups of water.) Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rose hips are very soft. Mash them often using a potato masher. Once you have a fairly smooth paste, press it through a kitchen sieve to remove the seeds and any large pieces of the rose hips. Then, strain through muslin several times to make sure you have removed all of the tiny little hairs. This technique may seem like less work, but it’s going to take some time, patience, and shoulder muscles.
Option two is to remove the seeds and hairs beforehand. Using a sharp knife, cut all of your rose hips in half. Then use your fingers (tip: wear gloves to prevent an uncomfortable sticky/itchy feeling) or a tiny spoon to scoop out all of the seeds and hairs. Rinse the rose hips well. Add the rose hip halves to a pan with an equal amount of water and boil until very soft (about half an hour - mash with a potato masher as described above.) Press through a sieve and then through muslin at least once to make sure all of those little hairs are gone. This is my preferred method.
At this point, you should have a fairly smooth puree of rose hips, sans seeds or hairs. Measure it out, then add an equal amount of sugar, plus 1 Tbs. lemon juice for every cup of puree (this will help keep the jam’s vibrant red color.) Simmer together, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened to your liking. The natural pectin in the rose hips will create a jam-like texture without the need for store-bought pectin. Remember that the mixture will continue to thicken as it cools. One helpful way of determining the “set” of your mixture is to have a plate in the fridge. Periodically, place a dab of the rose hip mixture onto the plate and let sit for about a minute. This is approximately the consistency of your finished jam.
Once your jam reaches the consistency you like, remove it from heat and pour into sterilized glass jars. Store in the fridge for up to 3 months. (You can also waterbath can your jars for longer-term storage.)
Like the rose hip jam that fills them, true yeast-risen donuts take a little patience. Yeast is a living thing and needs to be treated with care - that means being mindful of the temperatures you subject it to (no boiling water! ow!) and where it will thrive. Yeast-risen confections are delicate things, but that doesn’t mean they are difficult. Just be mindful of their needs as you allow your hands to form them. I’ve based this recipe on a recipe for lilac donuts by HummingbirdHigh. (Bookmark to re-visit next spring!)
¾ c. lukewarm milk (think a cozy temperature for a bath and no hotter)
2 tsp. Active dry yeast
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ c. maple syrup
¾ c. unsalted butter
3 ¾ c. all-purpose flour, plus a little extra
1 1/2 tsp. Fine sea salt
Vegetable oil for frying
About 1 c. rose hip jam, for filling
Rose hip sugar, below
Melt the butter and allow it to cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine the lukewarm milk with the butter, eggs, yeast, and honey. Mix briefly to combine.
Sift in the flour and the sea salt and mix on low speed (if using an electric mixer) or by hand until all of the flour is incorporated. (It’s okay if there are some lumps in the dough at this point.)
Cover the bowl loosely with a slightly-dampened clean kitchen towel, then allow it to rest for 2 hours at a comfortable room temperature.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. (Or up to 4 days.)
Dust the surface of the chilled dough with flour and gently knead it into an even ball. This shouldn’t take long - about 30 seconds.
Roll the dough out to a ½” thickness. Using a jar, cup, or cookie cutter, cut out 2 ½” rounds of dough. Place these on a lightly floured surface and allow them to rest while you heat the oil.
Place the oil into a pot that has at least 4” tall sides. (Oil should be 2-3” deep.) Heat until it is between 365F-375F. This is the perfect temperature for frying donuts; too hot and they burn on the outside before the insides are fully cooked; too cold and the donuts will soak up a lot of oil before they are done cooking. If possible, use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature of the oil. You’ll also want to set up a donut draining station by placing a few layers of paper towel over a wire cooling rack.
Gently and carefully drop 3 donuts into the hot oil and fry until the bottoms are a light golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Gently flip and cook the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the cooling rack to drain. Continue with the rest of the donuts, being careful not to over-crowd the pan of oil which will prevent the donuts from rising completely. Keep an eye on your oil temperature and adjust the heat on your stovetop as needed.
Once the donuts have cooled for about 5 minutes, toss them in the rose hip sugar to coat them completely.
Poke a hole in the side of each donut with a wooden spoon handle, being careful not to poke all the way through, and use a piping tip with a large hole to fill them with rose hip jam, about 2 Tbs. per donut.
Rose Hip Sugar:
It’s especially important to make sure that the rose hips you use for this recipe are completely free of the irritating hairs they contain. You won’t be running this sugar through muslin to remove them, so do your best to make sure they are completely removed and rinsed out.
½ c. cleaned rose hips, pips and hairs removed, then rinsed
2 c. granulated sugar
Rinse the rose hips and then dry with a paper towel.
Combine the rose hips and ½ c sugar in a food processor and grind until the rose hips are broken up into small pieces and a paste has started to form.
Add the rest of the sugar and pulse to mix evenly. Spread out the sugar on a clean baking try to dry out a bit before dunking the donuts in it.
Gluten-free Apple Cider Donuts with Glaze and Gold:
Harness the richness of autumn apples (or crabapples!) with these favorful gluten-free donuts! To make these donuts, you’ll want to use fresh-pressed and unflitered apple juice to get the best flavor. I like to forage apple trees on abandoned farmsteads, but there are also plenty of apples and crabapples to be found in the city! I’m sharing this delicious recipe as a Secret Recipe for my Patrons as a thanks for their support and monthly contributions! If you’d like to learn more about this program (and get access to other secret recipes like this one for as little as $5/month while also supporting the widespread sharing of wonder), head to my Patreon Page.
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