Hiron and his daughter, Albia Lugila (our god-daughter) stopped by our house mid-December and invited us to her Quinceañera. In exchange for a bag of frioles and two large Grenadina fruits, they asked us to supply the grand fiesta with liquor…enough liquor to serve over 200 festive party goers. That’s a lot of liquor! What could we make and how would we transport it to the little community at the base of the active volcano?
After much thought, we decided to make Jamaica Rum punch. It’s not a traditional drink for a grand fiesta, but it would serve many people and keep the cost low. Jamaica is a flower known to many as the Hibiscus flower. It grows abundantly in Nicaragua and has many astonishing health benefits. High in vitamins and minerals, its powerful antioxidant properties help to lower elevated blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and detoxify the entire body. Since Jamaica is high in electrolytes such as chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium, the juice can be used to replenish electrolytes in the body after exercise, a day in the sun, or in this case a long night of partying and dancing. Of course, we added three gallons of rum to our punch, so it’s hard to say if the rum counteracted the health benefits. Regardless, the Jamaica Rum punch was a BIG hit. We served 20 gallons in less than two hours.
There is a large field of Jamaica near our house. With the permission of the owners and armed with two five gallon buckets, some friends, and lots of energy, we spent a morning picking fresh Jamaica flowers.
A close up of the Jamaica flower…a vibrant, gorgeous red.
An hour later, we had filled two five gallon buckets with Jamaica flowers.
The Nicaraguan way of carrying a bucket of Jamaica flowers.
Opening the flowers, we exposed the seeds. They look like tiny chocolate chips. We dried them in the sun and several days later, Ron planted the seeds to start our own Jamaica field.
Back at our house, we separated the flowers from the seeds. With timed contests, it was clear that Maria had lots of experience separating the flowers and seeds. She was consistently the winner!
The small seed pods are perfect colors for Christmas.
I let Ron find the ratio of water to Jamaica leaves. Math totally frustrates me. We wanted a strong concentrate so we could fill two five gallon buckets with the juice, then add more water, rum, sugar, and lots of pineapple chunks and orange slices. We hoped to end up with 20 gallons of Jamaica Rum punch to take to the party.
Ron planned a 1:1 ratio of water to leaves initially. I boiled the leaves for 5 minutes, then it simmered for 10 minutes. This took all day with the amount of flowers we picked and only one large pot.
When the concentrate was a deep red color, we poured it into a bucket, strained the leaves, then added 3 pounds of sugar per bucket. Whew! That was a long day!
The next day was the Quinceañera.We loaded our two buckets of concentrated Jamaica juice, a borrowed bean bowl for the punch bowl, 20 pounds of ice that I made and stored in our freezer, and an overnight bag into a taxi. Then, we stopped in town to pick up 2 borrowed coolers, more ice, 5 gallons of rum, a 5 gallon container of water, 5 pineapples, 20 oranges, and we were off to the party.
Let me tell you of a good business for Moyogalpa…an ice machine. No one sells cubed ice on the island. We had to order 12 small bags of blocked ice from a woman named Vicky. She must have a freezer in her house and has a nice little business selling blocks of ice.
Since I sincerely doubt that you will be making 20 gallons of Jamaica Rum punch, the recipe that follows is for a smaller quantity and modified because we have most of the ingredients growing at our house.
Jamaica Rum Punch
3 quarts of water
1 ( 1/2 inch) piece of ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 cups dried Jamaica flowers, also known as hibiscus, 2 cups of fresh flowers
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups of Flor de Cana rum
slices of oranges, pineapple, limes, and other fruit
Combine water and ginger in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and add Jamaica flowers and sugar until the sugar dissolves. (If you are using fresh flowers, add them to the boiling water). Let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large heat-resistant bowl or pot. Stir in lime juice and refrigerate. When ready to serve, add ice, 2 cups of rum, pineapple chunks, and orange slices.
You can find the dried Jamaica flowers at most Latin grocery stores or online.
Rico! I can’t wait until our own Jamaica ( pronounced Him-i’-ca) field is in bloom. I think we’ll make Jamaica wine, next. By the way…the 15th birthday party was a blast. I think I took over 200 photos…next post coming soon.