Friday, December 7, 2012

Fruity Fridays - Roselle

This week's fruit: Roselle, a member of the hibiscus family

Also known as: rosella, Jamaica flower, and a hundred other names in various parts of the world

Vietnamese name: Bụp giấm

Cost in the market outside my house: 20,000 dong (roughly $1) per kilo

Season in Northern Vietnam: I bought these around the end of October, so maybe October - November

Interesting facts: This plant seems to be used for everything. It's often used to treat cough, urinary tract infections, cardiac and nerve diseases, cancer, and several other things I've never heard of. It's used as a laxative and a mild diuretic. It's a food colouring, and the fibres from the stalks can be used as a substitute for jute. The leaves are used in cooking and to make lotion to heal wounds. The seed oil is used to treat sores on camels. It's used to make juice and tea that is high in Vitamin C and is believed to reduce cholesterol, and is also occasionally made into wine. I'm reasonably certain that when I drank "hibiscus tea" in the Middle East, it was probably made from Roselle.

 These weird shaped fruits look like soft little flowers, but those "petals" are actually called calyces and are hard and crunchy, and taste quite sour! I tried one but it turned out that I wasn't interested in eating it raw and by itself!

When you break the calyces off, you find this seed pod inside.

The first and easiest thing I made with this was iced roselle tea (or juice!). I found this website that has a few recipes for roselle and just followed the instructions on it. All it involved was separating the calyces from the seed pods....

...boiling them down with some water...

....then straining out the syrup, adding sugar and stirring until it's dissolved, and then topping it up with ice.

It was tasty, but not something I'd want all the time.

Next, I made jam using a recipe on the same website. Normally for jam you need pectin, but the seed pods of the roselle have a lot of pectin in them already, so it was a simple matter of extracting it without getting all the seeds in the jam!

To do that, I separated the seed pods from the calyces, put the pods in a pot with some water and boiled them for about 15 minutes. The recipe said that after 10 minutes they should be soft and translucent, but mine never got very soft! They were just a bit slimy on the outside.

Then I strained the seed pods out and threw them away. I put the liquid (now full of pectin) back into the pot and added the calyces, including the leftover already-boiled ones from my juice.

I then boiled this all down for half an hour or so until it was all very soft, then measured it carefully to find that I had about 2 cups. The recipe said to add the same amount of sugar, but that seemed like a lot, (Yeah, I know, jam has a lot of sugar in it) so I added about a cup and a half and then tasted it. It seemed alright, but then as I cooked it more and tasted it more I ended up adding that extra half cup anyway!

The recipe said the jam would froth right up but mine never did. It only got this bit of foam on the top which I carefully scraped off.

I ended up with this lovely dark red jam. Apparently one way to know it's reached its setting point is to watch for it to stop frothing, but since mine never frothed, I had to use a different way. The recipe also suggested putting a saucer in the freezer, then testing a teaspoon of jam on it to see if it sets. I did this and I still wasn't entirely sure if it was at setting point, but it seemed ok!

Then it was time to put it in jars. I have a few that I brought from home with proper canning lids, and the amount of jam I had filled two of them perfectly! As you may remember from when I made Grandma's Dill Pickles, I have some difficulty with the actual jar processing part because I really don't have proper canning equipment. To have my jars of jam standing up in the pot with water covering the tops, I had to have water RIGHT up to the brim of my biggest pot.

But it worked! Both of these jars sealed, and I had a tiny bit of jam left over to eat with some fresh bread I bought the next day. It's a bit like a berry jam, with the deep red colour but despite all the sugar, it has a bit of a tartness to it. It's pretty yummy!

This was my first-ever jam-making attempt, aside from when I was a kid and we had a family strawberry jam-making day every year, which I really don't remember enough of for it to have had any effect. I'm pretty proud that my first time turned out so well! The only problem is that I don't eat very much jam. My "toaster oven" is really more oven than toaster, so it really just kind of bakes any slice of bread that I'm trying to toast. Thus, I rarely eat toast. However, my friend Jacqui from Fashion & Pho mentioned today that she's looking forward to eating crumpets when she goes home for Christmas, which reminded me that I have a recipe for crumpets that I've been meaning to try, so maybe soon I'll have fresh crumpets with roselle jam! Yum!

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