For some, summer in New England is marked by early morning wake-up calls from fishing boats revving up in the harbor for their day’s work. For others, it means lazy afternoons at the beach with warm sand between the toes, or sunsets that linger on the horizon. But for me, the sweetest of summer emblems is the Rugosa Rose – that wide-eyed beach beauty that grows prolifically along the rocky coastline from southern Connecticut to my home-away-from-home in Stonington, Maine. It smells heavenly. It looks cheery and bright. But did you know that it also tastes great?! Each summer I turn its petals into this vivid syrup and use it to add pizzazz to fruit salads and spritzers (think: Rugosa Rose Royale), to top desserts (photo 1 in the gallery and directly below), and even as the base for a refreshing berry sorbet. Enjoy!
About 6 to 7 cups (48 to 56 oz/1.4 to 1.7 l) syrup
For the most potent flavor, use freshly picked rose petals, and always ones that are pesticide-free. I like to make this syrup in relatively large quantity, as indicated above. I freeze whatever syrup isn’t used immediately; then thaw to invoke the magic of summer whenever I need it most!
- 5 cups loosely packed and rinsed Rugosa Rose (or other fragrant rose) petals
- 3 cups (20.7 oz/587 g) granulated sugar
- 3 cups (24.0 oz/710 ml) water
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 ml) strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 | Harvest the petals. I bet you’re thinking that 5 cups of rose petals is a lot. But trust me: given the abundance with which these roses grow, you’ll hardly make a dent in one healthy bush! Select blooms that are free of bugs and/or bug damage and just recently opened. (The petals are easier to remove if they aren’t tightly bound together; yet they’re more flavorful if they haven’t already lived their natural course.) Gently grasp the tops of the petals, as pictured in photos 2 and 3 in the gallery below, and pull them off the bush. Do not snip off the entire flower with its calyx; if you do, you won’t get a hip (the cherry tomato-like fruit) where you snipped in the fall. And that’s a big loss, because the hips make a delicious chutney. Rinse the petals (photo 4) under cold water and drain.
2 | Make the simple syrup. Mix together the sugar and water in a large nonreactive saucepan. (Note: A “simple” syrup, by definition, is made as this one is, with equal parts of sugar and water. It also happens to be “simple” to make!) Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat and bring the syrup to a boil, stirring as needed to make sure the sugar completely dissolves. Boil a few minutes longer until the syrup thickens ever so slightly; then remove from the heat and immediately add the petals. Let the petals steep, completely submerged in the syrup, about 30 minutes. Strain the syrup through a sieve, taking care to squeeze out any and all liquid that was absorbed in the petals. Discard the petals.
The syrup will be quite pink, but it becomes a much hotter bubble gum-pink with the addition of the lemon juice. Don’t forget it! I often add more lemon juice to the syrup when using it in other preparations, such as my sorbet, but this can be done later to taste. Cool the syrup to room temperature; then seal in a jar and chill until ready to use. The syrup also freezes well as noted in “Prep Talk”.