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.