Rose Jam Kyiv Style

If I had to select a few ingredients that define Ukrainian cooking for me, it would be tomatoes, pork and roses. Tomatoes are essential for borsch, stuffed peppers, ragouts and salads. Pork is eaten in all guises, from lightly salted belly fat to roasted ham and garlicky sausages. Roses, on the other hand, are all about sweetness. Almost every yard in our small village near Poltava has a shrub of the so-called jam roses, usually the rosa damascena variety. Rose jam fills the Christmas pampushky, sweet doughnuts, strudels, crescents and crepes. Best of all, it’s eaten alongside a cup of black tea, a taste of Ukrainian summer at its most opulent. (Despite the common stereotypes, Ukraine is not covered with snow for most of the year. Not only is it large enough to contain different climatic zones, the summers are long, hot and bountiful.)

Ever since I’ve revived my great-grandmother’s roses, I’ve been trying different rose jam recipes, such as this delight I shared two years ago. This summer’s experiment is the Kyiv style rose jam, a variety of preserve made without a drop of water. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries and cherries are the most common fruits used in Kyivske varennia, Kyiv style jam. The fruit is cooked in syrup and then drained and rolled in fine sugar. The result is more of a sweetmeat than the usual runny conserve. The rose jam Kyiv style is different, however. The rose petals are crushed with sugar and no cooking is required.

This recipe also comes from my great-grandmother Olena’s cookbook. “200g of sugar for every 100g of petals; use it to stuff sugar dough crescents,” she writes. The instructions are simple–trim the white part of the petals, pound into paste with sugar and add a spoonful of lemon juice to preserve color.

The roses used for jam can be any fragrant variety with thin, delicate petals. Since you don’t wash them before making jam, be sure that your roses are unsprayed. Pick them in the morning after the drew has dried and after trimming the corollas, shake the petals to remove any bits of stamens and leaves.

At home I probably would have whirred the whole thing in a blender, but at my grandmother’s place there was only a wooden pestle, so the old-fashioned method it was. I didn’t miss any of the conveniences, however, because making this jam is such a heady and fragrant activity that I didn’t need to rush it. If the aroma of fresh roses was intense, pounding the petals with sugar crystals amplified it to the point that it felt like a tangible presence–honeyed, sweet, with a touch of clove and raspberries.

I store the jam in the fridge. It’s uncooked, but the high proportion of sugar should prevent spoilage. If you’re making larger quantities, freeze them. I eat rose jam over yogurt, mixed into kefir or milk for a sweet shake or simply dissolved in a glass of mineral water for a cooling summer drink. You can use it as filling for Ukrainian walnut crescents. You can also add a layer of rose jam when making solozhenyk, millefeuille crepe cake. The color keeps well, and the flavor becomes more intense with maceration.

Olena also notes that Kyiv style rose jam is “a great cure for colds and winter pallor.” As if one could doubt it.

Kyiv Style Rose Jam (Київське Трояндове Варення)

From my great-grandmother’s Olena’s cookbook

The proportion of petals to sugar is 1:2 by weight, but some varieties are slightly bitter, so you might want to increase the sugar proportion slightly.

Do yourself a favor; use a pestle. I didn’t even have the mortar, so I pounded the jam in a heavy bowl. Sugar makes it easy to crush the petals. Pound as if you want to crush each petal into pulp, and soon enough you will have a dark fuchsia colored pomade.

Makes 1 one pint jar

125 g (1/4 pound) fresh, unsprayed and fragrant rose petals (after cleaning, see below)
250-300 g (2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups) sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

The jam is uncooked, so make sure that all of the implements you use for making it–mortar, pestle, bowls, spoons are cleaned in hot water with baking soda and then rinsed with boiled water.

If you’re picking roses yourself, gather whole flowers in the late morning when their perfume is at its strongest. Spread them out on a towel. Holding each flower upside down, snip the petals around the heart of the flower using scissors. Shake the petals in a colander to remove stamens and weigh them. You should have 125g.

Mix with sugar and process with a blender or use a mortar and pestle to reduce petals to thick, perfumed paste. For this quantity of petals, it would take about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and mix well.

