Traditional recipes have been handed down in my family from generations of wonderful cooks whose art was expressed in beautiful embroidery and fine cuisine. .Southern Ukrainian cooking made with love filled my childhood along with the stories told in the process of baking and cooking. Every holiday a feast to be remembered. My mother excelled in the making of cakes and desserts, conscripting me as her sous chef from the age of four when I was considered old enough to start helping in the elaborate preparations of the treasured traditional family cake recipes for special occasions, especially birthdays. Everything was prepared and done by hand and the taste of love was in every amazing mouthful.
Her walnut torte, the traditional Ukrainian cake was my favourite . I would sit grinding mountains of nuts by hand to please my mother and make the cake. No matter how much my small arms hurt, I kept grinding the nuts in a small hand grinder knowing what the ultimate reward would be – the most delicious cake in the entire world. The most special cakes were made with an exquisite jam between the torte layers that my mother made every summer. This was her special ambrosia – confiture of roses. The scent was intoxicating .
We would snip the heads off at their peak of bloom together, cutting them into baskets on the morning after a Full Moon in June when their scent was at its peak. The petals were then plucked off the heads into bowls and cleaned of any caterpillars and leaves.
Old fashioned fragrant deep pink Damask roses are best used for this exquisite delicacy. There are many different ways of making rose jam. One is made raw, allowing the petals to macerate in the sun with sugar crystals and a touch of lemon until it becomes a sticky fragrant paste…my grandmother’s recipe. The other is a silky textured syrupy fragrant jam that is cooked .
Fill a large bowl with cleaned rose petals . Cover them with sugar and the juice of 2 lemons and mix together. Leave to blend their juices overnight, covered with a linen towel. Add half a cup of water with more lemon juice to taste and stir.
Bring 2 cups of water to a slow boil with 1 cup of sugar, some grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons of agar agar, mixing to dissolve. Add the rose petal blend and slowly simmer for 30 minutes slowly stirring in and adding 3 tablespoons of a light mild raw honey and more lemon juice to maintain the colour of the roses. Take care to not overcook the rose petals or they will lose their colour and tenderness. Ladle the mixture into boiled an sterilized jars and seal tightly. Store the preserves for up to a year, but they are best eaten within 7 months.
This recipe yields 3 medium jars of ambrosial , silky textured rose preserve that has a jelly like syrupy quality fragrant and delicious beyond your wildest taste dreams, like the taste of an unforgettably romantic summer love.