What Is Jamaican Sorrel?
Jamaican sorrel (red sorrel, Florida cranberry, or roselle) is not a true sorrel. It was introduced to Jamaica from west Asia in the 18th century. Roselle is the fleshy young calyces (the outer floral envelope) surrounding the immature fruits. It also comes in dried form. Jamaican sorrel is very acidic and resembles cranberry in color and acidity.
Culinary Uses of Jamaican Sorrel
It is used to flavor drinks, jams, jellies, wine, and sauces in the Caribbean, Mexico, West Africa, and Egypt. Roselle is used fresh in salads, especially fruit salads, with cooked vegetables, and in sauces, stews, and pies or tarts. Roselle is also dried and used as natural coloring.
The Caribbeans enjoy it as a traditional Christmas drink (also called sorrel) that is mixed with spices and rum. In Mexico, dried roselle is made into a refreshing drink called aqua de Jamaica.
Indians, Mexicans, and Africans use it as a diuretic, to thin blood, and to lower blood pressure. Jamaican Sorrel is high in vitamins and minerals with powerful antioxidant properties. It helps lower elevated blood pressure, bad cholesterol and detoxify the entire body. Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) is a measure of total hydrophilic capacity. In fact, eating high ORAC foods such as Jamaican Sorrel can significantly raise the antioxidant power of human blood. It has a ORAC rating which is higher than vegetable juice, tomato juice and orange juice; and compares favorably to cranberry juice and pomegranate juice, which is well known for its antioxidant properties.
As we have islands in the Caribbean so do we have variations of this refreshing drink (recipe), so please use this as a basic guide for making sorrel and do add your own personal touch.
1.5 lb sorrel flowers (trimmed)
8 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 pieces of dried orange peel
thick slice of ginger
sugar to sweeten
* Note: If you like your sorrel drink stronger, be sure to double up on the amount of sorrel petals you use. Also note that if you’re using dried sorrel petals, 1 lb will give you a much stronger brew than freshly picked leaves.
This is a very simple recipe and all it really takes is patience. Remove the core out of the sorrel flowers and discard, then place all the ingredients in a large pot, cover with the water and bring to a boil.
* Remember to see my note above about achieving a strong brew! Reduce to a gentle simmer and let it go for about 30 minutes. Then remove off the heat, cover and let it steep for a few hours. Mom would always go overnight for maximum flavor. If you’re wondering what orange peel is.. mom always had the peel (skin) of oranges she would peel for us, hung in a corner of the kitchen to dry. The dried orange peel (skin) would then be used to flavor drinks like sorrel and also make some wonderful (soothing) teas.
It’s now time to strain (and discard).. I would recommend double straining with a very fine strainer or cheese cloth to remove any debris. Chill and sweeten to your liking.
Traditionally brown sugar cane sugar is used in sweetening sorrel, but you can use whatever sweetener you prefer. Remember to add some crushed ice and sliced limes or lemons when serving and you can certainly spike things up with a dash or two of rum and Angostura bitters.
Tip.. double or triple up on the amount of sorrel petals you use and the resulting brew can be used as a concentrate. Simply bottle and store in the fridge.