Longing for the "good old days?" If you happen to listen to country music these days, you've likely heard a song by Miranda Lambert with the lyrics "Whatever happened to... Doing it all by hand?...It's only worth as much as the time put in.... it all just seemed so good the way we had it. Back before everything became automatic." If there were a mantra for Caroline Van Slyke's Boho Farm and Home, this might be it. Time and work are put in to every aspect of the property.
And trust us, old fashioned at-home jelly making never looked or tasted so good. Read on for a step by step of the process, straight from the Boho kitchen with Caroline herself. No food coloring, no fancy machines; just time, patience and a little know-how.
With few exceptions, the process of jam and jelly-making has remained the same for at least the last 50 years -- maybe longer. The appeal of these hand-made jams is known throughout the Valley -- Van Slyke recently headlined a local food event at the Anthropologie store at Fashion Square Mall. She sold out of nearly everything and fielded a myriad of curious questions like "How many calories are in a jar?" or "Do you make sugar-free jelly?" The truth is, her experience is a reminder that we're getting farther and farther removed from our food and automatically look for labels and expect exact measurements, food coloring and factory packaging and yet simultaneously craving homemade (with care) goods and foods.
If you're ready to learn how to take matters into your own hands, here's how to make rose-petal jelly at home.
First, Van Slyke harvests roses from her garden. She cuts about 6 large roses from her garden and stresses that roses from the store will not work for this recipe. The choice is made based on size, scent and color. The dark pinkish red ones are chosen for their color, while the others are more for scent and substance. The petals then go into a pan of water. Van Slyke isn't big on measuring and the pan can best be described as "medium" sized. Cover the pan and bring the water to a slow boil. Then, she removes the pan from heat and allows the pan to "steep" like you would a tea.
Next she adds about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sugar to the pan and the juice of roughly one half of a large lemon and brings the pan to a full boil again. Then Van Slyke adds liquid or powdered pectin (whatever kind you buy, follow the measurements given on the package) and ensures the pan is still boiling. You can also add a few drops of rosewater if you'd like. At this point, if you're trying this at home you'll need to stir constantly. Van Slyke boils the concoction until it thickens, which takes about 5 minutes or so. She explains that typically jam and jelly making is her "zen" place and she's not paying to close attention to measurements and time, she just watches, waits and looks for the process to continue. It's not automatic, it just takes time.
Finally she decided it's time to remove the pan from heat and skim off any foam. Next, the over is turned on and heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. With care, Van Slyke uses a large mouth funnel to full clean, sterilized jars with the soon-to-be jelly. When you do this at home, leave about 1/8" of room at the top of the jar and carefully put lids on. (The jars will be hot.) Bake your jars on a sturdy tray for about twelve minutes. Alternatively, you can use place them into a canner and boil for 10 minutes. The jelly will keep for about 6 months.
The whole process takes about an hour or so- perhaps a bit longer. Again, you can't rush these things-- you just have to do them. Also, another reminder that in order to make this recipe you will need to grow your own roses or know someone who does--store-bought roses will not work.
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Van Slyke adds an extra special touch and wraps the lid with a rose-printed fabric and ties it with a fancy twine. This certainly sets it apart from a store bought hostess gift. Of course, she adds a handmade stamped tag that reads "from the kitchen of Boho Farm" and hand written "Rose Petal Jelly."