In-Season Enjoyment - Sorrel

>> Tuesday 27 November 2018

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While in some parts of the world this fruit grows all year round, here in the Caribbean, it comes into season at the end of November and lasts until March. We call it Sorrel but it also goes by the names Hibiscus and Roselle. It is not Christmas in the Caribbean if there is no Sorrel; it is a must-have. Richly spiced with cloves and cinnamon, along with ginger, a tall glass of cold Sorrel quenches the thirst and sets the mood for the season. For an adult version of the drink, don't be shy, add some dark rum as you stir to sweeten the drink.

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Most people are familiar with the red Sorrel but it also comes in a rich, deep ruby-red, almost burgundy colour as well as what we would call, white sorrel. The white version looks like an unripened red Sorrel but it is not, this is a different variety or strain of the fruit. Each type gives a different finish to whatever you are using them to make. The regular red sorrel takes well to spicing, and is lighter in texture. I find the ruby Sorrel to be stronger in flavour and can take more assertive spicing, it is one of the reasons I prefer it if I am making Sorrel chutney. Due to its robust flavour, this dark rich Sorrel also pairs well with Vodka or dark rum to make liqueur. Let me hasten to add that you can make chutney and liqueur with the regular red version, so please do not be dissuaded.

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The white Sorrel is lighter in flavour and is more citrusy and tart. I think it would be perfect for making white wine. I've only ever used it to make jam and drink. In both preparations I used a little more sugar than with the red and ruby versions to balance the tartness. I also found it was better to spice the white Sorrel with only cinnamon sticks; whole allspice berries worked well too. The cloves were overpowering. Actually, it makes sense given the flavour profile of the white Sorrel.

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This year, I want to encourage you to do more with sorrel than simply make drink, try making a chutney which you can serve with your ham and other roasts over the holidays or throughout the year. It would be a welcome addition to any cheese board too. This chutney is the best friend to ham cutters (Bajan name for ham sandwiches). Whether you are making chicken or turkey breast sandwiches, this chutney will be sure to elevate. If you're into cranberries, you'll like Sorrel.

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Now here is a 2-in-1 deal - the same time you set out to make the chutney, make the liqueur! The concentrated liquid is used to make liqueur and the petals/sepals are used to make the chutney!

The liqueur takes 3 full weeks (21 days) to cure so if you are planning on making some for the holidays, set it soon. The longer it matures, the better it tastes. It is the same thing with the chutney, which you will store in the refrigerator; it will last for months and the flavour will improve with time.

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You can also check out my friend, Felix's recipe over at Simply Trini Cooking for his Sorrel Liqueur.

Sorrel jam is like having a concentrated version of Sorrel drink. Spiced the same way as the drink, this smooth, thick jam not only spreads easily but it has a pleasing hint of tartness at the end. One of the best parts of making this jam is that it provides it own natural pectin which you get from boiling the seeds! Sorrel jam is fine on it own, and it pairs well with aged cheddar, Havarti and goat cheese. One year, I mixed the jam with mango achar and used the combo to glaze the Christmas ham - the glaze was sweet, spicy, fruity and hot. YUM!

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