Spoon jam into sterilized jars (how to sterilize jars). Seal immediately by closing the lid of the jars tightly. Store in a refrigerator. If you’re making larger quantities, consider freezing them.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Sarah: Thank you for sharing Victoria. This looks divine. I can imagine how heavenly it must smell. June 7, 2017 at 7:33am Reply

  • Gabriela: So, so, beautiful! Thank you for sharing. My dad says there is nothing like the jams his mum used to make. She made it from jaboticaba, a Brazilian fruit. June 7, 2017 at 8:29am Reply

    • Victoria: What does it taste like? June 7, 2017 at 12:40pm Reply

      • Gabriela: What a difficult question! I would say a mixture of black currant with cherries and grape. But the perfume is unique. My Catalan mother-in -law, who is very conservative, loved it.

        We would climb trees when we were children and eat lots of them.

        They are also great with caipirinhas! Very tropical. Ah, and would be great for a face mask, lots os antioxidants and vitamins. June 7, 2017 at 1:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: It sounds so good. I need to find it. June 7, 2017 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Maria: Thanks Victoria!@ I will try this for sure 🙂 June 7, 2017 at 9:10am Reply

  • Lillian: Oh my goodness, this sounds absolutely wonderful! I love combining my love of perfume with my love of cooking and eating. I could just smell the aroma when you described grinding the petals with the sugar. I would love to try this – especially in the Ukrainian walnut crescents which sound divine. Now I just have to see where in Paris I can obtain unsprayed roses, no easy matter unfortunately. June 7, 2017 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I was just thinking that it would also be great inside the Lebanese mamoul cookies. June 7, 2017 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Jillie: This looks so pretty – and of course will taste and smell delightful. I love the fact that there is no cooking involved and because of this assume the flavour will be much fresher. Some of the commercial rose jams are too syrupy for me so this I am sure will be perfect.

    An Italian chef once said that one should only ever use a pestle and mortar to make pesto as basil leaves should be pounded, not slashed by a blade in a processor; he maintained that there was a big difference in the results from the two methods. I wonder if this is true of rose petals?

    Those pictures are very beautiful and have a calming effect on me! June 7, 2017 at 11:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, the flavor is fresher and more intense, and despite the high proportion of sugar, it doesn’t taste as sweet as the cooked jam.

      Grinding in a mortar definitely changes the flavor. First of all, the petals are crushed to a pulp, rather than cut into small bits, so the texture is softer, airier. June 7, 2017 at 12:45pm Reply

  • spe: The color! Glorious! June 7, 2017 at 11:49am Reply

    • Victoria: All natural, of course. The darker the roses, the more intense the color. June 7, 2017 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Lucy: Would love to have some rose jam like this, but no access to these abundant clean roses as necessary. We need someone to start exporting this to Brooklyn! I would love it for a mid morning or mid afternoon treat, I know a lot of people here would. June 7, 2017 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even if you have a couple of ounces of petals, it would be enough to try. Perhaps, one of the farmer’s markets in NYC might have them? June 7, 2017 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Karen A: Wonderful! A few days ago I made up some rose syrup, but I have enough roses left to try this – my sister makes her jam in this method, found the recipe in an old Polish cookbook. Having something tangible from your roses increases the pleasure of growing them! June 7, 2017 at 1:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: So true! It even makes the scratches on my arms worthwhile. June 7, 2017 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I can almost smell it from where I’m sitting! June 7, 2017 at 1:52pm Reply

  • Gina: How interesting! I am Ukrainian. My great grandparents came around 1900. We do not put tomatoes in our borscht and we never eat rose items. Too bad! June 7, 2017 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Neither did my great-grandparents. They used beet kvas. Tomatoes in borsch became more common after 1950s, especially in the villages. I like both borsch varieties, by the way, but neither my grandmother nor my mom would accept anything other than tomatoes as the souring agent in their borsch. June 7, 2017 at 3:07pm Reply

      • Victoria: Another delicious borsch variety I’ve tried uses sour cherries instead of tomatoes.

