Sorrel

December 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is sorrel?

You probably know the plant as hibiscus. What Trinis call sorrel is not the sorrel plant, but a drink which is produced from steeped hibiscus fruit or flowers and spices.

The drink is a brilliant red color,sour, sweet, and spiced. Also, it will stain anything forever.

For Trinis, it isn’t Christmas without sorrel! I can’t remember a year without it. When I was little I couldn’t wait to smell sorrel on the stove and drink some Poncha de crème with my Christmas Cake.

We are lucky enough to have a West Indian market nearby so that we can pick up sorrel whenever we want, but during this season, the shelves are empty. I know that in nearly every West Indian house nearby someone is getting out the big sorrel pot and steeping some flowers.

Obviously, that’s what’s going on at my house.

Ingredients

  • 10z dried Sorrel (if you don’t have a West Indian market you can get it here, or if you prefer organic, here
  • 330oz Water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 piece of ginger
  • 5lbs granuated sugar
  • 5 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 liter Strawberry syrup

Directions

  1. Boil water in large pot
  2. Remove pot from heat and add dried sorrel, cinnamon, and clove
  3. Cover and leave overnight
  4. The next day, add sugar, bitters, and syrup to pot
  5. Stir to mix
  6. Strain sorrel and pour into container
  7. (optional) Flavor with rum for an alcoholic kick


Wagashi and Tea Ceremony

November 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

I love wagashi.

It was kind of a problem in Japan, because wagashi and matcha (powdered green tea) are so expensive that I could only have it on special occasions.

I love everything about them. Their seasonal shapes. The overwhelming sweetness. The combination of that sweetness with the bitter green taste of the matcha. The solemnity of the tea ceremony.

So what is wagashi anyway?

Wagashi means literally Japanese candy. While the term can refer to a range of candies, they are all generally made out of an bean paste and are often served at tea ceremonies. The sweetness of an is nothing like the sweetness of sugar, it is deeper and doesn’t give me the sugar jitters.  Since wagashi are most often made of plants, they have little to no fat. Also adzuki beans, especially when processed into an paste, have high concentrations  of catechins, anthocyanidin and polyphenols. So, if you want to have candy, you might as well eat some that might fight cancer and heart disease!

These little candies come in all shapes and sizes, but they are above all other things seasonal candies. The image above is of a wagashi that I bought in spring, it is appropriately a flower blossom. There are wagashi for  winter,summer, fall, and even moon and rabbit shaped wagashi for the moon viewing holiday.

If you ever go to Japan, it is likely you will encounter these at a tea ceremony, so here is a basic run down of how to comport yourself:

Tea Ceremony for the Common Person

This is what you do when you are given your chawan (tea cup)

  1. Bow
  2. Take chawan with right hand, place it in palm of left hand
  3. Rotate chawan 3 times clockwise with the right hand (this should make a 180 degree turn)
  4. Look at the cup and admire it (the “front” of the cup is facing you now)
  5. Try to drink the tea in 3 sips
  6. After drinking, wipe the rim of the chawan where it touched your lips with a napkin
  7. Rotate the chawan as in step three, but counterclockwise
  8. Return the chawan to your host
  9. Bow

Ginger Tea

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have an easily upset stomach, and I hate taking medicine, so this has been a wonderful alternative to pain relievers and gas pills for me.

Ginger is known to alleviate nausea, arthritis, diarrhea,  and even lower cholesterol. Not only this but it is an analgesic, sedative, and has antipyretic and antibacterial properties!

Below is my rough recipe for ginger tea, but these instant crystals were also popular in Japan, where I first drank this tea.

Ginger Tea

  1. Peel and cut up ginger roughly
  2. Pour equal parts sugar, water, and ginger into pot
  3. Boil until mixture takes on a syrupy consistency, about 30 minutes
  4. Either strain out ginger or leave in and store in a jar
  5. Make tea by pouring hot water over ginger mixture

Yuzu

November 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today I will tell you about one of my favourite fruits in the world; yuzu.

It is a type of  East Asian citrus that looks similar to the child of a lemon and a grapefruit, but is supposedly a hybrid between the sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. The fruit itself is very sour and basically inedible, but the peel is amazingly fragrant.

Nothing else I have ever smelt or tasted has been like yuzu.

In Japan, yuzu comes into season in winter. It’s easy to tell because as soon as you enter the grocery store you are overwhelmed with the strong scent that emanates from the piles of fruit. There, during the winter solstice yuzu is added to hot baths to ward off sickness from the coming cold winter nights.

However my favorite thing to do is to make yuzu tea! It tastes amazing and it is often used to help cure colds and ease an upset stomach.

Yuzu cha (Yuzu tea)

  1. Gather several yuzu
  2. Peel and pith yuzu
  3. Discard Pith
  4. Section yuzu
  5. Create a simple syrup about equal to the amount of yuzu in wieght
  6. Layer yuzu flesh, peel, and simple syrup in a jar
  7. Wait one week
  8. Spoon out a bit of the yuzu cha into a cup, and cover with boiling water
  9. Drink!

Kefir

November 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

 Have you ever heard of kefir?

I learned about kefir a few months ago when I was trying to find an alternative to yogurt making. I had sold my yogurt maker and I was looking for an easy way to get in my probiotics. After a bit of searching, I stumbled upon kefir.

It is a fermented milk drink that if full of probiotic bacteria strains. Where it originated in the Caucasus region, milk was left out in animal skin bags over doorways to turn into kefir, the movement from visitors jostling the bacteria enough for them to distribute evenly. It is sour, slightly alcoholic, fizzy, and somewhat like runny yogurt. But while yogurt has only 3 or 5 strains of bacteria, kefir made from kefir grains has around 50 different strains!

Not only that, it is way easier to make than yogurt. No boiling! No billions of tiny glass cups to sterilize!

I got my grains at Cultures for Health, but if you aren’t willing to make your own just yet you can buy Lifeway Organic Kefir.

How to make kefir

  1. Procure grains
  2. Place grains in around 1 quart of milk in a shady area
  3. Leave alone for 24 hours (less in hotter climates)
  4. When the texture is jiggly but the whey hasn’t separated from the rest of the drink, enjoy!

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