Posada Tamarindo in Mérida, México was named for the very large tamarind tree growing in the garden. This mature tree is lush, green and full of tamarind pods just waiting to be put to a culinary use.
Tamarind pods ripen in late spring to early summer. As the pods mature they become more bulbous and the skin becomes brittle and easy to break. The interior of the pod is a brown or reddish-brown pulp surrounded by a few fibrous strands and encasing several shiny hard brown seeds that seem like pebbles. The pods can be left on the tree for 6 months after maturity resulting in a lower moisture content of the pulp. The high acid and sugar content of tamarind gives it a refreshing sweet sour taste. Tamarind is rich in vitamin B and high in calcium. Unbroken tamarind pods will keep indefinitely as they require maceration to release their juice.
Tamarind is used as a spice in Asian and Latin American cuisine. It makes wonderful sauces for fish, shrimp, meat, pork, poultry and eggplant. Tamarind is a key flavour ingredient in Worcestershire, HP and Pickapeppa sauces. Tamarind is sold in the forms of pods, paste, commercially prepared sauces and candy. In Mexico, it is also made into Agua de Tamarindo, the most popular flavour of the aguas frescas. It is a very refreshing drink on a hot day.
Tamarind is becoming easier to find with the rise in popularity of Asian cooking. I found the pods at the Auchan store in Luxembourg. If your local grocery store doesn't carry tamarind pods or paste, try an Asian market.
Feliz cumpleaños Tacho – this recipe is for you.
Agua De Tamarindo
Makes about 2 L (8 cups)
125 g (4 oz) fresh tamarind pods*
1.5 L (6 cups) water
60 mL (1/2 cup) sugar, or to taste
500 mL (2 cups) ice
Twist the ends off tamarind pods and pull to remove fibres, discard the peel. Bring 1 L (4 cups) of water to a boil in a large saucepan; add tamarind pulp and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat; let steep at least 2 hours at room temperature (or covered and chilled overnight).
Pour tamarind mixture through a fine sieve into a glass pitcher. Press the pulp through the sieve discarding the seeds and remaining fibre. Stir in 500 mL (2 cups) water and ice. Chill and stir before serving.
* 80 mL (1/3 cup) tamarind pulp can be used in place of the fresh pods