Tuesday, 16 December 2014
I'm really excited to share this recipe. I was in a West Indian/Chinese market on Danforth Ave in East Toronto on the weekend. I was just there to pick up a couple of things and I saw a big crate of fresh sorrel. Fresh sorrel in Canada is not an easy thing to find! To think, it found me, lol. Sorrel are the sapels of hibiscus flowers (the part that the petals grow out of). It's most common use is to make a sweetened drink of the same name. Sorrel, not be confused with an herbaceous green of the same name, has a clean, sour flavour similar to cranberries. It's steeped in water with spices like cinnamon and cloves then chilled. It's sweetened with sugar and served on ice. This is a very popular Caribbean beverage. It's commonly regarded as a Christmas drink because of its sprouting season this time of year down there. Although sorrel can also be found in dried form and can be enjoyed any time of the year. If you can't find fresh sorrel, just use about 3 cups of the dried version for this recipe.
I've tried this in its commercial form and during my stay in Trinidad and Tobago last year. I don't mean any disrespect, but I have found that they make it a little too sweet for me. At least what I have tried. This is my own version of sorrel so it's sweetened to my preference, but feel free to sweeten to your liking. I used one cup of sugar, which was plenty for me. Overly sweet sorrel is not only off putting but it does an injustice to the natural sour flavour of the sapels. Both sorrel and hibiscus flowers are a common ingredient in tea. They have some remarkable medicinal uses with their risk of cancer and heart disease fighting properties. They're rich in Vitamin C, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, flavanoids and they are good for your cholesterol.
This recipe is for the drink, but you can use this as a starting point for a syrup or even jam. Another common use for sorrel is making a sweetened reduction and used as a glaze for ham and chicken. You can have a lot of fun with it. Speaking of, a common addition to sorrel is rum. If that interests you, I recommend a Caribbean white rum. Spiced rum wouldn't ruin it, but you're already adding your own spices to the sorrel and don't want to take away from the flavour you created on your own.
1 lb fresh sorrel
Peel of 1 orange
Peel of 1 lemon
2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
12 cups water
1 cup sugar, or to taste
Thoroughly rinse the sorrel in cold water to get them nice and clean.
Bring 12 cups of water to boil. While you're waiting for that, prep your other ingredients, except the sugar. In the recipe I said to use 2 star anise but I'm using 3 broken ones.
When your water reaches a rolling boil, let it boil for a solid minute before adding your ingredients.
Add the sorrel, orange peel, lemon peel, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise. The sudden addition of so many ingredients will likely bring the temperature of the water down momentarily. Let the water rise back up to the boil before turning it down to medium-low to simmer. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.
You'll know it's ready when the sapels have softened and the liquid is a very deep red.
Remove the sorrel from the heat and leave it for a few hours to cool down to room temperature.
When at room temperature, place the sorrel in the fridge to chill and continue steeping. Leave for at least four hours but overnight is encouraged. When you take it back out it will, well, look pretty much the same as when it went in. lol
Strain all of the liquid out of the sorrel. Press the solids down in a colander to extract as much liquid as you can.
Give it a little taste. It will look very fruity and inviting, but trust me it will have a watered down sour flavour. The point is to get a gauge of how sweet you'll need to make it. My recommendation is one cup of sugar, but add it in stages. You may end up preferring less than I do.
Stir in the sugar and as soon as it is dissolved completely, you have yourself a big batch of homemade sorrel drink!
It's a very Christmasy beverage with it's cranberry-like, citrus, ginger and spiced flavour profile. You can enjoy it chilled on ice or as a hot tea. I've mixed it with club soda before and it made a very nice, refreshing drink. If you're a responsible grown up you could use this to make a number of creative, festive cocktails. Have fun.
Something you should be very mindful of is that sorrel stains! Treat it with the same caution that you would beets. Have a wet cloth nearby at all times to wipe up any little splashes that may occur as soon as they appear for easy clean up. Don't wear your favourite white shirt either.
After your sorrel is strained you can discard the solids but if you're really crafty, you could remove the citrus peel and the spices, heat up the sepals and ginger with some sugar and purée it. It's an instant preserve that you can use like you would any jam.
I hope you get a chance to enjoy your very own homemade sorrel. Add a few Caribbean vibes to your holiday season this year. Spice it up a bit. ;)