WITH less than four weeks to Christmas Day, we should all be busy getting our Christmas kitchens stocked. Not only are making pastelles and black cake part of my Christmas regime, sorrel is as well.
Not only does the seasonality of sorrel make it special, it's refreshing and delicious qualities make it highly-favoured by many. I grew up enjoying freshly-brewed sorrel sweetened with a simple syrup and flavoured with cinnamon and cloves.
Sorrel is available globally mostly in the dehydrated version. Not my favourite, but it serves to bring the local Christmas flavour to many Trini homes abroad.
Sorrel also called Hibiscus Sabdariffa or Roselle plant also has its roots in West Africa. Most of these plants managed to thrive in Caribbean regions due to favourable weather conditions similar to that of Africa.
There many cultural variations to making sorrel drink. Some cultures add ginger and local spices to taste. Others make cocktail variations by adding rum, gin or vodka.
The health benefits of this festive drink are many. Sorrel contains bioflavonoids and vitamin C which make it very effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels and curing common cold respectively. Regular intake may reduce blood pressure.
When buying fresh sorrel look for sorrel with plump sepals, if they tend to be thin and wilted, it is stale, and will not flavour at its optimal capability.
To prepare sorrel remove the sepals from the seed, discard the seed, Wash the sepals, place them in a large pot with some sticks of clove and cinnamon.
Cover well with boiling water, cover and let stand in your kitchen for up to three days.
After this time your sepals would have released all their colour and flavour into the water. Strain and sweeten to taste with a simple sugar syrup.
Another seasonal and very popular drink is ponche de crème, also colloquially called ponche a crème, which accurately translates to cream punch.
It probably has its roots in the spiked eggnog beverage served at Christmas time in other countries. Our combination of condensed and evaporated milk, eggs, bitters, rum and lime zest, wins the global award for the best Christmas ‘ponche’ every time!
Ponche de creme
3 14 oz tins evaporated milk
1½ tins condensed milk, or 14 ounces condensed milk
2 cups dark rum, or more if desired
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp minced lime zest
1 tsp bitters
In a blender process eggs with lime zest until light coloured, add fluffy.
Add evaporated milk and condensed milk, process to blend well.
Add bitters, nutmeg and rum, mix well, taste and adjust flavourings to suit.
Serve over crushed ice, and garnish with lime slices.
The mixture can be cooked briefly in a double boiler to avoid the "raw" egg issue.
6 eggs separated
8 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
½ cup Cognac
½ cup dark rum
1 tsp vanilla essence
11/4 cups heavy cream, lightly whipped
zest of 1 orange, finely minced
zest of 1 lime, finely minced
1/4 tsp nutmeg
With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and creamy. Stir in the milk, brandy, vanilla and rum.
Whisk the egg whites until very stiff and fold into egg mixture. Chill for about 4 hours.
Mix heavy cream with orange and lime zest.
Fold cream mixture into egg mixture, pour into stemmed glasses or cups and top with grated nutmeg. Serves 4-6
To make sorrel drink just clean the sorrel, by removing the seeds, put the sepals into a large non-reactive pot, add some cloves and cinnamon bark. It does not matter the quantities, do this to your taste preference. Add enough boiling water to barely cover the sorrel, cover tightly and steep overnight. Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup. Chill and serve over crushed ice or with club soda for a refreshing sorrel cooler.
Basic sugar syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pound sugar
Combine water with sugar in a small saucepan.
Cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 10 minutes.
Cool , bottle and refrigerate until ready for use.
Wendy's Cooking classes
Holiday cookie baking class for students
December 8 (9 am-12 pm)