Jamming in June with Marisa from Food in Jars
I am in favor of secret ingredients. I appreciate identifying a flavor that needs tweaking and a new way of doing it. Take strawberry jam for example. By themselves, strawberries make a cloying jam, needing something to perk them up. Rhubarb does the trick. So do red currants. Now I have a new trick: hibiscus. Hibiscus, a tropical flower, is often used as an herbal tea. Tart and tangy with deep ruby red hue, it’s gorgeous. It’s also amazingly good for you, high in Vitamin C and reputed to reduce inflammation and even lower blood pressure. It’s a regular part of my routine by itself or, in the winter, combined with rose hips, lemon peel and ginger for Vitamin C Tea.In the space of a month this spring, I saw two casual mentions of combining hibiscus with fruit: one from Melissa Clark, who added it to strawberry sauce for shortbread, and the other from Yotam Ottolenghi who combined it with rhubarb for a jam-like condiment. For my June jam, I followed both paths.
I made very strong hibiscus tea (1 tbsp to 1/3 cup boiling water), strained and cooled it, and added it to strawberries and rhubarb as they were macerating in sugar. Strawberry was straight up: fruit, sugar and hibiscus tea. For rhubarb, which goes a little flat when cooked, I added crushed cardamom pods (crushing releases the little black aromatic seeds). The tangy hibiscus cut the sweetness of the jam and made it delicious.
Strawberry Hibiscus Jam
1 tbsp dried hibiscus petals (hibiscus tea)
1/3 c boiling water
1 heaping qt strawberries
Approximately 2 c sugar
1 lemon, juiced, peel and seeds reserved
Add the hibiscus petals to boiling water. Set aside to steep for about 20 minutes. The liquid should be cool by then.
De-stem and rinse the berries, and cut them into medium dice. Add juice of one lemon and sugar equal to half the volume of berries (I had 4 c berries and added 2 c sugar). Stir well to coat the berries in sugar. Drain the liquid tea, pressing down on the petals to release the maximum flavor, and add to the berries. Stir again.
Chop half the lemon shell (peel and pith) and place it in a small muslin sack with lemon seeds. Immerse it in the macerating strawberries.
Set aside for several hours or in the refrigerator overnight, covered with a crumpled piece of parchment paper (or plastic wrap if your refrigerator has odors).
Turn the mixture into a large wide pan and bring to a rolling boil, stirring. Cook for about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool, and let sit for a few hours or overnight, again covered with a crumpled piece of parchment paper (or plastic wrap if your refrigerator has odors).
Prepare the jars for water bath canning and place a saucer in the refrigerator (for testing the gel). Drain the liquid from the macerated strawberries (reserving the berries) into a large wide pan and bring it to a boil, stirring. It should gel in about 5 minutes, actual time depending on the amount of liquid. Test for gel by placing a drop on the frozen saucer. If the jam wrinkles to the touch, it has gelled. Add the berries (leaving out the muslin sack) and cook again until gelled. (This allows the berries to float nicely in the liquid.)
Place in prepared jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Remove the canner lid and let sit before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 5-7 four-ounce jars.
Variation: Rhubarb Hibiscus Jam with Cardamom
Substitute rhubarb for strawberries, cutting it into ½-inch dice. Add five crushed cardamom pods (crushing hard enough to bruise the inner seeds) to the muslin sack with the lemon.