I know I've mentioned roselle tea here a few times over the last year or so. It's truly one of my favorite things. You may have heard it called hibiscus tea. You may have had a taste of it in the tea "Red Zinger"
I'm still harvesting fistfuls of roselle from my single plant but the frosts are beginning and I'm not a happy camper. I wish that I knew more about canning and could assure myself that storing a syrup into the summer would be O.K. But I'm only a novice to the canning scene - and a real wannabe at that. I've only really made freezer jams and butters. I just don't trust myself to store something in my cupboard for months on end. Part of that is our conditions here. It's hot and it's humid and that my friends is a recipe for disaster. Don't get me wrong. I do make my own syrups and things. It's just that my family uses them up within a week or 2 and I've never been able to make a large enough amount to have to worry about canning/jarring and preserving for the long term storage.
To get to the point? Right now I am wishing that I had the knowledge base that would allow me to do so. I'd love to put a bottle of this away for later. The roselle does not bloom until fall and only for 2-3 months until the first freeze. Next year I intend to have more plants - but I intended that this year as well.
Here is how I make my roselle tea:
Gather roselle (This can be bought online or fresh in a whole food market as well)
If you are making the tea fresh slice in half and remove the seed cavity - if you want to make a syrup leave the calyx whole (the seed cavity has loads of pectin and looks just like mini okra) If you have purchase your roselle this also give you the opportunity to inspect the roselle for any insect damage or any rotting parts that might be unseen otherwise.
Place the pitted roselle in a pot with enough water to cover them on the stove and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from burner and steep for an additional 20 minutes, up to overnight to bring out the full flavor of the roselle.
At this point the roselle has a very jelly like consistency. Strain the calyx out of the water and squeeze though a sieve or cheesecloth. Be forewarned! The roselle is also used for food coloring in other countries. If you use cheesecloth you WILL have a beautifully died red/hot pink cloth! I often use coffee filters but they rip easily. (You really should squeeze them to get the best flavor) If you have a jelly strainer this is perfect!
Because I make this so often I am comfortable adding my sugar without tasting it. I like to add it while the roselle steeps. This allows the sugar to melt completely away without stirring and becomes a part of the flavoring itself. Much like a light simple syrup. If you have never had the tea before I suggest waiting until it has cooled and you are making a glass to add the sugar to get an idea of what you will enjoy. I don't like much sugar personally.
Once it is strained you can add an accompaniment. My kids enjoy adding citrus to their tea. Actually they think the best way to drink it is to drink 1/2 roselle tea and 1/2 lemonade kind of an 'Roselle Palmer' I suppose. LOL.
This may look like a lemon, but it's not it's a Key Lime from my little tree. I enjoy a splash of lime with mine the most. But, I do also enjoy it in regular tea, with pomegranate, strawberry, lemon, a dash of honey. I don't think there is a combination I have found yet that I dislike!
I do have to say if you like an iced tea make sure it is thoroughly iced! Don't try to drink it luke warm first. This does not have a leafy green tea taste. If you want to impart that taste you can brew it the same way and add a couple of bags of your favorite tea as it is steeping. Otherwise if you have a roselle hibiscus plant, you can steep a few of the hibiscus leaves with the calyx. The leaves are just as good for you as the rest and will give the tea flavor that one would normally associate with a green or black tea in the background of that fruity, tangy flavor of the roselle.
So, while I am mourning the impending loss of this drink I am still enjoying it while I can. It's an incredibly healthy drink. Good for your liver, kidneys, lowers cholesterol - all kinds of good things. If you end up with too many of the calyx you can try chopping them and adding a tangy bite to your salads, too.
See you soon!