        Which makes me realize that sour cherries also belong to my pantheon of quintessential Ukrainian ingredients. June 7, 2017 at 3:08pm Reply

      • Gina: Interesting! Mine used vinegar. June 7, 2017 at 3:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: Probably to replace kvas, which is also fairly acidic. There are also so many regional variations of borsch all over Ukraine, so there is no one standard recipe. June 8, 2017 at 7:15am Reply

  • Amalia: I’m thrilled! There are no borders in the world! We have a similar sweet in Greece, that we usually find it in monasteries, made by monks. The hard thing today, is to find the old variety of rose, with the exquisite aroma, also used in liqueurs and rose water. June 7, 2017 at 6:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Greek spoon sweets are in a league of their own. I would love to travel around Greece, discovering different types. June 8, 2017 at 7:13am Reply

  • OperaFan: My David Austin Sharifa Asama roses are having the best initial flush – Ever, but I don’t have the heart to cut them in spite of this very tempting recipe. I will just have to imagine the result as if I did make it.
    Thanks for sharing though! June 7, 2017 at 10:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, so try it! Even with a couple of flowers. It really does extend the pleasure of your roses. June 8, 2017 at 7:12am Reply

      • OperaFan: I believe I will, maybe when the 2nd flush comes in. There will still be many fragrant flowers and colors to choose from, and I can mix and match. Weighing the ingredients will be the challenge since I don’t have a food scale, so I will just have to play with the proportions. June 9, 2017 at 3:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: You can estimate. For small quantities you can go by taste, since preserving won’t be as much of an issue. June 12, 2017 at 11:07am Reply

          • OperaFan: …. and that (taste and adjust) is generally my method to approaching any recipes. My husband laughs that I alway have to add my “personal touch” whereas he likes to follow the exact measurements, steps, and timing, at least the first time before he starts making adjustments. June 12, 2017 at 1:09pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’m more like your husband. When I cook something for the first time, I follow instructions, but later I might begin making adjustments. 🙂 June 12, 2017 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Julia Sheremeta: It would be helpful to know the botanical name of the rose used, or at least the name of that branch of the rose family. June 8, 2017 at 7:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I mentioned it in the first paragraph, rosa damascena. June 8, 2017 at 7:11am Reply

  • KatieAnn: Oh, Victoria, this sounds absolutely heavenly! I adore eating perfume-laden, fragrant foods, and rosey foods in particular. Your description and photos sent me into a reverie. Oh, where would this world be without flowers!
    Thank you for sharing this. It brought me joy. June 8, 2017 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Same here. Food and fragrance have so much in common, and it’s fun to find such connection. Plus, this jam is really a wonderful thing. June 8, 2017 at 10:37am Reply

  • Richard Goller: Thanks for sharing this recipe, Victoria. And the pics are gorgeous! June 8, 2017 at 10:44am Reply

  • Toni: All the recipes I have seen for Rose Jam require boiling, so I am glad for your recipe.
    I am waiting for my roses to bloom again (when our June Gloom ends). I grow English Roses and the most fragrant and prolific is Claire Austin, but the flowers are white. It will be harder to collect enough flowers from the red ones. What do you think would be best? June 8, 2017 at 1:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: White roses won’t make for such a beautiful color, of course, but in the end, the flavor is more important. The petals shouldn’t be too bitter. Mine tasted a bit tannic, but not unpleasant. If they’re too bitter to be eaten plain, then they won’t make for a good jam. Taste your roses and compare. Otherwise, you can also make a small batch and experiment. For one of my experiments, I’ve mixed white roses from my neighbor’s bush with a few handfuls of our rosa damascena petals. The color was intense enough. June 8, 2017 at 1:51pm Reply

  • Lydia: I remember your wonderful older post about your Olena’s cookbook. It’s so nice to see a recipe from it come to life! I hope you will share many more. How lucky you are to still have your great-grandmother’s notebooks.

    Harvest Song Preserves used to have a wonderful tea-rose petal jam. I can’t find their website anymore, and I haven’t seen their preserves at Zabar’s in a while, so perhaps they’ve closed. Such a shame. (I tried a rose jelly recently, but it was mostly sugar and a little flavoring – nothing at all like rose preserves.) June 9, 2017 at 12:13am Reply

    • Victoria: We found some of them by chance, while others were preserved by my mother and aunt. It’s such a pleasure to cook from them, and her recipes never fail. June 12, 2017 at 11:01am Reply

  • Aurora: Your photos are already a delight even without tasting the jam. There is a wonderful pink rose tree on my way to the bus stop but I don’t think the owner would be pleased if I stole the blooms so I just inhale deeply, an innocent and free pleasure. June 10, 2017 at 5:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! At least, you can enjoy a scent of roses time to time. In Brussels most of the roses are unscented. June 12, 2017 at 11:11am Reply

  • Frank: Was wondering if you could use tea roses in this recipe? June 19, 2017 at 5:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, you can use any fragrant unsprayed roses. June 20, 2017 at 8:55am Reply

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