Rose Petal Jam

14 Jan

Winter has finally come to Wisconsin.  Everywhere I look, shades of white:  blue-white, grey-white, pink-white, even white-white, if there is such a thing.  Snow weighs heavily on the rooftops and dusts pine branches, and I can hear the muffled sounds of winter:  snow crunching softly under car tires moving down my street, the quiet scraping of my bundled-up-neighbors’ shovels as they push them down their front walks, the drone of the snow blowers and ploughs working their way through the mounds, the “it’s about time”s that I overhear standing in the check-out line of our local Fleet Farm along with others stocking up on ice-fishing bait-and-hooks, snowboard wax, and new cross-country ski poles.

Ice fishing on a nearby pond.

And yet, despite all these winter sounds, I feel a deeply lonely silence – the absence of birdsong. I listen, but there is nothing.  I succumb to the urge to put up a heated birdbath in the back garden, and a feeding station on our back deck.  I stock up on sunflower seeds and high-protein suet and thistle.  And I wait.  I know I can rely on the cardinals – they will surely and very quickly come.

My new heated bird bath, waiting for the cardinals that will surely come.

And then I go out and buy roses.  Lots and lots of roses.  Pink and red and yellow and white and peach.  They remind me of late spring in Pylaia, up the hill from Thessaloniki, with its neat suburban lanes, one-story houses standing trim behind freshly-painted gates, hundreds of roses weighing down their branches, spilling over the railings.  I can remember the breeze, cooling my skin even as the sun warmed it, scented by sea and blooms.

I remember the Taxiarhon Monastery in the Peloponnese and its resident monks who every morning from the end of May to the middle of June carefully harvest their roses, fresh with dew, to make rodhozahari  (rose petal jam)  to spread over bread and butter for breakfast, or to stir in a cup of fresh yogurt.

And then I go on the Internet, determined to find pesticide-free, edible rose petals to make my own jam and bring the scent of spring home.  I search and search, posting queries on blogs and culinary message boards.  I call florists and bakeries and organic food grocers.  I try California and Florida and Minneapolis, Minnesota (you never know).   Desperate, I search for already-made-jam, that I can buy to satisfy my craving.  Again, I surf and call and query.

Finally, I admit defeat.  No one has rose petals or rose petal jam.  I realize that I may have stumbled upon one of the few remaining truly seasonal products, made only when roses are in bloom.  I will have to wait.  And then I begin to feel that this isn’t such a bad thing  — after all, it will help preserve my strong association of the scent and taste of roses with late spring, and it’s that association, not the rose petals or the jams themselves, that I need on these days, when winter finally arrives in Wisconsin.

I do not have a recipe to share with you today. But I promise that in May, I will return to the monastery where they harvest their own roses, and I will share with you then, at that most appropriate time, a recipe or two, to make your own late-spring rose-petal jam.

I wonder, what food do you most think of when you most need to think of spring?


3 Responses to “Rose Petal Jam”

  1. Kathe January 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Great thoughts on winter and the anticipations of spring. Where was the ice fishing photo taken? Stevens Point?

  2. Kathe January 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Sitting with Chuck here in a local coffee shop pondering your question on foods that we think of with Spring. Spring in Wisconsin is a bit late, and different from Greece. One dish for a start is Pasta Primavera (with any early vegetables that are available, such as asparagus). And an early summer/late late spring treat would be fresh strawberry shortcake! Thanks Liz, for helping us look ahead and see what’s on its way after the cold, quiet winter months.

    • KuZina January 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      You are welcome! Maybe we can celebrate the first spring day this year together, over pasta primavera with shortcake for dessert! It’s a date?

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