A few years ago, in early spring, I was making my way out of hibernation and decided that a fancy brunch with my husband would help kick-start the transformation process. We didn’t hold back and ordered almost everything on the shared plates menu because, why not? As a large cheeseboard made its way to our table, I caught the scent of a floral, fruity and oddly familiar accoutrements. I discovered that it was preserved prune, but instead of a sticky, heavy sweetness, this prune was sophisticated. It knew what it was doing on that cheeseboard and whoever in the kitchen of that charming eatery came up with the idea of preserving a prune in something other than plain simple syrup was a genius.
After our meal, we went straight to the market and picked up a bag of dried prunes. The next day we concocted our own version of hibiscus prunes by soaking them in a hibiscus tea and we never looked back. Preserves have always been a favorite of mine, but sometimes it can be a troubling process to make sure you are preserving fresh ingredients properly. What I love about rehydrating dried ingredients is the simplicity of it, especially dried fruits, which release their own sugars into the syrup they are being stored in. The slightly floral scent I caught before I met the hibiscus prunes for the first time was not just the hibiscus, it was the prune itself, coming back to life and saying “Hi,” just like the rest of the world does at the beginning of spring.
Making the Most out of Hibiscus
I am a hibiscus lover. Ever since my first taste of hibiscus tea, or “Agua de Jamaica” off of a food truck back in my misspent college youth, I knew that it was the beginning of a beautifully romantic love story. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying this delicious beverage you will understand why I am so passionate over this exotic little flower. The first time I made hibiscus prunes, we had eaten them all within a span of a week. Needless to say, it was a very, ahem, active week. At the end of which, I found myself staring at two jars, both half-full of hibiscus syrup.
I ended up putting that syrup on top of everything - ice cream, yogurt, fruit, pancakes...the list goes on.
It was only recently that I realized I could reinvent the tea - the very same that started this hibiscus-infused obsession of mine — by adapting it into a dessert. I decided to use the excess syrup from the hibiscus prunes to make a granita, which is a simple kind of Italian ice, and give a nod to its famous ancestor who stole my heart ages ago and has kept it ever since. Whatever you choose to do — whether you use prunes as your dried fruit, decide to go ahead and make the granita, or just cover everything you put into your mouth with the leftover hibiscus syrup — you will be a winner. I can promise you that these recipes will change the way you think about dried fruit, help you find a new friend in the delicate hibiscus flower to fawn over and maybe spark a bit of unexpected creativity in your kitchen.
4 Cups Water 0.5 Cup Sweetener 1 whole Lime (Peel and Juice) 1 small knob of Ginger 3 Tbsp Dried Hibiscus Flower 3 Cups Dried Prunes 2 stems of Mint 2 Mason Jars
Peel the Lime using a peeler and separate the peelings into equal amounts, place in jars. Combine water, hibiscus flower, lime juice and the sweetener of your choice (I prefer maple syrup) in a medium sized sauce pan. Slowly bring this to a boil and, once boiling, allow it to roll for about 30 seconds in order to activate the sugars from the lime juice and the sweetener. Turn the heat off and cover the pan for 2-5 minutes--the longer it steeps, the stronger the hibiscus flavor. While the hibiscus is steeping, chop the ginger into semi-thick half-moon shaped pieces and add equal amounts to each jar.
Place half of the amount of prunes in each jar and lay mint leaves on top of them. Carefully strain and pour the hibiscus tea into each jar, filling them up to the base of the neck. Place the circular lids on top of the jars but do not screw on the rims yet. Allow the contents of the jars to come to room temperature before securing the lids 4and storing in the refrigerator. Leave the prunes in the fridge for at least 24 hours before enjoying. My favorite way to serve these is on top of yogurt with granola for breakfast, but they are also delicious served with cheese and other dried fruits on a cheese board.
Hibiscus Granita (a.k.a. “Nieve de Jamaica” or Hibiscus Italian Ice)
1.5-2 Cups Coconut Water 0.5-0.75 Cups of Hibiscus Syrup
After one or two days the hibiscus prunes should be soaking in a light syrup. Measure out the desired amount of syrup and pour into a flat pan or small baking dish (I always use a smaller sized baking dish that is at least one inch deep). Stir in the coconut water, making sure that the mixture is not more than 0.5 inches deep. Store the pan in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. It should slightly freeze over during that time, creating a loose slush.
Stir the slush thoroughly with a fork and allow it to freeze for another 30 minutes. Repeat the process over again every 30 minutes for about 3 hours, making sure to scrape the sides to prevent thick ice crystals from forming. Ultimately, the consistency of the final product should be similar to that of sorbet. Serve immediately either on its own or with fresh fruit (it’s also delicious with a small serving of hibiscus prunes on top). The granita can be stored for up to three days in the freezer, covered in plastic wrap.
If these recipes put a smile on your face, keep your practice going both on the mat, in the kitchen, or in any room of your home by learning How to Create a Yoga Space at Home. Then find a great practice to complement your new yoga space and Turn Your Frown Upside Down with Gina Caputo!