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Sorrel, a Popular Jamaican Christmas Drink

Sorrel, a Popular Jamaican Christmas Drink

There’s no Christmas in Jamaica without sorrel, a drink that is infused with ginger, sweetened with sugar and spiked with white overproof rum. It is as ubiquitous at Christmas time as rum cake, curried goat, and rice with pigeon (gungo) peas.

A hibiscus variety, sorrel came to Jamaica from West Africa. According to the National Library of Jamaica website, references to Jamaican sorrel date to the 1700s.

How to Make Sorrel Drink

Sorrel plant

Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is also rich in copper, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. Researchers at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University have found that three varieties of sorrel that are grown on the island could be effective in fighting some forms of cancer.

Many Jamaicans have the plant in their backyard gardens and some use it not only to make the popular Christmas drink but also to cool fevers, cure colds and lower blood pressure.

Sorrel Drink

Sorrel sepals

Its popularity as a Christmas beverage likely stems from the fact that it is harvested around November/December – just in time for the festive season. For many years, sorrel was only available at that time but as the numbers of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals living in North America and the UK swell, you will find several different brands of the dried sepals for sale in supermarkets and health food stores. You can also find the bottled beverage available in some Jamaican/Caribbean restaurants.

Sorrel is also popular in Latin America. A few years ago, my boss’ Mexican wife introduced me to flor de Jamaica. I was so fascinated by the name of the blood red tea she’d made, it took me a while to realize that the color and vaguely familiar aroma was really sorrel.

Unsweetened, sorrel has a sharp, tangy taste. Add a little sugar and it becomes a refreshingly delicious drink. Sorrel can be used to make jams, jellies and chutneys, the leaves can also be used in salads.

Sorrel Drink
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Ingredients
  1. 6 cups water
  2. 3 cups sorrel sepals
  3. 2 oz ginger
  4. 6 whole pimentos
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Bring water to boil.
  2. Pour boiling water over sorrel and ginger. It should be enough to cover the sorrel
  3. Cover and let steep overnight.
  4. Strain and sweeten.
  5. Add rum, if desired.
  6. Add pimento berries and refrigerate.
  7. Serve with ice.
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New York City at Christmas

Red Christmas balls New York

Christmas decorations start going up on stores, office buildings and private homes in New York City right after Thanksgiving. The decorations are sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate. No matter, they put a smile on my face and help me get into the spirit of the season. I’m sure they do the same for others, which is why there are usually scores of people milling around.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 9.07.35 AM

All Dressed Up for Christmas

Each Christmas, this building on 6th Avenue near 50th Street decorates with these large red balls but every year when I see them, it feels like the first time (at least to me). A little Christmas magic, perhaps?

Red balls decorate building in New York

All Dressed Up

Lipstick lights decorate a building in New York

All Dressed Up in color

Radio City Music Hall tree

All Dressed Up – Radio City Music Hall

[Read more...]

The Poinsettia

Few flowering plants say Christmas (or December) the way poinsettias do. I found this beautiful one a few weeks ago at Devon House in Kingston.

Poinsettia, maynefoto

Pointsettia, maynefoto

The Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, wrote the following poem, Flame Heart, in praise of the poinsettia. It sums up some of my feelings since I returned home — there’s much that I’ve forgotten about this place but I haven’t forgotten the poinsettia. Now, in addition to the traditional red, there are white, pink, variegated ones.

Poinsettia, maynefoto

Poinsettia, maynefoto

Flame Heart

So much have I forgotten in ten years,

So much in ten brief years! I have forgot

What time the purple apples come to juice,

And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.

I have forgot the special, startling season

Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;

What time of year the ground doves brown the fields

And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.

I have forgotten much, but still remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.

 

I still recall the honey-fever grass,

But cannot recollect the high days when

We rooted them out of the ping-wing path

To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.

I often try to think in what sweet month

The languid painted ladies used to dapple

The yellow by-road mazing from the main,

Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.

I have forgotten—strange—but quite remember

The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.

 

What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year

We cheated school to have our fling at tops?

What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy

Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?

Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days,

Even the sacred moments when we played,

All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,

At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.

We were so happy, happy, I remember,

Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.

Season’s Greetings!

Poinsettia, maynefoto

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Kwanzaa!

Merry Christmas / Feliz Navidad / Joyeux Noël!

Season’s Greetings!

Wishing you 

Health, Happiness and Peace this Holiday Season

and a Productive New Year of Blogging