Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Rosella Cordial

We recently bought a rather large supply of meat and had to turn on our bar freezer to store it all after cutting it into portions.  In the process of attempting to make some more space in our usual freezer I found an ice-cream container full of rosellas that were left over from last year's crop.  The rest had been made into jam soon after the harvest and these were the final calyxes that didn't make the pot in time for the last batch.

For those of you wondering if I'm stuffing feathered friends into the freezer or poaching parrots in a pot let me introduce you to an old fashioned tropical plant which is actually a type of hibiscus, made obvious by its botanical name: Hibiscus sabdariffa.  Unfortunately I don't have any photographs of my plants in previous years and I haven't grown them this year as we have far too much jam in the cupboard (one bush per person would suffice rather than three - unless of course you're a jam junkie).  They form a spindly bush with leaves and flowers similar to okra (another relative of the hibiscus).  The flowers form wedged in leaf axils and open for a day, usually in the morning.  The petals have a crepe texture and are a creamy yellow colour with a waxy burgundy centre.  The flower soon drops off and the seed pod begins to form.  Surrounding this, there develops a fleshy burgundy-red and sometimes spiky calyx.  This is the "fruit" of the plant and makes a lovely, tart but sweet and slightly floral jam, tea or in this case, cordial.
Rosella calyxes
To make the cordial I followed a fairly simple recipe from goodness knows where and tweaked it a little as I had 7 cups of rosellas.  I also use raw sugar instead of white and didn't bother chopping the rosellas.  Next time I think I'll try adding a bit of lemon juice as well:

Stewing the rosellas
After reducing, the syrup was strained and funnelled into bottles, making nearly a litre of cordial.  It was a tasty treat at Christmas lunch mixed with soda water or with lemonade for the sweet-tooth. It'd also go nicely in a cocktail with some lemon or mint.

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