Rosella (Wild Hibiscus) Jam
  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Pesceterian
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

Rosella Jam is the simple sweetheart of this subtropical gardener.

In early spring she buries rosella seeds in a sunny corner of the garden and forgets about them.

The jam stays in her heart all spring and summer, while the little rosella plants turn into big rosella bushes, bullying neighbours out of their way. But the gardener doesn’t mind. She leaves things be, and waits and waits, and when the sun throws long shadows, she returns to the spot and, with secateurs and a big bowl, goes to work on the spent hibiscus flowers.

First slow patient harvesting then slow patient peeling. Only then does the recipe begin.

Rosella (Wild Hibiscus) Jam

Remembered from her mother’s jam, and only now written down.
  • Rosella fruit and their seeds
  • White cane sugar
  • Water

Immerse the picked fruit in a bowlful of water and agitate vigorously, to get off any dirt and insects.

Peel each fruit of all red flesh and make a bowl for the red bits and a bowl for the left over round white seeds. This takes quite a while, so make a cup of tea for the journey and take a comfy seat. Discard any soft or insect-dirtied fruit as you go.

When done, add the seeds to a medium sized saucepan and fill the saucepan with water to just cover the seeds, and then a little more. Bring the seeds to a simmer over a medium flame and simmer well for 20 minutes. You can take a bit longer with this if you like, or let it sit for awhile after they’ve simmered. Basically, you’re just trying to get the pectin (the setter of jams) out of the seeds, and it’s kind of invisible, so it’s hard to say exactly how long this process takes.

Next, drain the seeds (and discard) and save the liquid. Transfer the red fruit segments to a large, wide saucepan or preserving pan, and add the liquid to the pan. Now simmer these red bits until they wilt and are soft enough to smoosh on the side of the pan with your stirring spoon.

At this point, many recipes tell you to measure the rosella fruit and liquid and then add the equivalent volume of white sugar. But I find that all rosella fruit are different and the amount of liquid you’ve cooked them in varies, too. So the best thing to do is to add the sugar by taste. You can measure, too, if you like. In the last batch I made, I added 3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of rosella fruit and liquid.

Start with less than this (about 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of rosella fruit and liquid), and then put the pot on a low flame, stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Once it’s dissolved, taste the jam, and see if it’s the perfect balance between astringency, sweetness and tang. If it’s too tart, add more sugar. Do all this without heating up the jam too much.

Before you start properly heating your jam, put 5 teaspoons on a small plate in the freezer (for testing the setting point later) and start sterilizing your equipment. The easiest way to do this is in the oven. Preheat your oven to 120C and make sure your jars and lids are super clean. Make sure you’ve got enough jars to deal with 3 litres of jam. Place the jars and lids, open side up, on a tray in the middle of your oven and leave them there to sterilize while the jam cooks. Place the seals (if you’re using Fowlers Vacola Jars) and a funnel and ladle in a large bowl and fill your kettle with water to boil. No need to pour the water yet- you can do that closer to filling time.

Once you’ve reached the right level of sweetness, bring the jam to a vigorous boil, scraping the bottom and stirring as it heats to a boil. When boiling, set your timer for 5 minutes and if there’s a lot of froth rising to the surface, start skimming it off with a large metal spoon. Rinse the spoon every now and then so that you don’t transfer any sticking froth back to the mixture between skims. After 5 minutes, take the pot from the heat and finish skimming any remaining froth.

Return the pot to a high heat and once boiling again, set your timer for 25 minutes. Through these 25 minutes, continue to stir the jam as often as you need to, to make sure it’s not catching on the bottom of the pan. Watch out for spitting- as the jam thickens, stirring can become a little dangerous!

You shouldn’t really have to test the setting point of the jam sooner than 25 minutes, but to be sure, do a few tests as you’re stirring the jam: pull the spatula out of the pot and hold it sideways, letting it drip back into the pot. The closer you get to the setting point, to less ‘drip-like’ the syrup dropping back into the pot becomes. It will start to look more viscous, sticky almost, and the drips will try to amalgamate on the spatula before falling into the pot. As well as this change, you will notice the jam becomes thicker, more consistent, and the bubbles clearer, plentiful and more ‘crisp’ in form.

If more foam rises as you’re stirring the jam, skim it off. By the end of the jam’s cooking, you should have a perfectly clean surface.

Once 25 minutes has passed, and if it seems like the drops off the spatula are starting to become less drop-like, it’s time to start testing for the set. Take the pot off the heat and take 1 frozen teaspoon and the saucer out of the freezer. Stir the jam to make it consistent than scoop out a small amount of representative jam from the pot and drop it on the frozen teaspoon. Quickly place the teaspoon on the saucer and take it back to the freezer to cool. Don’t leave it there too long. You want the back of the teaspoon to feel the same temperature as the back of your hand. Test it after a minute or two. If it’s still warm, put it back in the freezer. If it’s too cold, start again.

