Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preserving! Hibiscus Syrup

I've always been slightly spoiled by my intrepid travelling friend, Dean. As he has travelled the world for work, Dean has seen and experienced things that most of us only read about. No lie. And, as he has travelled, he has generously brought me unusual and interesting souvenirs... carpets and scarves from Pakistan to carved wooden masks from Africa to an evil eye from Turkey. Most recently, I was spoiled with a ridiculously large bag of dried hibiscus flowers and no idea what to do with them. (Momma oozed with jealousy after having recently purchased a significantly smaller bag for more than $12.)

So, Dean regaled us with tales of a hibiscus drink that the locals would make, as the hibiscus added a very refreshing tone to sparkling water or juices. And while we haven't had four months of summer full of hot days, we have had some beautiful days worthy of thirst quenching.

You might laugh here... or nod your head in commiserating agreement. This recipe actually started as an attempt at making hibiscus jelly, which I thought would be the most amazing addition to a cheese plate or just on some lovely airy scones. Well, alongside this "intention" was my complete lack of canning and jelly making knowledge. By "complete lack," I mean precisely that. I had never ever attempted to make jelly before this. Everything went exceedingly well until I blindly added the pectin, jarred the mixture, then processed it (for a requisite 10 minutes)... never to see the mixture jell. Honestly, I just assumed that it would. That said, my newfound preserving confidence (after purchasing  the cookbook and ambitiously attempting about five+ more recipes in one weekend) led me to this conclusion... my jelly may not have jelled but my syrup turned out perfectly.


Ingredients:
5 cups water
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
3-4 cups sugar (I used 3)

Bring your water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add your hibiscus flowers and steep it as though you were making tea. I left the mixture for approximately 15-20 minutes and was left with a very dark and rich purple hued liquid.

Strain the mixture to remove the flowers (or use a slotted spoon and scoop them out as I did), then put your "tea" back on the heat. Bring it up to a low boil. Add in your acids (vinegar and lime juice), then add and dissolve your 3 (or 4) cups of sugar.

Now, you've created a lovely and relatively light hibiscus syrup. You could up the sugar quantity and yield yourself an even thicker syrup, worthy of pancakes or a replacement for grenadine. I like it more for the additional level of flavour that it adds to cocktails, juice or sparkling water.

(As a canned syrup, this will yield you just shy of 6 x 250 mL jars... refrigerate after opening!)

1 thought(s):

Dean said...

In Senegal hibiscus juice is called jus de bissap (bissap being hibiscus).

Adding a bit of mint to the syrup -- either throwing in a bunch of fresh mint for a few minutes while it's boiling or by adding a few drops of mint essence -- gives it a little kick of freshness.

You could even use some muddled mint in the cocktail you end up making with the syrup; a sort of bissap-kissed mojito. Nom nom!

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