As I mentioned Thursday, I’m home once again after spending some time in Panama. I’ve been busy since my return, in what I call “nesting” mode.
SU is quite capable of being head cook and bottle washer when I am away but he has been occupied with our neighbor’s casa and garden so the bare minimum gets done in our house. I arrive home with wash to do and find that the bedding needs changing, he’s using the same bath and kitchen towels I left on the racks and lots of dust has accumulated on every surface.
I’ve now done many loads of wash, stocked up on groceries in preparation for Carnaval in Las Tablas, we’ve run in to get a few things in Chitre and I’ve cleaned up the front garden. On Wednesday our neighbor down the road brought me some Saril to cook up into mermalada along with a jar of tomato jam.
Saril is also known as red sorrel and it is related to the hibiscus that grows six to eight feet tall. The shrub looks totally red when it is in “fruit”. The flowers of the bush are white with a maroon colored center and when the flower drops the fleshy calyx remains. This calyx is used in salads, jellies, cranberry-like sauces, jam and cordial, syrups and wine. Dried, the red calyx is used for tea and it is an important ingredient in the commercial Red Zinger, Hibiscus and Fruit teas. The tea is similar in taste to rose-hips and high in vitamin C.
In Panama the annual harvest begins in December and is over in February. Saril is mainly used by Panameños as a Christmas and New Year’s drink and is often mixed with Seco, the traditional white can liquor. The mixture is prepared by stripping the petals of the red flowers away from the seed pods in the middle and boiling the petals into a tea. Often a bit of fresh ginger root, lime juice and sugar are added to the deep red tea which is then chilled.
My instructions for making the Saril Mermalada were to strip the calyx and save the seeds for planting. I was to add only sugar, no water and cook the mixture down to the right consistency. Skeptical about not putting water in the mixture I went ahead and made it right away. It turned out deliciously good and tastes very similar to cranberry sauce. Surprise! This is what is used as a substitute for cranberries in tropical countries.
Later in the year hopefully I’ll be harvesting our own Saril, saving the hunt for cranberry sauce. In the meantime, we’ll be savouring our little jar of deliciousness in the campo.