by Jeneba Ghatt
While Americans usually feature Egg Nog as a holiday drink, in Trinidad and Tobago there are several beverages that are consumed during the Christmas season. Among them is sorrel, puncha cream and ginger beer. My favorite is ginger beer because I love ginger — it aids in digestion. It also reminds me of the variation of the drink that I grew up with in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The ginger would steep for at least one day so the output was quite a pungent drink that had quite a punch!
Recipe from the book, Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago (Hippocrene Books, NY), by Ramin Ganeshram. Available at Amazon.com.
1/2 lb. of fresh ginger, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 ½ cups of light brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 sprigs mint
Put ginger, lime juice, mace and 3/4 cup of the sugar into a wide mouthed gallon glass or ceramic jar. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into jar and add the pod. Add 12 cups boiling water to jar and stir until sugar dissolves. Set ginger mixture side to steep and cool to room temperature. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for 1 week.
Line a large sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain ginger mixture through sieve into another wide mouthed gallon glass or ceramic jar, firmly pressing on solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard solids. Add the remaining sugar to ginger beer and stir until it dissolves. Serve in glasses over crushed ice, garnished with mint sprigs.