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Rose Conserve - The Queen-like Closet (1675)

Old Fashioned Rose Petal Jam

Conserve? Jam? Jelly? Marmalade? Cake? Paste? Compote? Butters? Curds? What are they? Before electricity and the advent of modern day refridgeration and freezing food preservation was an art. It still is, don't get me wrong, but think about it. Living seasonally has made me much more aware of how necessary it was to carefully preserve summer and fall bounties to make it through the leaner winters and springs. I can't go into my garden and pick a quart of fresh strawberries in winter, but I might be able to go into my cellar and bring up cabbages, turnips, apples or a winter squash. Our ancestors were geniuses! They had to be. Many of us would be lost if we had to survive without electricity or refridgeration for more then a few days. they lived their lifetimes without it.
Sugaring is a method of food preservation, along with smoking, salting, drying and pickling. I have become fascinated with the way sugar was employed in the diet of our ancestors. It was thought to be a medicine so I can't help but thing that the copious amounts that were used in cooking was medicinal as well as functional for flavor. It's a fascinating part of food history with a wide variety of methods employed to create the final product. The Food History Timeline offers this quote to support the long history of preserving food with honey or sugar: 

"The earliest kind of jam making...dates back to pre-Roman times, when fruit pulp was mixed with honey and spices and dried in the sun. In the first century AD, Greeks made a preserve, using their abundant crops of quinces, by stuffing pieces of peeled and pipped raw fruit tightly into jars filled with honey. After a year the fruit became soft as wine-honey'. This Greek quince preserve was called melomeli' (apple: melo, in honey: meli). The Romans later reversed the words into melimela' and improved the preserve by cooking the fruit in the honey with pepper and spices and sealing the jars to make them airtight. Quinces had a high pectin content so that when cooked, preserves made with them would have had a very solid texture. Pectin is a vital ingredient for successful jelly and jam making... By the 17th century...cane sugar was more readily available, and preserving fruit with sugar became an affordable option. Recipes that previously used honey were easily adapted...The English had their own particular version that included pieces of warden pear, but seemed to prefer the Portuguese quince preserve. Using their sugar from India and their abundance of quinces, the Portuguese had developed their own specialty, which they called marmelada' (like the Roman melimela')...As early as the sixteenth century, little chests of marmelada were included in the cargoes of Portuguese merchant ships arriving in English ports. Gradually the same process was applied to other fruits, which then came to be known as a marmalade' of pears, damsons, or plums..." ---Pickled, Potted and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World, Sue Shepard, chapter on sugar (p. 163-174)
The main differences when discussing the different ways to preserve with sugar are the methods used to incorporate the sugar, the kind of fruit used, the size of the fruit, the addition of additional ingredients (booze, spices, nuts, additional fruit) and the proportion of sugar to fruit. Some of the methods we will discuss today were used in period, others (such as fruit curds) would not have been available. 

Preserve is a "catch all" word but when referring to sugaring as a method of preservation, fruit preserves are whole or pieces of fruit suspended in a jelly or a syrup.  Preserves may or may not include additional spices, alcohol, acids or pectin. A great example of a period fruit preserve is .x. Wardonys in syryp which creates pears that have preserved in a syrup flavored with red wine, sugar, vinegar, ginger and saffron. 

What is a conserve? Conserves are a jam which is made up of fruit, or in this case flower petals, mixed with sugar and sometimes other things such as nuts or spices. They can be referred to as "posh jams" and have a consistency that is softer then jam and very spreadable.

If a conserve is a jam, what is a jam? Great question! Jam's consist of a fruit (or flower petal) that has been chopped, crushed, mashed into small pieces and cooked with sugar until it gels. Sometimes additional pectin or an acid of some kind is added to the jam.

Jellies are a mixture of fruit (or petals) and sugar which has been cooked then strained so that the juice becomes the primary ingredient. By definition jellies should be clear without added fruit or spices.

Marmalades are specifically any citrus fruit that has been chopped and then preserved with sugar. The fruit is peeled and the peeled is cooked for a long, slow period of time to soften it before the sugar is added. Ideally a marmalade will be between the consistency of jam and jelly and consist of peices of the peel suspended in a clear jelly. The word marmalade dates back to the Greek melimēlon, which refers to quince stored in honey. My interpretation of Hannah Wooley's orange marmalade can be found here: The Queen-like Closet (1675) - LXXXVI. To make the best Orange Marmalade. - Orange Marmalade. Another more time consuming example of a marmalade is Sir Hugh Platt's To preserve Oranges, after the Portugal fashion which creates an orange marmalade inside of a whole preserved orange peel. 

