“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis
Is that not the prettiest jelly you’ve ever seen?
It really is. And it’s not just because I took these photos with a magical new addition to my life, although yeah, this camera takes insane photos. It’s because this jelly really is the prettiest jelly ever.
I love tea. I always have. In an Irish family, tea is basically a staple… you can’t escape it. Yes, I love coffee too, but I definitely own more varieties of tea than coffee. Tea is comforting for me. Tea is childhood illness, when my grandmother would make me a cup when I was home sick from school & my mom was at work, holding her hand to my forehead to see if I was “hot.” Tea is when I had a bad day as a teenager, and my mom would make me a cup before bed & tell me the day is over and tomorrow is a new start. Tea is family. Coffee is a jolt to get me going, whereas tea is a warm hug to settle me down.
I made a super crazy good tea jelly last summer, and it was such a massive hit that all four jars disappeared. One I sent to Lyns, and the other three just seemingly vaporized. I know I used it for a few things, and I remember having it on scones and English muffins, but I definitely don’t remember all the jars being used up. Hmm. But nonetheless they were, and now they’re seemingly gone, so it was time to make some more. I really liked the tea I used last year, but I wanted something different this year. I was still in a summer mood at the time, and it was so hot out I didn’t want to make anything too heavy or wintery, and a lot of my loose teas remind me of fall & winter. I wanted to avoid that completely- I’m more than a little annoyed that the Back To School stuff has been in stores since before my birthday and that people are trying to sell me sweaters. It’s still summer, dammit! I’ve also been reading a lot of my vintage cookbooks, or rather my reprints of vintage cookbooks, such as The Virginia House-Wife, The American Frugal Housewife & Civil War Recipes; and for some reason they all made me think of things like rose or lavender-based jellies and jams. Flowery edible things always remind me of the Colonial times or Victorian times. Rosewater was often used back then in recipes in place of vanilla extract, which was very expensive. Although it’s still used widely today, especially in Indian & Middle Eastern cuisine, most people nowadays use it as part of their toilette. Rosewater is great for your skin- it absorbs excess oil so it makes a great toner.
So as a kind of experiment, I decided to make a small jar of jelly using some flower-based tea & rose petals.
I decided to use the last four Hibiscus tea bags from Davidson’s that I had left to make some rose petal hibiscus tea jelly. Why add actual rose petals? ‘Cause I can, really.
ROSE PETAL HIBISCUS TEA JELLY
Makes about 1 8-oz. jar with some overflow
- 4 Davidson’s Tulsi Hibiscus tea bags
- 1 cup plus two tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups plus two tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Certo liquid pectin (or 1/3 cup apple pectin)
- 2 tablespoons fresh strained lemon juice
- 4-6 large unblemished rose petals (from roses not chemically treated)
- Sterilize and keep warm two 8-oz. jars & one 4-oz. jar (for overflow, just in case). Place the lids in a bowl of hot water and set aside.
- In a bowl of water, delicately swirl the rose petals to remove any bugs or excess dirt. Remove gently and drain on paper towels. Add the tea bags to the 1 3/4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from the heat, add the rose petals, and let steep for 5-6 minutes. Drain and toss the tea bags & petals (unless you want to add the petals to the jars; they’ll float but you can still add them if you like).
- Add the pectin, lemon juice and sugar to the tea. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until it reaches 220° F on a candy thermometer, or passes the freezer plate test, about 25-30 minutes.
- Pour into prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and place lids & bands, turning only to fingertip tight.
- Process in a waterbath canner for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean tea towel and do not disturb for a day. Check seal. Use any that aren’t sealed immediately.
The tea is slightly rosy itself. But my rose petals were a red color, so the jelly was infused with a slightly more red color than the tea would normally have (and the petals then turned a pale pinkish color themselves, as if all their color was leeched out into the jelly). If you don’t want to use the petals, you don’t have to. It just gives a really subtle rosy flavor. A drop of rosewater in the tea before cooking would work too, but it wouldn’t be as subtle. If you’ve got hibiscus, then by all means- use hibiscus petals! Like I said, the petals float to the top, so when you open the jelly; you’ll see them at the surface. You can eat them, scrape them off and toss them, or save them.
This is a jelly with a slightly looser set. It shakes & jiggles just like jelly is supposed to, and it holds it’s shape well, yet softly. I hate that store-bought jelly is so over-firm. I think jelly should be jiggly, like jello. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, that’s why I recommend in the recipe that you sterilize two 8-oz. jars and a 4-oz. jar. You’ll probably have a little overflow, but you might have more than just a little. ‘Cause see, depending on what kind of pot you use, what kind of oven you have, etc. you might end up with more than just one 8-oz. jar (or maybe a little less!)… so better to be safe, no? And besides, what’s the problem with ending up with more jelly? None as far as I can tell.
This isn’t really a jelly for the casual jelly-lover. It’s a very distinctive, unique flavor and it’s not for everyone. That said… if you love hibiscus tea, you’ll love this.
And don’t worry- if your jelly doesn’t set, you can still use it! It’d be wonderful as a syrup added to iced tea, a vodka or gin cocktail, or sparkling water. Same goes for those petals you save. Plop them in some sparkling water or lemonade, too. It’s very Victorian. And if you love tea, yet you’ve never tried hibiscus flower tea, I suggest you try some. It’s delicious- especially Davidson’s.