June 2, 2012

A Lovely Fella Bringin' Me Rosella.

A perfect jewel-like rosella jelly

Flashback: Twas the day before our community information event in the valley last April. Friends of Numinbah Valley were working full steam ahead putting together the final touches to our presentation day. The event surprisingly made the Gold Coast Bulletin (see article below) and we didn't even ask for the advertisement. The investigative reporter was kind enough to promote the day and I'm pleased to report we had a terrific show up of people, mostly with good intentions, but the opponents made the usual fools of themselves.  The police were called to disperse their ugly attempts at preventing people from entering the hall and from them trying to gate crash proceedings. And contrary to the operator's comments saying that most people supported his business, it has become very clear that most people do not.

My phone was running hot in the week leading up to the event and so when the phone rang the day before, I was quick to assume it was about the presentation day.  I found myself speaking with a lovely fellow named Darrel. He said that he lived not too far from the border in NSW and that he had bushes loaded with rosella fruit. How did he know me? From reading and enjoying Through My Kitchen Window he tells me. I was totally floored. He said he had heaps of the fruit and he extended an invitation for me to pop over the border and to take some, presumably for preserve-making. I was so humbled and so delighted that someone after reading my blog wanted to offer me their produce. You could of knocked me down with a feather!

I had to admit that Through My Kitchen Window has been sadly neglected for quite a while. How funny it is when something like this happens?  Out of the blue and totally unexpected. I explained to Darrel that we were having our community day on Saturday and given I was so busy I regrettably couldn't take the time out to come see him and take advantage of his generous offer. In my next breath I asked him if he knew The Numinbah Valley and that if he would pop over the border he'd find me in the Hall on Saturday afternoon. Low and behold, Darrel tells me his wife had to work in Tweed Heads that day and so he would do just that. If I couldn't come to get the rosellas he would bring them to me.

And on that crazily busy Saturday afternoon when I'm flat out with people, one of the coordinators tells me that there's someone asking for me. I excuse myself, ducking through the crowd until I stumble into Darrel holding onto a bag of rosellas and a recipe for jam and cordial. "I can see you're busy, the dogs are in the ute and I can't stay anyhow". I thank him, a quick exchange of friendly banter and we hug as though we were long lost friends. Darrel tells me that he and his wife enjoy reading my blog, especially the preserves and the photography. Another blow me down with a feather!  At a time when I'm dealing with some pretty awful people, Darrel's kind gesture couldn't have come at a better moment. Such warmth, kindness, goodness and generosity .  Thank you Darrel.

I had never before worked with the rosella fruit.

The Save Numinbah Valley Friends organisation didn't have much time to rest after our community day. It was the local election the following week and my whole family jumped on board to help with our divisional candidate standing against the incumbent. All the NV Friends carried on with garnering support for the Have Your Say period while we soldiered on with the election campaign. What a week! I could write a book on that week alone! And what a fantastic result - we ended up creating history and having the devious, power-hungry, self-serving poor excuse for a councillor who allowed this unlawful business to begin, booted out!  The Have Your Say period is currently in the decision stage.

Somewhere between the presentation day and election day I needed to find the time to do something with the rosellas. It was bugging me so much, but every day was filled with activity. I finally snapped on the Wednesday and decided I was making jelly there and then. I guess it was easier that way. Being a two stage process meant I didn't have to do it all in one sitting. By the end of the morning I had separated the calyx from the seed pod of all the rosellas. I followed the instructions from "The Country Cookbook" by the beautiful Belinda Jeffery. Cooking the rosellas and then rigging the fruit up in a jelly bag saw the end of the stage one process.

So there I was on the busiest day ever, the day before the election, when I decided to make the jelly. Looking back now, it seems so funny. I had calls from people everywhere including the candidate himself asking where was I stationed for the day. I can't recall exactly what I said, but it went something like this: "Well Glenn, I'm actually stationed in the kitchen making rosella jelly right now. When that's done I'll finish letter box dropping the last of the brochures, I'll race up to the prepolls and give Sue a break, no sign of the article - the reporter tells me it'll be in print on Election Day - grrrrrrrh, I'll get onto the kids about where the election ute needs to be seen and let's run over the strategy for tomorrow again." But only and I mean only after I've made the Rosella Jelly.
*(I hope you are having a little chuckle kids - what a time - and I take my hat off to each of you for your outstanding efforts in that week).

Well I hope you approve Darrel. I know it's been a while, but I ended up using all the fruit. I didn't chuck them out and I hope you feel pleased to hear I'm delighted with the results. I've already given away four little 100gm jars and I have three larger jars left in the cupboard plus one little jar and another in the fridge. A friend of mine who is familiar with the taste of rosella, sampled the jelly yesterday together with some home made pikelets. She said it was so flavoursome and truly delicious. I guess the real test will be in three weeks. I'll enter the Rosella Jelly in the Mudgeeraba Show and then we'll see what the judge thinks. Cross fingers. Whatever the outcome, I'm happy - with the community day, with election day, with the rosella jelly, but mostly with a lovely fella's kindness to bring me rosellas.

