What follows is a bit of stuff I learned about making jelly- specifically rose hip jelly which is something I always wanted to try once I had actually tasted a ripe rose hip- and some general thoughts about recipes and what might constitute 'organic' for those who are concerned about this.
Starting with finding a perfect recipe (online). This will probably never happen. People are either copy-pasting the same recipes around, sharing boring or over-the-top recipes, and ( I suspect ) omitting a key ingredient here and there or simply forgetting to list something.
There are some neat, interesting recipes around but they tend to use a confusing mix of measurements and sometimes the reason for certain odd ingredients are not explained making me not want to take the chance on that recipe. And some people just don't know their stuff; 2 sites said rose hips were high in pectin and sites said they were low. I still don't have a definitive answer on the pectin content of rose hips.
In the end I found about 10 unique recipes for rose hip jelly/jam and I tried to distill the basic similarities and concepts into one general idea.
It comes down to what you want out of your final product: a clear jelly, a cloudy jelly, a mixed jelly, or a jam? Do you want to use a pectin product or go totally natural? How much time do you have and patience as well?
Each choice of ingredient affects the look of the product, the taste, and the amount of work you must do but I have to say the work IS WORTH IT for the end result.
EDIT: I forgot to add that the taste of rose hip jelly is hard to describe as it's unique but it is definitely reminiscent of citrus- but sweeter...rosier! I've read some comparisons to 'red zinger' tea which I have never drank so can't comment on it.
Types of rose hip products:
1 To make a clear jelly means first rinsing and then trimming the hips, chopping them up and cooking them in water followed by a bit of mashing and then finally straining the hips for a pure syrup. You add other ingredients that don't affect clarity (lemon, sugar, pectin etc.) and the whole process is relatively easy but wasteful of the hips full potential which is bothersome considering the work that goes into gathering them.
2 If you don't mind a cloudy or mixed jelly which looks just as nice in my opinion then you would go the extra step of squeezing the straining bag (cheese cloth) to get out more of the rose hip syrup. This will gain you probably double the amount of raw product then the first situation. You will obviously feel freer to add other things to the jelly you are familiar with...cloves, apple purre etc. Again you must wash and trim the tails off the hips as they will interfere in the squeezing or wringing out of the straining bag.
3 Jam: the most work but uses the full hips potential. Besides washing the hips have to be sorted to make certain there are only perfect specimens and the seeds HAVE TO BE REMOVED by cutting them out.
4 Syrup...I didn't set out to make it but do have two batches that didn't gel...I will call them syrup!
Other considerations based on Cooking times: to add pectin or not. Pectin is a natural product that is also produced commercially and it is used to help jellies and jams 'set'. Pectin is responsible for binding the fruit flesh together- fruit glue. Using pectin affects the cooking time... you spend less time boiling all the goodness out of the fruit; flavor and vitamins remain at a more optimal level.
What if you don't want to use pectin? Good luck with that. The problem is that different fruits have different pectin contents which is why recipes sometimes call for the addition of other fruit which are naturally high in pectin - like apple and/or apple juice. Commercial pectin is generally regarded as safe and has been in use for a long time but I would not call it an organic product. My opinion.
The biggest issue for rose hip jelly and jam is how much pectin to use. It can be overdone. That hasn't been the case for me yet.
You will have to add sugar- the amount will vary. Online recipes are wildly divergent on this ingredient! Some call for a 1 to 1 ratio of rose hip to sugar while others suggest 1 to 2 or 1 to 4...nuts! I've seen one recipe call for honey but I have no idea how that is measured against dry product. Sugar sweetens and also helps to bind the fruit.
You will also have to add lemon for acid- or lemon juice. Again, that messes with the organic idea a bit but not in a huge way.
(I regard citrus products as non organic unless it's stated on the bag/box/bottle that no pesticides, hormones etc were used on the main crops or in the green houses and even then I am skeptical. Sugar for that matter is a refined product so it is something to consider for the purists out there!)
The most important part I learned from my reading is that rose hips are difficult to quantify (can't think of a better word) in real world measurements due to how they are acquired, what the end product should be, and our own degree of conservation and frugality, particularly as people who make home preserves.
I spent almost 2 hours happily gathering rose hips one morning and when I came home and dumped them all out into large pans it took almost 3 casual days before all of them had their tales pulled off (and my husband helped) which fortunately was easy because they were perfectly ripe. There was NO NEED TO CUT THEM OFF which is tiresome and evidently damaging to them on a few levels. In the end I had 10 pounds! 10 pounds of a fussy, fussy fruit to deal with! It was kind of overwhelming and caused the great deal of research that followed.
The recipes on line were difficult to follow because of the weird mix of measurements; quarts should be banned. Either use measurements that are listed on measuring cups like 'cups' or go totally metric!
Then there was the deciding how much to get rid of and the work involved. The seeds and tails have to go if you plan on making jam. Tails aren't difficult but seeds are time consuming. The hips have to be cut and the insides scooped out. The seed hairs can irritate some people- they used to be an ingredient in 'itching powder'!
You could put the strained mash through a sieve to remove the seeds but this is time consuming as well.
This is why there are many, many recipes for simply syrup!
For me, in the end most of them were cooked and strained for syrup which is what went into the jelly as the main ingredient naturally. I still have the mash however and there is little time left to decide what should be done with it as it is full of those terrible hairy little seeds.
I still have about 4 cups of whole hips that can be hulled (deseeded ) and turned into jam. I will write part 2 of this subject once I have sampled the products and can say something conclusive about taste, constancy, texture and all that...
Feel free to share your experiences on this subject :)