Low Bush Cranberry Rosehip Conserve

Lingonberry Rosehip Conserve

When sorting rosehips, bring your patience.

As someone who can’t stop putting food in jars, I sometimes get my priorities confused. On one hand, I have a compulsion to forage. I don’t know a lot of other middle-aged, middle-class women in Marin County who scale the fences of foreclosed properties or run off into the bushes to “rescue” fruit that would otherwise go wasted. (In truth, I don’t know even one, though I would like to.) My favorite kind of canning relies on what the world outside the supermarket so generously provides.

Lingonberries? Lowbush Cranberries? Yes! They’re one and the same.

On the other hand, I have developed an equal compulsion to compete. After I got a taste of my first county fair, I was impossibly hooked on winning shiny ribbons. (Not for the ribbons themselves, of course. It’s about that fleeting, shiny feeling.) An unfortunate byproduct of my new habit is a tendency to wander through upscale markets, paying too much money for ingredients that might give my preserves an extra edge.

What’s a conserve? The definition flexes, but you could call it a mixed fruit jam,
usually containing citrus, often containing nuts. Last year’s was stewed.

I loved making this lingonberry rosehip conserve, because it brought my compulsions together without conflict. I invented it last month when we were in Alaska, using what was growing around our cabin and what we had in our stock of food supplies. It may be a contender for next year’s county fair.

This project was particularly fun because I didn’t have certain kinds of equipment I’d usually consider important. Let’s start with a refrigerator and freezer. We stash our food in a “cold hole” — a storage box dug into the permafrost.

A cold hole works great for keeping a month’s food fresh, but it wasn’t going to help with a “frozen plate” test to determine whether the conserve would set. I didn’t have a candy thermometer, either.

And no scale. This gave Stewart an opportunity to step in and impress me with his improvisation skills. How many things have you canned with a scale like this?

Serving as a fulcrum is the most activity the Winchester ammo box has had in years.
We keep a rifle only in case of emergency.

But I did have a forest full of lingonberries (in Alaska, they’re more commonly called lowbush cranberries) and rosehips ripe for the picking. You can see from the little wrinkles that we got to the rosehips just in time; they would have been at their peak just a few weeks earlier, in mid-August.

I have to say that wild rosehips are mealy little buggers and crazy full of seeds. To get a usable amount of pulp from them, you should put them through the food mill twice. (I explain this in the recipe.)

Some people — like the guy I live with — love to eat rosehips picked straight from the bush or made into a pure jam or butter. To that, I say, “Bleah!” But I think they’re beautiful and I know they’re full of vitamin C, so I decided to mix them up with the lingonberries, an orange from the cold hole, and some walnuts and prunes from the pantry.

I tested the conserve for doneness by using my judgment (the bubbles had moved to the center of the pot and were behaving aggressively; the mixure had thickened up nicely) and by balancing a shallow tablespoon on top of the coldest thing we had: a glass full of icy water from our deep, cold spring. I left it there for about 5 minutes and it kinda worked!

Recreated for purposes of illustration!

Considering this conserve was made both “in the bush” and on the fly — and that it tastes good — I’m happy. Whether my home-state judges will like it is a whole ‘nother matter.

Lingonberry Rosehip Conserve

8 cups lingonberries
4 cups rosehips, ends trimmed
6 cups sugar
2 tablespoons orange rind
juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup chopped prunes or raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts

1. Sterilize your jars.

2. Prepare the orange zest with a citrus zester or with a paring knife. (I used a paring knife because that’s what I had. I peeled the rind away from the orange in strips, then used the knife to carefully separate all the white pith from the rind. I sliced the rind finely, then chopped it into pieces about ¼-inch long.) Squeeze the orange and set the juice aside.

3. Chop the prunes into raisin-sized pieces (or just use raisins, which is what I’d have done if I had any) and place them in a small bowl. Cover them with the orange juice and let them sit for at least an hour to plump them up.

4. Chop the walnuts uniformly and set them aside.

5. Make the lingonberry puree. Place the lingonberries in a large nonreactive pot and add enough water to almost cover them. Boil until the skins burst. Put the resulting mixture through a food mill or sieve to make a puree.

6. Make the rosehip puree. Place the rosehips in a saucepan and add enough water to almost cover them. Simmer for about ten minutes, or until the hips are soft. Put the resulting mixture through a food mill or sieve. To extract maximum pulp from the rose hips, take whatever’s left in the food mill and return it to the saucepan with a little bit of water. Briefly simmer, being careful not to scorch it. Put the mixture through the food mill or sieve again.

7. Strain the prunes. (You won’t use the prune-y orange juice in the mixture, so you might want to drink it up.) Combine the lingonberry and rosehip purees in the large pot with the sugar, orange rind, lemon juice, and prunes.

