Sorrel a wonderful spice infused beverage that’s consumed during the festive season.
As we are fast approaching Christmas I’ve been working hard behind the scenes on a few projects I’m hoping to launch for the new year. Although with that being said I couldn’t miss the opportunity to submit this wonderful Caribbean Christmas beverage recipe. Sorrel not to be mistaken for the common or garden sorrel is a species native to West Africa which was brought over to the Caribbean during the transatlantic slave period. It is high in vitamin C (great for strengthen the immune system) and brimming with antioxidants.
The flower when fully matured bears a bright crimson hue and this is what is used to make the drink. Some of you maybe familiar with this plant as it has several different names; Florida Cranberry, Roselle, Hibiscus Sabdariffa, Saril, Bissap just to name a few and believe me there are SO many names for it, with that being said I want to focus on the Caribbean style of making Sorrel as this is what the post is about.
If you’re lucky enough to have visited the islands during the festive season, then you already know about some the culinary dishes which are prepared during this time. Each island brings something unique to the table and that is what I love about the Caribbean embracing each island’s uniqueness.
You find anything various food and drink traditions such as pastelles (Trinidad) cremas (Haiti) jug jug (Barbdos) or even pepperpot (Guyana). Although the aforementioned are unique to each island, they do share some similarities for instance most islands drink sorrel and eat black cake (a sweet fruit cake) during Christmas.
The drink sorrel is made using the bright red petals with water, spices, ginger and sugar to sweeten. Some people prefer to add a splash of alcohol to their sorrel making it an all exclusive grown up affair. When I was growing up my grandmother would make two batches of sorrel one for the children and the other one as she would say “fix it up” with rum, we weren’t allowed to drink that one.
Each person makes sorrel differently, for instance some add a large amount of ginger, yielding a strong pungent taste. I personally find Jamaicans tend to go hardcore on the ginger. Others focus more infusing the drink with spices – pimento seeds (allspice), cloves, mace, cinnamon and even orange peel. You wouldn’t use all of the spices at once, just select one or two of your preferred spices to include.
When I make sorrel I like to make it with an admixture of ginger, pimento berries, cloves and orange peel. Pimento (allspice) is a spice that covers a number of spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and mace) in one which explains why I simply toss a few whole berries into the boiling pot of water.
Another thing I like to do when the sorrel infused water has boiled, I add all of the spices, ginger and sweetener to the pot while it is still warm. Adding the condiments to the pot during warmth allows the ingredients to fully infuse and the sugar to dissolve before the water completely cools down.
It is best to steep overnight and strain the next day, however if this not possible then leave for at least 2-4 hours.
- 2 cups of dried sorrel
- 8 cups of cold water
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 tbsp of ginger, grated (can adjust to 1tbsp if too pungent)
- 6 pimento berries (1/2 tsp of allspice)
- coconut palm sugar (I used ¾ cup) to taste or any other low GI index sweetener
- orange peel from a small orange
- optional add ins
- In a large pot bring the water, sorrel and ginger to the boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the stove and then stir in your chosen spices, in which case that would be the cloves and pimento berries (allspice) followed by the orange peel.
- Sweeten to taste before allowing to cool down completely.
- Once cool place in the refrigerator to steep for 2-4 hours or preferably overnight.
- Strain and discard the excess sorrel, peel and spices before serving.