Each year, my sweet T brings me red roses for Valentine's Day. As our years together have grown in number, so too has the size of the bouquet; somewhere around a decade, it went from 12 to 24 stems.
I always feel a bit sad when the heads start to droop and the petals begin to brown and wither. Part of me wants to toss them at the first sign of decline, while at other times I'm prone toward resuscitative efforts or preservation.
Five years ago, unwilling to part with my roses but unable to store more dried petals without starting to feel like Miss Havisham, I wondered what it would be like to make jelly with them. What resulted, after not a short and sweet process, was lovely. A transparent, cardinal red jewel with a distinctly herbal tang and elements of sweet and tart, thanks to the addition of sugar, apple, Meyer lemon, and red currants.
I'm a good jam maker, but jelly is tough. I don't like the taste of synthetic pectins but you need to add some in this case. I try to take a light hand with liquid pectin which has less of an aftertaste but often results in a jelly with inconsistent wobble. It's weird, but I'd rather my jelly be too loose than too stiff. I'd rather spoon than grate, you know?
It's been a long while since I've made rose petal jelly, but this year's bouquet was so beautiful, and our first V-day of ordering take-out and watching a movie in pjs so just-what-we-needed, that I decided to make some Love Letter Jelly (that sounds awfully X-rated in some respects; sorry, but jelly is more accurate than jam).
I doubled the recipe since I received 24 stems this year but came to find that I only had one envelope of liquid pectin. Alas, I now have loose jelly. But it still sings with the unique taste of rose, a taste that becomes really magical atop lemon curd and warm bread; that is my favorite way to eat this jelly.
The process is a long, involved one, but I can manage that once every five years or so.