8. Slowly heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar, then bring it to a gentle boil. Cook the mixture until it’s thick, about 30 minutes. As it cooks, occasionally skim the foam and stiff skin that forms on top. Add the walnuts for about the last 5 minutes of cooking time. (Truth is, I totally forgot to add my walnuts before the mixture was done. So I simmered them in water for a few minutes, added them, and cooked the mixture one minute more. We do what we have to do.)

9. Remove the mixture from the heat. Let it sit for about five minutes, occasionally giving it a gentle stir. This will help to distribute the nuts and prunes so they don’t float to the top.

10. Ladle the hot conserve into sterilized jars, leaving ¼-inch head space.

11. Process in a water-bath canner. Because of altitude at the cabin, I added 5 minutes to the ordinary 10-minute processing time and processed for a total of 15 minutes.

Yields about 7 half-pint jars.

Little cabin kitchen. Great big mess. And now I miss it so . . .
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  • Reply Paige October 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Oh it sounds amazing and they would be fools, FOOLS I tell you (!!!) to not judge your conserve the best. It sounds like a winner, for sure.

  • Reply Jane October 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    It sure does sound good. I do understand what it's like going from store to store looking for "things" to make a better jam! I won't tell you what I paid for my concord grapes and I found in only one market out here. I do have a great tasting jam now.

    One never knows that the judges will do, best of luck and it's very addicting isn't it. I entered 68 things this year. Next year I'm cutting back to 2 fairs and about 40.

  • Reply meg October 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    This middle-aged gal would totally scale fences & run off into the bushes to find treats!
    Hmm, I can't believe I'm middle-aged. But I suppose at 40, I can't really say I'm not.
    Anyway- what a fun post and great canning adventure. Love the fulcrum to weigh and the improvising!

  • Reply Hunter Angler Gardener Cook October 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Did you find the lingonberries in California? I thought they only grew in Canada and other for northern regions…

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse October 18, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    A "cold hole", huh? This Alaskan cabin gets more interesting every time it is referenced. Great scale. Great spoon test. Your methods make canning so much more exciting.

  • Reply Shae @ H2H October 19, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Paige: Thank you. It's gotta pass the test of time, but I'm liking it so far. I hope you are rolling in persimmons!

    Jane: You know you are my inspiration for the fairs! And I know you've got that same bug — where you just can't resist forking over $$ for that ingredient that makes your eyes light up.

    Meg: I know you would hop fences with me. I've got a handful of years on you, so I can't any longer avoid the middle-aged thing, though I can do my best not to act like it!

    Hank: Hello! It took until the third paragraph of this post for me to start telling the story of making this preserve at our Alaska cabin. We were up to our necks in lingonberries in the Alaskan Interior this year — so you're right; they're way up north. But I still climb fences in California. :-)

    Denise: The cold hole is one of the cabin's niftiest tricks — but wait 'til I get to the part about the sauna! (Actually, that might not be til next year, so I hope you're still hanging around.) Hey, I'm going to take you up on your suggestion that we prowl the Ferry Building Market one of these Saturdays.

  • Reply Julia October 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    All of this is why I like you so much! Like Meg, I would gladly trespass, scale, etc with you! That conserve sounds amazing (though I confess I want to see it on a spoon or some toast, something I never do for my posts, and now think, maybe I should do that. God, I'm a nerd, but you know that already.)

  • Reply CallieK October 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Count me in as another middle aged forager- my younger sisters are mortified to go out for a walk with me because I will climb trees, duck under bushes and even occasionally poke through trash if I see something useful. But I think I am rubbing off on them because one recently came by to tell me about an unpicked tomato patch in a neighbour's yard!

  • Reply Shae @ H2H October 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Jules: Aw. You are the sweetest. Can you imagine what a foraging team we would make if we all lived in the same area? We'd have a hard time doing anything else. I know what you mean about the spoon or toast. It comes down to whether or not I have an open jar. If I don't take the photo right away, I can't bear to pop a lid just for a picture. (I mean, when I have twenty other open jars in the fridge!)

    CallieK: I love your story! I have always brought stuff home from the side of the road. It took a while for my parents to get used to it. Now people are always telling me about lonesome fruit. :-)

  • Reply Dana M October 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    As always, I am aghast at your tenacious commitment to your passion. Congrats on the e-book!

  • Reply Janet August 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I am so excited I found your blog! I live on the Kenai Peninsula and cant wait for the first frost to run around and collect all the wonderful low bush cranberries and rose hips!

    • Reply Shae August 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      I just came back from our place in the Interior. We had a couple of frosts out there in the past week, but the low bush aren’t ready yet. This is the first year I’ve had to leave the task of picking to Stewart (he’s still out there) instead of doing it myself. He’ll carry them home to me in California. Let me know how you like this recipe if you make it (or something like it) — it was an experiment, but a pretty good one, I think!

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