Making Rose Syrup

This spring, all the roses in our garden seemed to bloom at once: Ebb tide, which is fragrant and colored a deep purplish red; Sunsprite, a pure golden yellow; Julia Child, buttery of course, with pink edges; Cecile Bruner, a small, pale pink climber; a large rugosa type, name unknown with dark pink blossoms, said to be the best kind for making perfume; several peachy, fluffy David Austens; and quite a few others.

Then, in late May and for all of June, the roses took a rest.  It’s so disappointing after their show; I miss them.   Now they are blooming again – though not quite as spectacularly – but enough to make another batch of rose syrup, with blooms to spare.

Rose syrup is so easy to make. You make a tea, or “tisane”, by pouring boiling water over freshly picked and cleaned rose petals. Steep for about an hour, and then, while the tea is still warm, add lots of white sugar, which dissolves into a rose-flavored simple syrup.
I use rose syrup to make a mixed drink called the Southern Rose, with passion fruit flavored vodka and pink guava puree (a recipe shared by a bartender in Atlanta). Or I make a refreshing non-alcoholic drink rather like an Italian soda: a few teaspoons of rose syrup added to carbonated water, with perhaps a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or you can add the rose syrup to pureed strawberries, then freeze – to make a strawberry rose sorbet, or decadent strawberry rose popsicles.

There is one simple trick for making the syrup beautiful: you’ll want to use a good handful of red or dark pink rose petals. You’ll also need most of the rose petals to be the fragrant kind, though I use quite a mix. In my last batch I used Double Delight, Polka, Julia Child, Disneyland, Ebb Tide, Cecile Bruner, George Burns, Honey Perfume and Golden Celebration. I also threw in some non – fragrant white icebergs – just because I have them and thought they would add a subtle rose flavor. But to kick up the color I added a large handful of Altissima, an unscented red climber. It blooms steadfastly all summer. The petals are large and open, and their color is an electric red, just the color needed to give my rose syrup a “rosy” blush.

Strawberry and Rose Syrup Popsicles

 Yield:  6-8 popsicles

4 cups whole, ripe strawberries (about 2 baskets)

3 oz. rose syrup, to taste

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Stem strawberries and cut into halves or quarters, if large.  Add them to a blender container or food processor along with rose syrup and vanilla.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into popsicle maker, and freeze until firm.

Of Islands and Vegetable Peelers

I love my kitchen tools, and I hate when I misplace them. This happens after parties and occasionally after cooking classes, either here at the house or if I’ve taken my equipment to teach a class offsite.

I had a favorite vegetable peeler I bought when I lived in Los Angeles. It looked surprisingly like the old-fashioned potato peelers everyone used to have, long and stainless steel, but it differed in that it had a well-designed, fatter handle, which fit nicely in one’s palm. The blade was sharp, floating lightly above the vegetables you were peeling, taking just a thin bit of potato or carrot skin. You wouldn’t use this one to peel something heavy, like a butternut squash. This was a delicate, refined peeler.

I lost it at a cooking class I taught on a local farm, and it was never to be found again. What’s more, I couldn’t find a replacement. Not at any cookware stores in Santa Barbara, nor any place I visited; not at Surfas in Los Angeles, or in New York City, or at the enormous Sur La Table store when I visited Seattle.

IMG_2383  August at Foxglove Farm, B.C.

A couple of summers ago Jim and I visited Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. This is a favorite destination, and we try to get up there every couple of years. We love the fresh air, the northwest climate, the friendly people, the fact that there are no stop lights on the island; we love eating the farm produce, and the best seafood from the local fish market (ask for the salmon candy), and we love visiting our friends Michael Ableman and Jeanne-Marie Herman who own Foxglove Farm where we stay. We hike, cook, kayak, and commune with Douglas fir, the Pacific Ocean, and wildlife.

IMG_2385  Farm-fresh produce

While Salt Spring Island is a tiny place, its population a mere 10,000 people,  you can find things on Salt Spring Island that are hard to find in other places. Ten years ago, before gluten-free and wheat-alternative baked goods like spelt bread were commonplace everywhere, you could find them on Salt Spring. Maybe Canadians are just hip, but I think Salt Spring Islanders are a special breed – ahead of their time.

Shopping at Salt Spring is fun, like going back in time and visiting an alternate universe. At Mouat’s, the old-timey houseware/hardware store, I found a brand-new version of the clothesline my Canadian Grandma used to have, the kind with a wheel that spins out the clothesline high above the ground. The used-book store, Black Sheep Books, has treasured books I read as a child, and books I’ve never heard of that sound fascinating. The new-book store, Salt Spring Books, has Canadian fiction and cookbooks unlike anything at home – because the Canadian publishing industry publishes Canadian books by Canadian authors! You’d think Canada would be a lot like the US, but it’s not; it’s like Canada. They may speak English, (although it does sound a bit distinct – eh?), but you are definitely in a different country up there.

The island is also famous for its artists and craftspeople, and many artists have home studios where you can visit and purchase lovely handmade things, like baskets, jewelry, handmade tablecloths and pottery.

You’re packing your bags already, right?

So one day while island shopping, I walk into a kitchen store next to the ice cream parlor in Ganges, the main town on the island. The owner says hello, and then I say hello, and because I always ask this in every kitchen store I enter, I say, “I’m looking for a certain kind of peeler I used to have, and I can’t find it anywhere…”

“I have a fabulous peeler,” she says, leading me a couple of aisles over. “It’s from Sweden,” she adds.

Dear readers, it is my peeler.   Who knew it was Swedish? The same fat, comfortable handle. The same lightweight, sharp floating blade, which does not take off too much of the peel.

PEELER (28 of 28)

My peeler, at long-last.

I am elated, and buy three of them: one for me, one for my best friend, Kim, a caterer, and one for the future. And since I’ve found the same peeler online, you can buy one too:  you can get yours from the Vermont Country Store for 9.95. Athough it would be worth it to make a trip to Salt Spring Island and buy yours in person.