A "cake" consists of fruit and sugar that has been cooked, pureed and then dried and I believe is the grandfather of our modern day gummy candies or fruit rollups dependant upon how thick you make your sheets and how long you allow them to dry. A good example of this kind of recipe is my interpretation of  Hannah Wooley's dried peaches.

Fruit pastes consists of fruit and sugar, sometimes spices that have been cooked over low heat for a very long period of time until they become concentrated in their flavors. They are then spread onto a tray or a sheet similar to the method you would use for the "cakes" and then dried in an oven. I recently published my interpretation of Sir Hugh Platt's To Make Quidinia of Quinces (Delights for Ladies, Sir Hugh Platt, 1600) which makes a beautiful fruit paste of quince.

Compotes may contain fresh or dried fruit, whole or in pieces and other ingredients that have been cooked in a sugar syrup that may be fortified with liquor or spices and cooked slowly to allow the fruit to keep it's shape. While conserves or jams may be saved for later, compotes are most normally used right away. If that were not confusing enough a coulis is basically a compote that has been pureed to a smooth consistency.

Fruit butters are cooked fruit which has been pureed until smooth and then added to sugar and heated gently until the fruit darkens. They are not cooked until they jelly, but rely on the high pectin content of the fruit to create thickness. They have a much lower sugar content then jams, conserves or jellies. According to the FDA, fruit butter can only be made and labeled such from eight fruits; apples, apricots, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, and quince.

Curds are a mixture of fruit, sugar, butter and eggs that have been cooked together to form a smooth creamy spread that *must be refridgerated* in order to keep. 

The queen-like closet; or, Rich cabinet stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying & cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex. By Hannah Wolley offers this fascinating recipe for a conserve of roses that I had to try. I find it delicious but it is one of those things that you will either like or not like. I like to serve mine over ice cream or on bread. The most common rose used was the apothocary rose, or Rosa gallica officinalis, prized for its scent. This rose is believed to have originated in Persia and legend has it that the rose received it's color from a nightingale who so loved the white rose that it grasped it tightly, the thorn piercing the nightingale and that it was the nightingales blood that turned the white rose red. Thus the rose also became known as the Dasmask rose. Whatever it's origins, it is known that the rose was brought to England with the return of the crusade knights sometime in the 12th or 13th century. 

LXXXVIII. To make Conserve of red Roses. 

Take their Buds and clip off the Whites, then take three times their weight in sugar double refin'd; beat the Roses well in a Mor∣tar, then put in the sugar by little & little, and when you find it well incorporated, put it into Gally Pots, and cover it with sugar, and so it will keep seven years.


1 part very fragrant rose petals
3 parts sugar

Fortunately for us we do not need to use a mortar. Do be sure to clean your roses very well. I usually pick mine in the morning, wash them very quickly with water and remove the petals and then store them in the refridgerator overnight. I do this to humanely kill any pests that chose to cling to the petals. Sorry guys :-( The next day I gently rinse them again and dry them on a towel, clip off the bitter white end of the petal and then place it and the sugar into my blender and blend until well blended. At this point I put it into jelly jars and store in my fridge.

While I would have LOVED to have shown you a picture of this, I only had enough conserve to make 2 pint jars both of which have been consumed. So you get a *bonus* recipe--Rose petal jam. For those who you didn't know, my rose bushes were very hard hit a few years ago in winter and many of them died. I am slowly replacing them, but my rose yields are still somewhat small. Early in the year I had enough roses to make the conserve. However, in the second blooming I had enough petals to make rose petal jam, something I intend to give away as a gift this year along with violet syrup.

Old Fashioned Rose Petal Jam                                                                      Makes about 3 pints

1 1/2 cups water (I used bottled)
Approximately 2 cups (more is better) lightly packed fragrant rose petals (alternatively you could use dried petals keeping in mind that 1/3 cup dried is equal to 1 cup fresh just be sure what you use is *food grade*)
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pectin (as an alternative you could cook 1 green apple with your rose petals skin, pips and all. The apple should contain enough pectin to make thicken to jelly. I chose the pectin)

Bring roses and water to a simmer in a sauce pan and simmer for about ten minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. Do not be disappointed that the color is not what you would want, the brilliant red color will come when you do the next step--it's magic! Add lemon juice and watch the magic happen. Simme for another ten minutes or so. While it is simmering add pectin to remaining sugar and stir to prevent clumping when you add the remaining sugar and pectin to your jam. Do so a spoonful at a time making sure that it is well incorporated before adding the next spoonful. Cook for another 20 minutes or so and then remove it from the stone and put into your jars. It will seem very loose--but do not worry as it cools it will set. This is best used in two months or, go ahead and process through canning for longer term storage.

I hope you enjoy this unusual and tasty treat as much as I do.

Gallipot ~1650


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