Roselle Jelly

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa, flor de Jamaica,  rosella, Chaye-Torosh in Iran,  karkade  in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan,  Florida cranberry, Jamaica sorrel and chin baung in Burma.

I had not planned on making jelly this week. I had spent time at the greenhouse where I am growing plants for the refugee garden. I noticed that the roselle plant (a kind of hibiscus) was beginning to lose its pale yellow flowers and was developing seed pods. I remembered that in Mexico they make a tea out of the red caylx surrounding the flowers and seed pods. I decided that I wanted to learn more about this plant. I discovered recipes that the Burmese make with the leaves (which is why I was growing it for them). Mexicans dry the calyx for the making the tea. I then learned that Australians make a jam with the same calyx. Oh my. A  jam or jelly that I haven’t made.

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Apparently the early settlers in Australia found this plant growing wild and used it to make a jam. An interesting property of the seeds is that the contents of the seed pod produces natural pectin so the Australians only needed sugar to make jam with what they called rosella. Being the Texas Jelly Maker I decided to make jelly rather than jam. First you pull off the red calyx which was the base of the flower. You may wonder how to tell if the calyx is ready. Basically you are looking for a large calyx which has developed after the flower falls off.  The larger the better. After removing the calyxes you will be left with a ball shaped seed pod. Since I am making jelly I can discard the seed pod. If you are making jam you will cover the seed pods with 5 cups of water and cook them for 15-30 minutes. For my jelly recipe I then add 5 cups of water to 10 cups of the calyxes in the pot. I boil them for 15 minutes or until they are soft. At that point I pour the liquid into a sieve to remove the calyxes. I return the liquid to the stove and cook until the boiling point. I then add sugar and lemon juice. After it comes to a full boil I then add the no sugar needed pectin and boil for 1 minute and 30 seconds. After it cools slightly I pour the jelly into freezer containers. When the contents cool I then label and date the containers and put them in the freezer. Apparently I occasionally forget to label the jellies and then I have to taste the jellies in the freezer to determine which kind of jelly I made.

This jelly makes a beautiful raspberry colored jelly. It has a tart taste that many people (including myself) find irresistible.

Roselle Jelly Recipe

10 cups roselle calyxes

3 cups sugar

4 tablespoons no sugar needed pectin

1/4 cup lemon juice

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14 Responses to Roselle Jelly

  1. OldManMtn says:

    * calyces

  2. Harriet Gilman says:

    Your roselle jelly recipe is quite enticing! You already knew it, but I discovered only recently that flor de jamaica sold in Mexican grocery stores, which I brew into delectable “tea”, comes from the self-same plant as roselle leaves, a remarkably delicious green vegetable. Congolese friends who arrived here as refugees a few years ago introduced me to roselle and taught me to cook it like kale or collards. Roselle cooks down into a uniquely vibrant, tart, and tasty dish of greens. My Congolese friends sell roselle to fellow Africans just as quickly as they can harvest it in their community garden plot. Now I shall try my hand at making roselle jelly and present a jar of it to my African friends. (Of course to them, it will be a novelty, as they have never formed the habit of eating sweets.)
    It pleases my heart to read your story of growing roselle as a treat for Burmese refugees, then experimentally turning roselle calices into good ol’ Texas-style jelly. Your story, along with my discoveries of flor de jamaica and roselle, illustrate some delightful contributions immigrants and refugees are making in the lives of veteran Americans.
    Thank you for sharing your jelly recipe.

    • Harriet- Thank you for your nice letter. Yes, I like flor de Jamaica tea too. The leaves have the same flavor I think. I am curious where your friends got the seeds. When I grew it to get the seeds I discovered they set seed very late in the Texas fall and didn’t produce much in the way of seed. I had to reproduce them vegetatively instead. This is a jelly I would make often if I had a good source of free calyces. I just don’t have enough room in my garden. Story of my life, my garden is never big enough! It was fun identifying and trying all the different vegetables in the refugee gardens.

