Baking & DessertDrinks

By Tara O'Keeffe | April 21, 2011

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Hibiscus flowers aren’t just pretty to look at, their dried leaves are incredibly bright and herbaceous and are completely edible. Dried hibiscus flowers are a treasured ingredient across many parts of the world-in Egypt they are known as kakkadeeh, Mexico as flor de Jamaica, and in the Caribbean as sorrel. Many cultures steep the leaves to create a refreshing bright pink tea that is said to reduce fever, improve skin complexion, and improve kidney function.

While dried hibiscus tea is tart and tasty, there are a variety of other ways you can enjoy this magenta-hued delicacy. Adding dried hibiscus flowers to a basic simple syrup is the launch pad for a ton of creative and flavorful recipes. Make a batch and keep it in your refrigerator for a quick drink mix, ice cream topping, or use it in one of my 3 easy recipes featured below.

While not common in your local grocery store, you can find dried hibiscus flowers (perhaps by one of the names listed above) at tea and spice shops, Caribbean and Latin markets, Whole Foods, and at Kalustyan’s in New York City.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Hibiscus Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe

Makes 2 cups

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 ounce dried hibiscus flowers
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Add water, sugar, dried hibiscus, and ginger to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once at a boil, turn off heat and allow mixture to steep for at least 20 minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is deep-magenta in color. Strain syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a re-sealable container (be careful this can stain). Chill in the refrigerator until cold and ready to use. The syrup will hold, tightly covered, for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

Strawberry, Hibiscus, and Ginger Granita Recipe

A granita is similar to a slushy and is the perfect dessert for a warm spring day. It’s cold, refreshing, and the herbal flavor of the hibiscus compliments the sweet strawberries.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups hulled strawberries, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups ice
1 cup hibiscus ginger simple syrup

Place the strawberries, lime juice, and ice into a high speed blender and blend until the mixture is smooth; strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds. Mix in the simple syrup and pour into a glass baking dish (11-by-13-inch). Place dish in the freezer and chill for at least 30 minutes, then scrape mixture with a fork to break up ice crystals and continue freezing. Repeat this process 4 to 5 times until the mixture resembles a slushy texture. Spoon granita into bowls or martini glasses and serve immediately.

Photographer: Tara O’Keeffe

Pink Punch Recipe

Brighten up your cocktail hour with this pink cocktail that packs a real punch. All you need is a little simple syrup to turn your classic vodka soda into something special. This ratio is just a guide, feel free to add or reduce the amount of vodka to your liking.

Makes 4 cocktails

1 cup vodka
1/2 cup hibiscus ginger simple syrup
Crushed ice
Club soda
Lime wedges, for garnish

Place vodka, simple syrup, and ice in a cocktail shaker; shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Hibiscus Ginger Glaze Recipe

Sweet syrup isn’t just for cocktails and desserts. Reducing the syrup down to a glaze takes just a few minutes and adds a bold depth of flavor to grilled or roasted meats and fish. A dab of butter helps give it shine and smooths out the flavor. Be sure to keep an eye on it though, it reduces fast and if it burns, it will taste bitter.

Makes 1/4 cup of glaze

1 cup hibiscus ginger simple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Place syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat; reduce until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in butter, and keep warm until ready to use. Serve over chicken, fish, or pork.

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and author of FunFearlessFoodie.com.

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