Yep, that's right. My grandma's name was Cletus. It isn't a particularly beautiful name on it's own. But when attached to the person, it somehow fit, and even--in my opinion--bloomed into something lovely.
Cletus Lucille Youngblood was not a woman you messed with. "Tough as nails," some might even have called her. As a kid, she was one of six kids in her class with pneumonia. They all underwent surgery with no penicillin or anesthetic. She was the only one who lived.
Cletus, Carl, Mary, Lyle and Jett, circa 1945.
In the late '30s, she moved from Missouri to Cowiche Canyon and married my grandpa. They moved to Naches Heights in 1943, where they grew apples, cherries and pears. In 1981, they built a home to retire in. Grandma Cletus, who had a passion for the arrowleaf balsamroot that covers our canyon walls, named it Sunflower Hill.
There, among the native balsamroot and sage, she also grew some the most beautiful roses you ever saw.
Sunflower Hill, 1986. Cletus welcomes Bernhard Shcharf, an exchange student she hosted in 1953.
Now I'm one of the lucky ones who lives among them, though it's my mom who cares for them. (Deep respect.) My favorites are "masquerade," a bush rose that explodes into a riot of yellow, orange, pink and red each May, and "fragrant cloud," which is pink and smells exactly like it sounds like it should. I stop to sniff and/or taste them almost every time I pass, feeling grateful for people who have the patience to tend roses.
On a recent passing this spring, I knew had to try to capture that ephemeral beauty in a.... well... a something.
After a bit of research, (Turkish delight? Nice idea, but who has time for that?) it came down to rose syrup. Versatile, quick, and ohhh so pretty.
The outcome was fantastic, so I thought I'd share my process:
1: Gather the rose petals from bushes that have not been sprayed. Get them in the morning, and before they're bloomed out, while they're still fragrant. Go for the most potent smelling heirloom varieties you can find, with some deep reds mixed in for good color. Snap off the whole head rather than pulling off just the leaves.
2. Back in the kitchen, gently pull the petals off the stems and snip off the white/yellow bases, which can be a bit bitter. Gently rinse them in cool water, if desired.
3. Put your petals in a saucepan and cover them with water. Simmer at a very low heat until the color is gone from your petals. This took about 2 hours for me. Add more water while simmering if needed.
4. Strain the liquid from the petals and if desired, repeat the process using the same water to double infuse your product with flavor and scent. (Alternately, lift out the exhausted petals with a slotted spoon and add some more.)
5. Measure the liquid you're left with and add the same amount of sugar to make a 1:1 simple syrup. Simmer on lowest heat for another hour or until it reaches desired consistency. Don't boil it or you'll end up with hard candy.
6. When it's finished, pour it into a jar, slap on a label and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for about a month. (To roughly triple its shelf life, add a tablespoon of vodka to the syrup before storage.)
I can't get enough of this stuff. It truly is like summer in a bottle. We're adding it to hot and iced teas, soda water, white sangria, pouring it over ice cream, and taking occasional preventive doses from a spoon. I plan to it try the same process with lavender and then lemon balm.
Enjoy, and if you have variations, suggestions, or improvements, please let me know!