      • Harriet Gilman says:

        My friends got their starter seeds from the folks at Gardeners in Community Development. And GICD also granted them the garden plots where they grow the roselle. GICD is a deeply inspiring non-profit that promotes community gardens all over Dallas. And they sponsor gardens in central Dallas just for refugees. Most of the gardeners are elders from Asian lands — my friends are the sole African family there, for now. Visit the GICD website: http://www.gardendallas.org/ — or search Google for “Don Lambert, Anthropologist, Dallas” or “Don and Tiah Lambert”. I don’t know where you live in Texas, but if it’s anywhere near Dallas — or if you end up visiting here sometime — you might enjoy visiting these folks and seeing the gardens. But since you raised the question (and I have the same question, now that I’m getting pumped up about this amazing plant), internet sites offer the seeds for sale. There are so many varieties to choose from.

      • Harriet- We go to Dallas occasionally so we will definitely put it on our list of places to visit. We have two refugee gardens here. Since they are a mix of cultures from Asia, the Mideast, and Africa it is a blend of cultures in the garden. Yes, I will have to look for the seeds of Roselle online since I didn’t keep up with growing the cuttings after I turned them over to the garden participants.

  3. Nathalie says:

    Thanks for the instructions. I’m going to try and make some, although I’m far from having 10 cups of calyces. So as you eat the jelly, do you keep it stored in the freezer? Or do you defrost it and then keep it in the fridge? I’m a newbie at these kinds of things.

    • Nathalie- Thank you for visiting the blog. Yes, getting enough calyces was a problem for me. I froze mine until I had enough. Otherwise you could reduce your recipe. As far as the jelly, I store the jelly in multiple containers. I thaw out one container at a time (unless I am needing more). If the amount in the container is more than I anticipate using in a reasonable time then I remove only part of what is in one container and put the remainder back in the freezer. I store the jelly I plan to use in the refrigerator until it is all gone.

  4. Thom says:

    Hi! If you’re looking for the seeds of Hibiscus sabdariffa, you can find them at the following:
    http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/roselle/
    http://www.southernexposure.com/roselle-thai-red-06-g-p-181.html
    http://info.reneesgarden.com/seeds/herbs/hibiscus-herbal-tea-zinger/

    There are other companies from which the seeds are available in the U.S. but these are the companies I use most often. I have been growing this at my little farm for many years now. They often get to blooming stage and set seed pods (calyx (singular) calyces (plural)) by late October but it frosts here before the seeds can develop. Still, the local Burmese and Hmong populations use the leaves as a green (lemony in flavor) and the Latino community uses the calyces to make Jamaica (hah-micah), a delicious soft-drink that tastes kind of like cranberry. I start the seed indoors in January or February and it germinates well and grows quickly. It LOVES hot weather but needs water.

    • Thom- One of my favorite jellies. Thank you for sharing the websites for the seeds. The Burmese gardens provided the calyces for my jellies since they didn’t want or utilize them. Red Zinger tea has the calcyes in it too.

  5. paula says:

    Sorrel as we call it in the Caribbean only bears fruit from late November and early January. If you want seeds do not throw away or boil the pods let them dry they will split open and give you all the seeds you need. you can plant the seeds in November and be able to harvest fruit in Dec. Or you can plant them in January and have the plant all year round.

    • I wish our growing season was as long as yours. Even when I started the plants in the greenhouse and set them into the ground we did not get fully developed seed pods by the first frost. Here where I live the first frost is in mid-November. We continue to have frosts up until at least mid-March. i was able to continue the plants without seeds by making many cuttings in the greenhouse which I was able to plant when the weather warmed.

  6. John hurt says:

    Why not utilise pectin from the seed pods?

    • John- thank you for the excellent question. My recipes are all utilize no sugar pectin so that I don’t use as much sugar. To utilize natural pectin in the fruit would require more sugar.

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