Sunday, March 13, 2011

In a jam. Rosella wise.

Well before I turned ten my family had me making Rosella Jam. We grew the fruit in the back yard. Rosella bushes stand about a meter high and are part of the hibiscus family (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Native to tropical West Africa, Rosella grow easily in home state Queensland and northern Australia. The pretty yellow flowers can be made into a cordial but it’s the fruit that fascinated me. Way out in front of plum jam and grape marmalades, Rosella jelly and jam has a real tang to it. Every so often I get the urge to make another batch and hand it around among friends. Here’s how.
Start with at least half a bucket of crimson fruit.
Peel away the fleshy red outer surrounding the seedpod and place to one side. Put the seedpods into a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes. Lose the pods and keep the liquid which now contains the pectin that helps jam set. 
Pour the liquid back into a large saucepan, add the red outers and seeds from a few bush lemons (in a muslin bag) Simmer gently until the red leaves soften. (The lemon seeds help the setting process. Discard after cooking)
Measure this fruit pulp and add sugar (cup for cup). Stir over gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. The jam will froth. Remove the scum as the jam continues to cook. Stir gently. Stay close because the jam tends to stck as is nears ready. Constant stirring. Jams set as they cool. Over-cook and the setting point may be passed. Result? A thick ugly dark syrup rather than a radiant crimson gel. 
Test by putting  a teaspoonful of jam on a cold plate. Cool it and the outer should crinkle when touched by your finger. Crinkle is cooked.  
Bottle in clean hot jars, seal in wax and ready to enjoy.

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