Saturday morning I rolled out of bed, drank a ton of coffee, got a greasy breakfast, and then proceeded to haul myself home after a long Friday night. The grey skies made the journey exponentially more tiring, and all I could think of was getting into a blanket burrito to binge watch Luke Cage on Netflix. Of course when my parents saw my condition, their conclusion was that their last child needed a detox. Sorrel to the rescue.
“Sorrel is the Caribbean cranberry juice” – Mother Sukhu
Where do I begin to describe sorrel? The term sorrel loosely refers to both the drink as well as the plant which is used to create the deep vibrant red liquid. Sorrel is made from the sepal of a dried hibiscus flower from the Roselle plant (Hibiscus sabdariffa). When soaked, the dried sepal bleeds a deep ruby red colour. The process of extracting the colour and flavours is very similar to making cranberry juice from scratch. The result is a fruity yet extremely tart concoction. Spices, sweeteners, and sometimes even alcohol is added to transform the drink – although in my case, alcohol would not be an option.
Sorrel is synonymous with Jamaican cuisine and culture, but the drink and its variations are popular throughout the Caribbean. Sorrel is usually made around Christmas time either as a steamy spiced drink (sorrel cider) or filled with boozy goodness as a punch.
Regardless of how you enjoy it, there are a number of speculated health benefits very similar to cranberry juice, in terms of being rich with antioxidants, helping to lower blood pressure, and detoxifying properties. I’ve included the Nutrition Facts from the packaging which highlight the high iron and calcium properties:
The website Organic Facts had the best breakdown of these benefits, with some interesting links to PubMed articles.
Whether you drink sorrel for its health benefits or it is part of tradition at your annual Caribbean Christmas dinner, its characteristically red colour will definitely peak your curiosity to try it out.
You can search the internet to find a variety of yummy sorrel recipes (e.g.: teas, ciders, alcohol punches, etc) each with their own spice combination. Below I’ve included a simple spiced sorrel recipe that you can build on.
Simple Spiced Sorrel
1 package of Sorrel
2 liters of water
3 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons of cloves
The peel of one orange
Cane sugar to taste
Step 1: Buy a package of sorrel from your local Caribbean grocer
Step 1B: Ponder at the wonder of its impeccably dried tendrils and deep red colour LOL
Step 2: Lightly rinse the sorrel under a tap for a few seconds.
Once the sorrel comes into contact with the water, you’ll immediately see it start to ‘bleed’ a deep ruby red. Don’t panic – you aren’t loosing any flavours.
Step 3: In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. When the water has reached a boil, remove it from the heat or else the sorrel will ketch (burn). Throw in sorrel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and the peel of one orange.
Step 3B: Ponder once again as the water changes from clear, to pink, to ruby red.
Step 4: Let the sorrel steep. Every sorrel expert has a different opinion on steeping time (my mom and dad argued about this). I would like to think there are four main intervals: 2 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours, or 24 hours – each interval differing in the intensity of flavour, tartness, and prominence of spice.
Step 5: Add sweetener (cane sugar preferably) to taste or if you are really adventurous, you can drink it tart. However if you think your mixture is too tart, add more water, or mix it with soda.
And there you have it! Enjoy hot or cold, with or without a kick of rum. Its a great way to detoxify after a long night and through the winter.