Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roselle Tonic

I've had roselle on my mind for a long time. I have had hibiscus tea before (remember Red Zinger?) and I am particularly fond of a Latin drink called Agua Fresca de Jamaica. In fact, that's the only name I've known it by and I get very excited when I find it on the menu in Mexican restaurants. I love Jamaica (pronounced Ha-MY-cuh, not like the island). It's a bit like fruit punch and maybe a little like cranberry juice. It's sweet-tart and refreshing. I knew that Jamaica came from the roselle hibiscus flower which grows well in tropical climates all over the world, but I didn't know where I could get any fresh. In Latin markets you can often find the dried calyces but they aren't local.

I was so excited last weekend when, included in my first CSA delivery, there was a bag of fresh roselle calyces, and a recipe for making roselle tonic, which is essentially a tisane made from the roselle and some spices with a little sweetener. I decided to make my own version and luckily I had the recipe to go by because I had no idea that you had to pull the sepals off of the seed ball. With all these calyces, sepals and seed balls I almost feel like I'm back in 10th grade biology again. The sepals are like hard petals. You can see in the picture above. Once you pull them off the green seed ball, you toss them in a pot of boiling water. I also included a few chunks of crystallized ginger and a cinnamon stick. I also decided to make use of one of my lemongrass stalks by chopping it up and throwing it in the pot too. The roselle and the lemongrass complement one another very nicely. I brought the whole thing to a boil and then turned off the heat and let it sit for about an hour. While it was steeping I stirred in some brown sugar. Last, I strained it into a glass pitcher and let it chill overnight in the refrigerator. This morning I poured a glass and it was wonderful - light and refreshing, sweet, tart, spicy and lemony. It tasted more like iced tea than the Agua Fresca de Jamaica I am familiar with. I'm almost certain they either make that from a mix or from larger amounts of the dried calyces, resulting in a more concentrated drink. I think I actually prefer my lighter version and it's such a lovely ruddy color.

Apparently roselle tonic is a popular Christmas drink all over the Caribbean, so it was perfect for this festive time of year. I think it will be lovely on my Thanksgiving table. Roselle is also a diuretic and may lower cholesterol. How exciting! I love when I find something that is healthy that actually tastes good and is pretty too. I read up on roselle and you can make syrups and jellies with it too. Maybe if I get more of it in the future, I'll try something else.

Here is roselle's Wikipedia entry.

A very detailed site all about roselle.

1 comment:

  1. So fun to a read a food blog of someone in my same CSA! I made the roselle tonic too but forgot the step of separating the calyces, sepals, etc. Actually I don't think it made much difference (what do I know about roselle ... not a whole lot) since I'm no roselle purist.

    The only thing from the first CSA that was not a hit with us was the callaloo -- I think due to my lack of ingenuity in preparing it.

    Look forward to reading more of your blog! Cheers, Heather