Rose petals plucked by hand in the evening (when they are at their most scented) from a secret garden in Oxfordshire, infused by traditional techniques in small batches… but this time, not for a perfume – it’s all part of what goes in to making one of the hottest products in Fortnum & Mason‘s pantry. A jar of highly fragrant jelly that can be spread on toast, piled on scones with clotted cream or even (and here’s where our ears pricked up) used to add another flavour dimension to Champagne…
Every time Fortnum’s get a fresh batch of this wonder-product in store, it reportedly flies off the shelves with a legion of devotees and more joining the scented throng all the time. So what exactly makes this Rose Petal Jelly so very special?
Fortnum’s Say: ‘The process starts in a single garden in Oxfordshire, where all the roses that help make the jelly are grown and picked. Starting at midday and continuing weather-permitting until dawn, a team of rose handlers harvest the best-blooming flowers by hand, before delicately removing their petals one at a time. The brushed pink petals are then transferred to a large tombola, complete with a riddling grid attached, which allows the larger petals — which will make it into the next phase of the recipe – from the smaller petals, which sadly do not. The whole process is very traditional, very typically English and timeless – much like the taste of the jelly itself. The following morning, the petals which have made the grade are added to a large silver pot of gently bubbling water to soften. At this stage, the pink colour is drained from the petals, turning them a ghostly pale white and the water around them a deep, dark shade of pinkish red. Sugar is added to the mix at this point, darkening the mixture yet further, and restoring some of the natural pinkness to the petals themselves.
Once the mixture has cooled naturally, in its own time, it is hand-spooned into jars, lids are added and then they are stored – upside down.’
‘After a little while, a popping noise rings out around the jam shed. As a natural vacuum is formed inside the jar, the build-up of pressure forces that familiar top button on the jam lids upwards. They are now ready for labelling – by hand, of course, because nothing is delegated to machinery when it comes to this famous jelly. The jars are even polished before shipping — again, by the same hands which plucked the petals in the first place.’
A labour-intensive process, but so worth it in the long run say the many fans who have been known to put their names down on waiting lists if it sells out. We’re always keen to add a scented aspect to as many parts of our day as possible, so the idea beginning with a beautifully fragrant breakfast is most appealing (as is ending the day with a spot of rose jelly in a glass of fizz…)
Written by Suzy Nightingale