Monday, March 30, 2015

OMG a Recipe: This Drink Will Go Straight to Your Rosehips

"So, I was browsing the Armenian market, and came across a whole bag of rosehips for $2...." said no one, EVAR. Well, except me. At the risk of sounding like a painfully insufferable hipster, I really was browsing a little Armenian deli/market in Bellevue -- Old Country Bakery, if you want to check it out -- and whenever I'm in a unique grocer, I make it a point to pick up at least one thing that I have no idea what to do with, but has enough familiarity that I can experiment with. So yes, I got a big ol' bag of whole, dried rosehips, for like, two bucks! What to do with them? No idea. That's why there's a blog.

Rosehip Gin cocktail - thanks random ingredient purchase!! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I don't make it a point to buy random ingredients with no clue how to use them. Well, okay, sometimes I do. But when I'm in a specialty grocer, I like seeing what's sold in bulk or well-stocked -- what do people from a particular region of the world eat? Old Country Bakery had a lot of whole grains available for purchase, like cracked wheat (or bulgur), plenty of pickled/preserved vegetables, and whole spices that you would use in a lot of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes. Very fragrant, strong flavors, all things I love. I considered getting a bulk bag of bulgur, since I love using it in summer salads -- you'll always find the best prices for staple items like this at the little shops where that's like the equivalent of our regular grocer selling a box of plain dry spaghetti noodles for under a dollar. You can probably get a bag of bulgur at the grocery store, but you'll pay a premium since it's just not as familiar an item, so it ends up going in the exotic "specialty ingredient" aisle.

Jackpot! Whole rosehips!! what...? - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I had a gigantic bag of bulgur in my hands, but as I browsed the whole spice aisle, the bag of shriveled cranberry-like rosehips caught my eye. I put the bulgur back -- dried whole rosehips were the item I didn't know I needed, but knew I needed it! Okay, so what the heck is a rosehip/rose hip? It's the fruit from a rose plant -- I'm guessing a wild rose, as I never see these on the pretty garden varieties. Wikipedia has a photo, and more questionably accurate data, but I'm sure you've seen these red berry-like things appearing on rose bushes along trails and in parks. I see them every year and call them mini-pomegranates or upside-down tomatoes. I wasn't sure if they were edible or not -- any red or white berry tends to make me wary (haha - I rhyme), as it's likely poisonous. The rosehips I see around here are probably fine, but I don't necessarily want to sample them without a forager to confirm that I won't die a horrible death.

Prepping the rosehips, ie, smashing the crap out of them - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Rosehips are often used in teas or jellies/marmalade - it's got a high source of vitamin C and has a tart, citrusy flavor. Not something you'd eat on its own, but it adds a freshness to things. Also, rosehips are wicked scary-hairy. You split the outer skin and inside are all these tiny granule-like seeds and fiberglass-like hairs. I was reading on the Wikipedia page that the hairs are used as itching powder. For reals. They kind of gave me the chills looking at them. I definitely wanted to make an infusion from them, but I'm not a huge tea-drinker -- I may do an iced tea version in the summer -- but for now, it's Cocktail Hour! 

Rosehip gin infusion, complete with Transylvanian Time Warp dance number - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I took about a cup and a half of the whole rosehips, put them in a plastic bag and took a meat mallet to it. No real finesse involved -- you don't have to use a knife (the dried fruit is pretty hard), go ahead and just Go Caveman on it to split all the fruit so that you can get as much of it exposed to the infusion liquid as possible. I went with gin. Vodka would work fine as well, I thought the light juniper flavor would pair nicely with the rosehips' tartness. I used two old jars (I didn't have one large enough to hold the whole bottle's worth of gin), divided the smashed rosehips between the two and glug-glug-glug, in went the gin. It looks like a horrible slurry, with all the little hairs floating around, but don't worry, you strain all that stuff out in about a week or two, when the liquid turns this gorgeous orange/pink hue. For this small batch, sitting in a cool, dark pantry (maybe 50-55 degrees), a week was long enough to achieve this saturation. I hesitated leaving it for longer, wasn't sure if it would become bitter from over-steeping. Colder weather may take longer; a warmer summer steep probably only requires a few days.

Coffee Filters Save the Daaaaaaay! Let's drink to that - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I kept the original gin bottle for easy serving and pulled out the trusty bag of coffee filters. Seriously, these things are such handy items, and we don't even have a coffee machine, just a French press. I used them throughout the holidays for making fragrant bath sachets, mulled wine sachets, and even lining little cookie boxes for edible gifts. They're biodegradable, you can throw them into your composter, and that's just what I did after I used them to strain all the solid/hairy bits from the luscious ruby-rosehip infused liquid. Using a metal strainer as a form to keep the paper filter's funnel shape, I slowly poured the gin/rosehip slurry in and the liquid was perfectly strained. I probably could have just used the fine metal strainer, but those hairs... I just didn't trust that I wouldn't be making drinks that were truly Hair of the Dog. Blech.

So what does rosehip-infused gin taste like? Basically tart, floral gin; definitely a mixer, not something you'd just sip. I wouldn't say it's sweet, but it's got that zesty freshness of spring to it, and the color is gorgeous, perfect for making a beautiful cocktail, no artificial food dyes required. I could see myself making a gin and tonic with this gin; maybe with some plain gin mixed in so the tartness isn't overwhelming. It would be a gorgeous summer pitcher drink, with some fresh fruit juice, mint leaves, simple syrup, and some seltzer to make it effervescent. For my first cocktail using the rosehip gin, I made a gimlet-style drink, which was deliciously summery. Cheers to future infusions!

Rosehip Gimlet (adapted from Cocktail  Times recipe)
(makes 1 cocktail)

2 oz rosehip-infused gin
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz fresh lemon juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir or shake for 30 seconds until chilled -- stir to keep cocktail clear, shake if you want the drink to be opaque. Strain drink into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with candied flower petals or a peel of citrus. Or just drink on its own, that's tasty, too.

1 comment:

  1. We recently infused vodka with a rose tea, and it has been so lovely for spring. You've inspired me to try it with gin, now. What a beautiful drink!


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