Once the teaspoon of jams come down to room temperature, you can test the setting point. Tip the teaspoon so the jam spills onto your fingertip. It should run slowly off the spoon, and almost in one stretched out piece. It should be kind of ‘gloppy’ in consistency. If so, you’ve reached setting point and there’s no more jam cooking to be done. If the jam runs more quickly onto your finger, and seems more syrupy, with solid chunks, rather than consistently gloppy, you have some more cooking to do.

Quickly put the jam back on the stove on high heat and cook for another couple of minutes, before testing again. Take the jam off the heat every time you test, and repeat the teaspoon test until you have a gloppy, slow running jam. Once this is achieved, leave the jam off the heat and prepare to fill your jars.

Pour boiling water over the seals (if using), funnel and ladle. Take the jam jars and lids out of the oven (but leave the oven on) and set up your work space with the pot of jam and bottles close by each other. Use the funnel and ladle to fill the jars leaving only ½ cm space at the top. Make sure the jars aren’t so hot that they scorch the jam, by trying out a little jam in one jar first. If it sizzles and spits when it hits the glass, let the jars sit for a minute or two before filling. Use a tea towel to hold the jar as you place the seal on top, or screw the lid on tightly.

Place all the closed jars back on the tray and put back in the oven for 15 minutes, to seal.

34 Comments

  1. Christina
    May 2, 2012 at 1:49 am | | Reply

    What a lovely jam! The clover, and I imagine, the flavor! I know rosella can grow here, but I don’t know anyone who has it. I think I’ll have to look into sourcing a plant.

  2. Kitchen Belleicious
    May 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm | | Reply

    this jam looks amazing! So sweet and perfectly combined with the clover flavor. I love it!

  3. Anina van Tonder
    Anina van Tonder
    July 31, 2012 at 11:59 am | | Reply

    Tasted the Wild Hibiscus with my daughter in Australia. Struggle 2 years to find seed or plants in South Africa. Luckely I read an article, written by Margaret Roberts a well known South African Herbalist, on the Rosella plant. She supply me with seed, I am so exited the first seed is in the ground. Checking it every day to see how big it grow.
    I would like to know at what stage do you harvest the flowers? If you planted the seed in August, when , more or less will you start harvesting the flowers.
    Regards out of South Africa.
    Anina van Tonder

  4. Megan Taylor
    Megan Taylor
    September 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm | | Reply

    Hi Angela, I have just found your recipe for Rosella jam and once my plants are ready to harvest I look forward to trying it out. I love the way you have added the photos . It makes it so much clearer to understand the process. I was wondering if you have a recipe for putting the flowers into a syrup along the lines of those that are sold commercially to add to wine and champagne. I would be interested in giving that a try as well. Thank you Megan.

    1. Deb Roberts
      Deb Roberts
      December 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm | | Reply

      Hi Meghan

      I have been making Rosella Jam for some years and my husband made me a ‘gadget’ to push the seeds from the flowers without breaking them. He got an old screwdriver handle, removing the driver and after heating the same end he inserted a piece of copper pipe, and let it cool. (It’s not the flashest utensil, but it works lol!!) All you need to do is just push the seed at the stem end out through the top of the flower – and you have it…. If you you would like a photo of the gadget just email me and I will send it to you.

      Regards
      Deb

  5. Robyn Murray
    Robyn Murray
    November 30, 2012 at 2:43 am | | Reply

    Hi Angela, do you know where I can buy a box or two or Rosellas to make jam? I too remember my mother’s recipe which I actually found scribbled down the other day – pretty much the same as yours. We lived in Ingham/Townsville when I was growing up and I can’t remember whether my mother grew them or obtained them from somewhere. Probably grew them as we had all sorts of tropical fruit growing around our homestead on our property. I have been in touch with Harris Farm to see if they can get some information on them but they don’t have anything yet. Have been surfing the internet to see and came across your page here so thought I’d give it a go. If you have anything for me, please can you let me know. I am dying to make the jam as I made it once years ago and it’s absolutely beautiful. The perfect jam really. Look foward to hearing from you. Kind regards, Robyn.

  6. Deepa
    January 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm | | Reply

    What a lovely site and post! I wandered here in search of rosella jam processing techniques, as I live in another part of the world where these grow like weeds–India (specifically, close to Pondicherry). Here, it’s rosella harvest time, and there are so many of these beauties around, it’s hard to stop at jams, jellies, and even syrups. I’m allowing myself to go wild with them this year, and I hope I’ll have results lovely enough to share. But in the meantime, thanks for your detailed instructions! They were so helpful.

