My very first week in town at my very first Downtown Durham Market last summer I came across the Waterdog Farms stand, a small tea farmstead located north of Durham and Hillsborough. From across the stall, I couldn’t help but notice their axolotl (google it) logo! I probably came off as very rude, as the sight of that sign took me daydreaming back to my days of newt and amphibian pet keeping. Snapping out of it, I noticed these odd hibiscus fruits. I had figured that hibiscus flowers bloomed out of something, but I was never aware of hibiscus fruits, also called rosellas. Made up of a seedpod and a stout fleshy red calyx, rosellas can be used in a variety of culinary ways including: tea infusions, food coloring, and jams and preserves. The plan was to pickle them, but when I figured out exactly what they were, jam seemed like a better bet.
I scooped up a hearty pint of rosellas, a huge stalk of fresh ginger from Waterdog, and grabbed some fresh blueberries and citrus from my local grocer. Depending on your process, the seedpods are in fact a great source of pectin. My attempt didn’t go so well as I forgot to cover the pot and all my pectin evaporated off, but if you simply cover and boil the seedpods in just enough water for 10-15 minutes you will get rosella derived pectin. Great for jams and jelly making! A tart somewhat bitter, mildly sweet, and vibrantly red jam. Serve this jam as you would any berry jam. My choice will be atop a scone or a fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit.
- 1 pint fresh rosellas (hibiscus fruit)
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 4 tsp fresh minced ginger
- juice from 1 lemon
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 Tbsp low sugar powdered pectin (optional if needed)
- Separate the red calyx (the fleshy cover surrounding the seedpod) from the seedpod.)An easy way to do this is using an apple corer pushed hard against the base of the calyx; the calyx will then separate from the seedpod.
- In a saucepan, cover the seedpods with water and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until soft and translucent in appearance. Strain the seedpods through a sieve and dispose of the seedpods, reserving the liquid. This process extracts pectin from the seedpods to help the jam set.
- Then pour the liquid back into a large-size non-ionized pot, and then add the red calyx, blueberry, ginger and lemon juice. Simmer gently until soft.
- Add sugar and any additional pectin if seedpod method didn't produce enough liquid pectin.
- Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and then bring to the boil. Test for setting by putting a saucer in the freezer to chill, then put a teaspoonful of jam on the saucer, wait for it to cool slightly and then push the top of it with your finger. If it crinkles it is cooked.
- Ladle jam into clean jars, wipe rims, apply lids and rings (finger tight), then process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner and let cool on a folded towel for 12-24 hours.
- Store in cool dry place for up to one year.