Rosehip syrup was one of the successes that arose out of necessity in the war years. The government were concerned that the unavailability of fruit such as oranges might result in scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Rosehips are an excellent source of the vitamin and they decided that they should be gathered and used to make syrup, which was then distributed to groups most at risk including school children. The inclusion of rosehip syrup in school meals continued long after the war and some people have fond memories of rosehip custard. Personally I have no fond memories of any meals at school, although I do remember using rosehips to make itching powder, but I have more recently come to appreciate rosehip syrup.
The Ministry of Food gave very specific instructions for making the syrup, which are given below. I use it on baked apples, rice pudding, pancakes or porridge. It can also be drunk as a cordial, diluted with hot or cold water. Once cut open, handle the hips with great care – just as you would chillies. I use a food processor rather than the mincer suggested by the Ministry of Food, but whichever, wash it thoroughly after use so that no itchy hairs remain.
For 2 pounds (900g) of rose hips
Boil 3 pints (1.7 litres) of water
Mince the hips in a course mincer, preferably directly into the water. Bring the water back to the boil and then set aside for 15 minutes to steep.
Pour into a muslin jelly bag and allow to drip into a bowl until the bulk of the liquid has come through.
Return the residue to the saucepan and add 1½ pints (852 ml) of boiling water. Stir and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour back into the jelly bag to drip through.
To ensure that all of the sharp hairs have been removed put the top half cupful of liquid (the hairs will have floated to the top) back through the bag again.
Put the combined juices of the strainings into a clean saucepan and boil until the liquid has reduced to the second quantity used, i.e. 1½ pints. Then add 1¼ pounds (560g) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes.
Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once.
It is advisable to use small bottles as once opened the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two. If corks are used to seal the bottles they should be boiled for ¼ hour just previously and after insertions sealed with melted paraffin wax.
Store in a dark cupboard.