Tamarind Balls & Tamarind Syrup
What luck I had in the market in Guadeloupe when I spotted an elderly gentleman selling fresh tamarinds in a bag.
It was not 10 or so tamarind it was a 5 pound bag for a mere 1 euro. I snagged one bag wanted to take 2 but I did not want to be a glutton. Tamarinds are found in the Caribbean and some parts of Asia. In the Caribbean we have the more acid variety while in Asia they have selectively bred the tamarind so that the flesh has very little acid and it is totally sweet. In North America I have noticed the pulp selling and the box of the sweet Asian variety. In some West Indian stores they carry the acid variety along with the products that it can make. I have tasted many things tamarind. An interesting tamarind product I tried was tamarind Popsicle and it was so tasty. In Barbados we make tamarind balls and tamarind syrup with the tamarind. The Asian sweet variety is available so many people usually buy this because it does not need any preparation and can be eaten directly. I made tamarind balls this morning but this time I made them spicy. This recipe was inspired by some tamarind balls I had at the Barbados Museum when I was 11 years old. It was sweet, acid and spicy. Barbadians usually do not acid spice or pepper to their tamarind balls and only add brown sugar to make it but, other islands add pepper.
10 tamarinds shelled
sugar for rolling
pinch of black pepper
1/4 tsp of hot Bajan pepper sauce or 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Shell tamarinds by using a thong to pull the fruit out of the shell. Tamarinds are kinda dirty on the outside so I do not like to shell and use the same fingers for touching the tamarinds. I found that using a thongs to pull it out is easier.
Scrape the flesh from the fruit.( I did not do this as it is my preference )
Grab a few pieces of tamarind and press in the sugar until a lot of sugar is incorporated into the flesh. Add spices and pepper. Roll into balls with sugared hands and store in an airtight container. You can put this in the fridge or you can leave it outside. These can be stored in the fridge for many years. Yes I am serious , they do not go bad at all.
Note on Tamarind Balls:Tamarind balls are eaten by children mainly and some adults who just love tamarind balls. I find if I have upset stomach and I eat a piece of tamarind ball I feel much better. The spicy tamarind balls can be use as an appetizer or you can omit the spices and make regular sweet tamarind balls. The Asian variety is sweet already and you can eat it like that. I never tried making balls with this but feel free to try and tell me what you think.
500 g of shelled tamarinds
200 g sugar
water to boil the tamarinds
Boil the tamarinds and throw out the water. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times according to how much acid you want to leave in the final product. You can taste the hot tamarind each time you boil and wash out. An alternative method is to soak the tamarinds for a day or two changing the water regularly.
Add sugar to the tamarind pulp and still and boil on low heat for 20 mins. Cool and store in a sterile jar.
Note on Tamarind Syrup: It is good at both room temperature or chilled in the fridge. If you have sugar cane syrup you can add tamarinds without soaking to this sugar can syrup and store for many years. The acid and the sweetness from the cane syrup would marry and you would have a lovely tasting treat. I find when you overcook and over wash your tamarinds the syrup just taste like sugar. I usually wash mine 3 times maximum and leave some of the acid in or I search for sweeter tamarinds.Overcooking the tamarinds to get the acid out could result in the seed sticking to the casing. I think the Asian variety would make lovely syrup. You can remove all of the seeds with a knife and patience or you strain this syrup so that is seedless. In Barbados they eat this with the seeds as a sweet snack but in the future I would make some without the seeds for cooking.I like to use Barbados brown sugar for making tamarind balls are it is very delicate and not to finely packed. I did not have Barbadian sugar for these recipes today so I use regular brown sugar. I used this sugar last year with some tamarind balls and I loved the result. It is a little pricey but it is quality product from Barbados and they said it is made from younger sugar canes and it is milled so it is less processed. I think all of Barbados sugar is vegan as I asked before but I would double check but I am almost 100% sure it is.