  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    February 19, 2013 at 6:15 am | | Reply

    I have 4 healthy looking rosella bushes but no flowers any suggestions on why this is happening?

  8. Colette
    Colette
    April 15, 2013 at 7:09 am | | Reply

    I found the best way to remove the seed from the flower is to use an apple corer. Push into end of rosella and gently push the seed out the top of the flower. Hope that helps someone.

  9. Debbie
    Debbie
    April 23, 2013 at 4:42 am | | Reply

    I sell my jam at local markets. I’d like to extend the market season by preserving some pulp for later in the year. Do you know if the calyx freezes well or should I pulp it first and then freeze ?? Any hints ?

  10. Judy Barralet
    Judy Barralet
    May 18, 2013 at 9:59 am | | Reply

    Hi! Just to let you know that I have grown up with Rosellas all my life. My gran use to grow them It was a favourite plant to grow for the German settlers who made jam out of them
    I live in Ipswich in Queensland and the growing season is usually from October till the harvest time of April -May when the cool weather sets in It has been only the last 2 years that I have been making the jam and looking forward to doing the syrup
    In answer to freezing the rosellas my neighbour freezes them whole and defrosts before making the jam and has no problem doing that Still has good results

    Cheers Judy

  11. mhagama
    mhagama
    October 13, 2013 at 7:38 pm | | Reply

    very nic work

  12. Liz
    November 2, 2013 at 12:51 am | | Reply

    Hi Angela
    I am hoping you can help me. I write books about the traditions of country show cooking, and am in the final days of working with my publisher on designing my latest book. It features a cake recipe using rosellas. I am looking for a good photo of rosellas and a search engine led me to your wonderful blog. I am wondering whether you might be willing to share one of your images, with credit of course. Either the fourth or sixth one down would be perfect.
    regards
    Liz Harfull

  13. Janice Florence
    Janice Florence
    February 2, 2014 at 1:48 am | | Reply

    I have an abundant Rosella bush and it is great to get these pointers on making jam. I would love to make a savoury sauce or chutney. Does anyone have a recipe?

    Janice

  14. franko
    franko
    February 15, 2014 at 8:50 am | | Reply

    Hello, just found your v, informative site as Ive just put in two rosella plants and didnot know how to use them. FYI and any subscribers wishing to find rosella plants , Wingham Nursery and Florist,5 william st Wingham NSW ,2429 phone 02 6553 4570 has them for sale at $6.95 each or 5 for something cheaper like $27 or 28 . Thanks for the helpful jam instructions.

  15. Jonathon Slottje
    Jonathon Slottje
    March 1, 2014 at 7:54 am | | Reply

    Hi Angela,
    I’e a Rosella bush bursting out in buds, How do you prepare the fruit and leaves for use in salads?
    Kind Regards,
    Jonathon

  16. Heather
    Heather
    April 3, 2014 at 12:41 am | | Reply

    Hi Angela Had a good crop of rosellas this year and looking for (yet) another Rosella jam recipe and stumbled into your Good Soup site which I haven’t looked at for ages. Re Jams. I have Gma McIvor’s recipe book with the often made marmalade recipe and others. Do you have?

  17. Christinegulil
    Christinegulil
    May 4, 2014 at 10:49 am | | Reply

    HI, just thought I would let you know, I bought my Rosella plant in Bunnings (WA) in March 2014. Has grown beautifully and is fruiting prolifically. Jam is not far away!!!!

  18. Cherylj
    Cherylj
    June 7, 2014 at 11:01 am | | Reply

    I also found Rosella plants at Bunnings in Brisbane last November, which I gave to my father as a present…… I’ve made I think this’ll be my 5or 6th batch for him from them this year lol
    We all joke is the gift that just keeps on giving lol & I use an apple corer to pop the seed pods out makes it much easier.
    Your recipe is fantastic thank you for sharing it

  19. Graham Dalby
    Graham Dalby
    July 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm | | Reply

    Hi, I live in Townsville & have been growing Rosella’s for about 20 years, I purchase seed from EDEN SEEDS,they are on the net & the seed is non- genetically modified with no chemical treatment, $3.20 for 25 seeds, Ph 07 5533 1107, I save approx 300 seeds a year as friends want them, Thankyou for a great recipe, I’m about to try it with a batch, Regards Graham.

  20. Bev Reynolds
    Bev Reynolds
    July 8, 2014 at 4:47 am | | Reply

    What a lovely site. I have just been listening to an ABC talkback on rosellas in Darwin asking about recipes as they grow wild in the bush. If you google rosellas Darwin NT there is a great govt site with recipes from the Botanical Gardens Darwin includes chutney. Keep up the good work. Rosellas originated in India and Malaysia.

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