a real taste of an English summer: rose petal jam

rose petal jam
There are certain words that I find rather beguiling, from Samarkand and damask to honey and pomegranate. Some words are synonymous with their colours. They seem to glow and are full of vibrancy, such as poppy or hyacinth.

There are other words that as I read them I am aware of their scent, a sort of faint aromatic memory. Lavender and rosemary have a strong effect and obviously coffee. But one of the headiest of all is the scent of rose petals.

It is not that surprising that many of the words that I love are imbued with middle eastern flavours, since my father thought that there was nothing odd about teaching Persian poetry to his adoring toddler daughter. (I am afraid that my party piece as a precocious four year old was to recite the first few stanzas of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which is all about wine, women and song!)

While I love roses in their natural habitat, I am wary of anything that is rose-scented – often artificial and smelling of institutional air freshener and the soaps my grandmother used to send me as a baffled child. I find the smell a little nauseating and it makes me sneeze. So rose-scented or -flavoured food does not seem to have much of a place in Kelly’s kitchen.

So why on earth would I want to make a rose petal jam? Because it intrigues me and just because I don’t like the synthetic stuff, doesn’t mean that a jam made with real roses can’t be delicious. Elizabethan England loved their rose-scented puddings and rosewater plays a large part in middle eastern cooking.

I have masses of blowsy, overblown old roses in my garden, looking like so much of a tart’s boudoir that I can afford to make a bit of jam. Besides one of my friends, from the middle east, adores rose petal jam and he has said he will pay me good money (or shout me a few pints down the pub, which these days amounts to the same thing), if I come up with the goods. The challenge was irresistible.

Skill level: Easy

250g fresh rose petals (either dark pink or red)
450g sugar (preferably preserving sugar but granulated will do)
Juice of 2 x fresh lemons
1 litre water (preferably rain or spring water)
1 tbsp rosewater (optional)


  1. Make sure you have given the roses a good shake, to rid them of any insects that may be l lurking within. Snip away and discard the white triangle at the base of each petal, then roughly shred.
  2. Place the petals in a large bowl, sprinkle over a little of the sugar until covered and leave for about 12 hours or overnight. This will help to intensify both the colour of the jam and the flavour).
  3. Dissolve the rest of the sugar with the lemon juice and rosewater, if using.
  4. Add the petals and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. If the jam is very runny, bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes to reduce.
  6. Set aside to cool, before pouring into sterilised jars. This jam will be more like very thick syrup and won’t set the way traditional jams do.


  • There is some debate as to when to pick your roses. Some say early morning, when the dew has evaporated. Others say late afternoon or early evening, when their fragrance is at their height. Either way, make sure you have shaken the flowers well to remove any bugs that might be lurking!
  • Use old varieties of roses that have been grown without pesticides or other chemicals. Use only the petals, not the stems or leaves.
  • Any leftover or damaged petals can be steeped in wine vinegar and used to flavour salad dressings or splashed into Prosecco or Cava for a delightful aperitif!
  • Claudia Roden suggests eating the jam as a topping for miniature pancakes (that have been soaked in a rosewater or orange blossom water syrup) served with a dollop of whipped cream.
  • Richard Mabey suggests making beignets with wild roses.
  • The jam can be stirred into vanilla ice cream or added to vanilla or strawberry cupcakes. Rose has a big affinity for strawberry flavours as well as lemon ones too. It makes a delicious topping for panna cotta.
  • I have also used this jam as a glaze for both a cake and for roast chicken.


Jaime said...

Rachel this jam sounds absolutely gorgeous! Strangely enough I've never been a real fan of roses as a flower, but rosewater and rose syrup I adore in cooking/baking!

Wendy@The Omnivorous Bear said...

That sounds wonderful... but as I am from Nottingham and I am now living in KL, beautifully scented roses just aren't available!