fresh hibiscus cordial recipe

Our backyard is awesome. It's fully enclosed so the kids can happily play out there alone without any fear of them running onto the road. It's flat. There's grass. Trees. Two lemon trees. Rose bushes in full bloom. And an overgrown hibiscus plant covered with bright pink pom-pom like flowers. 
One day recently as the kids and I were playing out there, Ada asked if she could pick some flowers to play with (she likes making smelly "stews" out of them, with water and grass). You know what? I said. Why don't you guys help me to pick all of the flowers on here, and we can make hibiscus cordial! The kids thought I was slightly mad, but went along with it anyway. We're gonna eat flowers mama? They laughed. We sure are kids, and you're going to love it. I promise.

On one of my late night blog reading missions recently I read of a sparkling Rosella water that had me looking at my hibiscus flowers in a whole new light. I love hibiscus tea made with dried flowers, but using fresh petals is all new to me. 
The kids helped pluck the petals off the stems until they realised how much work was involved and left me to it. See, our hibiscus flowers are not the beautiful smooth 5 petal variety that grace most Hawaiian postcards, but rather the slightly over-the-top, frilly numbers you see above. Ants and other critters seem to be drawn to them, making the soaking stage in the recipe a must to dislodge any die-hard ants or bugs. 

It's all rather straight forward from there on in. Soak the petals in lemon juice to soften, add to a simple raw sugar syrup and cook until fragrant and deep crimson in colour. The syrup will keep quite happily in a glass jar or bottle in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It not unlike cranberry juice really, a little bit tart, a little bit sweet. I imagine it would be really lovely as a base for cocktails; a little vodka, soda water and lime juice if that's your thing. Or have as we did, topped with sparkling mineral water and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 
While we're on the subject of our back yard I thought it was about time to update you all on our vegetable garden. Or lack of to be more accurate. I miss our garden back home in Raglan so much! After having a vegetable garden for the past 8 years (not to mention my parents rugby field sized garden when I was growing up) it really is something new to get used to not being able to simply pop out daily to see what's on offer. See the thing is, we've moved into a house where digging in a garden is just not possible. However, after thinking we'd only be able to get away with a few transportable planter boxes, we have since found a lovely wee spot that will be perfect to use as a garden bed. We can simply use it as a garden bed while we're here, remove all traces of vegetables when we leave and no-one will ever know, right? It's a large rectangular space where the past tenants dumped all their lawn clippings. It doesn't get the best light, but we are hoping there will be enough, even if it's only to grow a crop of garlic, some silver-beet and rhubarb. So along with my pots of herbs and the two lemon trees already here we should be pretty happy. I'll keep you posted as we go and I'm hoping by spring I should be able to share a few more gardening tips with you all. 
fresh hibiscus cordial
This recipe can be doubled if you have access to ample hibiscus flowers. Lime juice can be used in place of the lemon juice if preferred too.
Makes approx 1 cup of syrup, enough to make 5-6 drinks.

  • 150g fresh red or pink hibiscus flowers
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
  • 1 cup (200g) organic raw sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • Chilled sparkling mineral water and fresh lime juice to serve
Wash the flowers thoroughly and pick off the petals (discard stems and stigma). Place in a large bowl, cover with clean water and soak for 10 minutes to remove any bugs etc. Rinse well again and drain. Pour over lemon juice and mix to coat. Set aside 20 minutes.
Place the sugar and water into a medium saucepan, bring to the boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the petals and lemon juice and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until syrup is fragrant and stained a beautiful deep crimson colour. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cold, strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean jar. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
To serve place 2-3 tablespoons (to taste) of syrup into a glass with plenty of ice. Top up with chilled sparkling mineral water and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice.

                                        : sugar free Sunday @ Flip cookbook

                                        : Seasonal Sunday @ Real Sustenance 

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  • Reply
    June 27, 2011 at 2:01 am

    beautiful photos Em, really like these ones 🙂

  • Reply
    June 27, 2011 at 2:02 am

    oh my! this looks so delicious and refreshing!!! And also, I made your eggplant curry last night which was a winner! 🙂
    Hannah x

  • Reply
    Anahera Moon
    June 27, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Once again Em, your photos blow my mind!! Love this post, and how delicious to drink flowers! Kids must've loved it 🙂 xoxo

  • Reply
    Leigh @ Toasted
    June 27, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Y-um! I am doing this when we get home for sure (well, if the Hibiscus are still in bloom.) We've been having home-made Elderflower cordial over here which is de-licious so am well primed to try this one out.

    Have you thought about putting a raised veggie garden on the front verge? TIs common place in some of the more hippy area of Perth – not sure where you are, but you could be the mavericks!

  • Reply
    June 27, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Oh I wish Leigh. We would get kicked out of our house if we did that 🙁 Our tenancy agreement came with very strict terms. Like I said above though, we're finding ways around it! 😉

  • Reply
    Leigh @ Toasted
    June 27, 2011 at 7:32 am

    ;-( I can never understand such rules! I've done hanging baskets for lettuce and strawberries before (to keep snails away) and you get a surprising amount grown that way. Have you checked whether there's a community garden nearby?

  • Reply
    June 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

    yeah, I really do miss living in our own house! Great idea having the lettuce in a hanging basket, I just bought one yesterday for my thyme plant. I'm sure we'll find enough things to plant veges in, eventually 🙂

  • Reply
    June 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I love the idea of hibiscus cordial. Made elderflower cordial a few weeks ago and this was really nice.
    Good luck with the gardening. I've been planting all sorts of herbs in pots on my balcony recently…

  • Reply
    June 28, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Oh, that colour! Glorious! Hope your garden goes well 🙂

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Absolutely stunning photos, Emm. The restaurant I used to work in, in Paris, did a dessert of apples 3 ways, which included a poached apple served in a hibiscus syrup. Your syrup looks WAY better!

  • Reply
    the good soup
    June 30, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I don't know why, emm, but I never made the connection between the edibility of rosellas (wild hibiscus) and those flouncy pink hibiscus in your (and so many) backyard gardens in Australia. How fabulous!
    Thanks for linking to my sparkling rosella water, by the way. It feels all lovely and link cosy around here tonight. 🙂 x

  • Reply
    July 1, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Cold and grey here today. I'm deeply jealous that you have a hibiscus with enough flowers on that you can even THINK about making a lovely cordial! 🙂

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 4:01 am

    What a wonderful cordial,,,& a great way to use my hibiscus flowers, thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    July 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    ~Angela @the good soup, thank you for the inspiration! I had to do a wee bit of googling to make sure they were in fact edible before I made this! I'd love to get my hands on some Rosella's one day.

    ~Janet, If it makes you feel any better it's been horrid weather here in Perth for the past month. Lots of rain and very chilly too. I have my fingerless gloves on as I type right now!

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