Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Healing Hibiscus....Refreshing Tea & Granita

Although most people are familiar with the hibiscus as a flower Hawaiian woman tuck behind one ear to indicate availability for marriage, this delicate flower has many other uses.  With the weather incredibly hot throughout the nation I wanted to post a cool drink in honor of July 4th.  Sweet tea in the south is a standard, however maybe it’s time to reach for some Hibiscus Tea and enjoy its many healing properties.

Hibiscus flowers are dried and brewed all other the world for health benefits. It is known to lower blood pressure and control cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Since I personally suffer from a heart condition, I have started brewing hibiscus tea and have noticed a significant difference in my blood pressure and I also believe it is helping with my weight loss as well.

The extract from the flower lowers cholesterol content in the blood and helps treat liver disorders.  It's rich in vitamin C, is caffeine free and has a smooth pleasant fragrance. Hibiscus tea also contains a number of enzyme inhibitors and affects the absorption of dietary fats and carbohydrates.  It will block the absorption of sugar, and it's cleansing and anti-bloating properties will help the body rid of excess fluids contributing to weight loss, especially in menopausal woman.

The Pharaohs of the ancient Nile Valley would refresh themselves from the desert heat by drinking this crimson tea.  Many cultures around the world today still favor this tea for refreshment and its healing properties.

When I visited the Caribbean before my son was born I had this wonderful granita for a dessert. The view at the restaurant was spectacular, overlooking the beach and the waves crashing in so close to the deck where were dining.  I remember how satisfying and refreshing this granita was without feeling too over indulgent. I asked the waiter if the chef would share the recipe and he was so kind. He came out and sat down at the table to visited with us for a while.  As he was rattling off the ingredients and instructions, I jotted the recipe down on a cocktail napkin and have kept it all of these years.   This granita recipe is a wonderful combination of flavors and presents well in a cool glass.

This recipe calls for Velvet Falernum, a liqueur made in Barbados with rich flavors of almond, lime, vanilla, ginger and clove. It's an essential ingredient used in popular Caribbean cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Zombie. This liqueur is the important ingredient that lends a hand in the slushy consistency and unique flavor combination in the granita.

Hibiscus Granita or Cocktail
1 1/2 Cups Dry Sparkling Wine
4 oz Dried Hibiscus Tea Flowers
2" Section of Orange Peel, Remove White Pith
2" Section of Lemon Peel, Remove White Pith
1" Piece of Ginger Root, Sliced
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/3 Cup Simple Syrup
1/8 Cup Velvet Falernum
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice

Pour Sparkling wine in a small pot over medium heat. Place Hibiscus Tea, Orange, Lemon Peel, Ginger, Allspice and Cinnamon in a glass measuring cup or bowl.

When the wine starts to simmer (not boiling), remove from heat and pour over the tea and spices. Let it steep for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is deep red and fragrant.

Strain the tea and spices. Add the Simple Syrup, Velvet Falernum and Lime Juice.

Let the tea cool to room temperature. Pour into a shallow glass or metal pan, cover and place in the freezer. Let it freeze for an hour and when it begins to harden take a fork and fluff itup to make the granita. Return it to the freezer and freeze another hour and repeat the process.

To make a Hibiscus Cocktail - Allow the mixture to cool completely, then add to a pitcher, add sliced fruit and pour over ice. 

To make the Simple Syrup: Combine 1/2 Cup Sugar and 1 Cup Water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and cool. Use to sweeten beverages.

Hibiscus Tea

6 Cups Water
4 oz Dried Hibiscus Flowers
1/2 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
Sugar or Sweetener to Taste (I prefer to use agave nectar or stevia)

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the Hibiscus blossoms and steep covered for about 10 minutes or until cooled.

When cool, add the sugar or sweetener to taste, mix in the lime juice. Chill and pour over ice to serve.

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