Deceivingly dark in colour not helped by an
 overcast, rainy day, poor light and black lid.

Rosella Jelly
about 1 kilo of rosella fruit
1 large freshly picked lemon
3 green apples (the fresher the higher the pectin content)
sugar, to be determined depending on amount of juice
  • Rinse the rosellas well. Separate the fleshy burgundy part or 'calyx' from the seed pod. Both components will be needed to make the jelly.
  • Put the seed pods, chopped apple together with skin, core and seeds and lemon pips(reserve the juice) into a very large saucepan.  Pour in enough water to cover the fruit; bring to the boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently.
  • After 40 minutes, add the reserved calyxes along with extra water; about one and half cups.
  • Increase heat so that the mixture boils again, then reduce and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
  • Line a large colander with double thickness of fine clean muslin, leaving a big overhang all the way around. Secure the muslin to the edges of the colander with some pegs to keep it in place when you pour in the rosella mixture. Sit the colander into a very large deep bowl. It needs to be deep enough so that the rosella liquid can flow through but not come into contact with the colander contents. 
  • Be careful, if your colander has holes all around the sides, your liquid may come through up and over the edge of the colander. It's happened to me; and the last thing you want is to waste your precious liquid.  To be on the safe side; pour your liquid in slowly and carefully and not all at once. Watch how it behaves. If it begins to escape over the edge of the colander; drop everything and lift the colander so that it flows into the bowl directly beneath. You will find what works best for you after trial and error.
  • Once you have reserved most of the liquid its time to secure the jelly bag. I place a strong rolling pin over the colander; collect all sides of the muslin cloth and carefully bring four sides together. Tie as tightly as you can. Place the jelly bag onto a strong support like the arms of an upturned stool or between two standing chairs with a bowl underneath to collect the remaining rosella liquid. Allow to drip overnight or for a couple of hours at a minimum. Do not squeeze the bag.
  • Measure out the rosella liquid to work out how many cups of liquid you have. Pour into a very large saucepan; add the reserved lemon juice. For every cup of rosella liquid, I added three quarters of a cup of sugar.  Many cookbooks tell you to add one cup of sugar to every cup of liquid, but I'm reluctant to do this anymore. I've found that too much sweetness can actually overpower the fruit to the point that all the flavour is lost. This is such a shame. So much effort has gone into making jelly. I want to make sure that at the end, I can taste the flavour of the fruit. I've learned this through my jelly making using the lilly pilly fruit which can be quite bitter. In the end you decide what works best for you, but for me, 3/4 cup of sugar to the liquid is ample. Marmalade making is different - you need more sugar; but that's another story.
  • The following gives you an example of my exact and precise measurements.
  1. I started off with 1130gm of rosella seed pods and calyx.
  2. I added 1200 mls water to this quantity along with apples and lemon pips.
  3. I ended up with 1800mls of rosella liquid.
  4. I added 1400gm of sugar and lemon juice.
  • Over a low heat stir constantly till the sugar has all dissolved. Refrain from stirring anymore from this point. Turn up the heat and rapidly boil the jelly until it begins to 'plop' inside the saucepan and the jelly turns from drips and into 'globs' on the wooden spoon. I test this by placing the spoon into the jelly and lifting it up high to see how fast it drips back into the mixture. By setting stage it should hardly drip and round globules begin to form quickly. The jelly is ready.
  • Pour into sterilised jars and seal immediately.
Jelled to perfection


  1. Gosh Martsa. Your writing always has a warm and endearing glow to it. :)
    Well, I look forward to seeing how your Rosella jelly goes in the Mudgee show too! You always enter something new for that entra sparkle. Thanks Daz!
    Are you entering your divine capsicum sauce again? Pleeeeease do!
    I'll see you soon.


    1. Hi dear daughter. It'll be interesting to see if the jelly bags a ribbon this year. I personally feel the jelly section is the hardest. Apart from coming down to taste, the setting, texture and clarity of a jelly is so important. The prob with the capsicum sauce is that it's quite a bit of work and I really need one of those french hand puree sieves for a really fine result with little waste. Might and try to find one in Melbourne this week when I come down. Look forward to seeing you soon. Ma xxx

  2. Jam looks lovely!

    Is it possible to sub the lemon for Lime?

    I hope the decision goes in your favor, what do you think the result will be?

    1. Thanks Meagan. Yes you can sub with lime. Expect a different tangyness though.
      As for the result - no idea. We can only do our best. This we've done and now it's just wait and see what prevails. In the meantime, I look forward to reclaiming my old life and doing some good old fashioned cooking!