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Agua de Tamarindo

Up until about 10 years or so ago, I didn't know much about the tamarindo (family Leguminosae).  Not much beyond a Jarritos bubbly beverage or a delicious, sour, hot, chewy candy that could be quite addictive.  My hubby on the other hand was quite familiar with that sticky fruit that surrounded pit-like seeds and lay enclosed in a hard, brownish pod.  Growing up, my suegra (mother-in-law) used to give him and his hermanos cut up pieces of tamarindo instead of candy.  To them it was like watching all the other kids in the neighborhood get an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck while he had to have a popsicle from his own eating a "house burger" when all the other kids were eating Mc D's.  If only we had known then what we know now, huh?

Ha ha ha ha....okay...back to tamarindos.  Another thing mi suegra makes is Agua de Tamarindo.  Tamarind Water.  It is called Agua Fresca (fresh water) or sometimes an Agua Preparada (prepared water).  I'm definitely going to be making several kinds of Agua Frescas over the summer...they're so cooling and, well, fresh go figure.  This is mi suegras method for making Agua de Tamarindo...I've added in "amounts" for the ingredients, but they are really up to your own tastes.  Like most all of the seasoned home cooks in Mexico...and elsewhere, just fits my story to say MIL uses her hands and her eyes to measure.  I've given you the measurements I came up with while making it her way...

Agua de Tamarindo
from la cocina de mi suegra

~1/2 - 3/4 lb. tamarindo pods
~1 1/2 qts. water
~1/2 c. piloncillo, crushed  (if you don't have access to piloncillo, you can substitute brown sugar)

Begin by peeling the hard pod away from the sticky fruit inside.  Grab the stem-end and snap it.  There are strings that run the length of the pod...gripping the stem, pull down, releasing the strings from the fruit.  This will crack the pod on the way down.  Peel off what remains of the pod.  You will be left with a long, sticky tamarindo.  The bumps are the areas where there are seeds.  You do not need to remove the seeds now for making the Agua Fresca, but they do pop out pretty easily if you make a little slit in the side.  Or just take a bite off and slide it off in your mouth.  It's sour, but delicious! And you will be left with sticky fingers once all of your tamarindos are shelled.
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy pot.  Add the shelled fruit and the piloncillo.  Boil for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and loosen the tamarindo from the seeds, then cover and turn off the heat.  Let the pot sit for 3 or 4 hours...or even overnight.

Remove the lid and stick in your clean hands and massage all that tamarindo pulp around...make sure it's mashed up good and that it's released from the seeds.  Strain it into a pitcher that holds at least 2 quarts.  Press on the pulp and seeds to make sure you get all that great flavor out.  If you don't like the cloudy sediment (which is delicious and harmless), then strain it again, but this time set a damp coffee filter inside your strainer to hold all the larger sediment.

Add enough cold water to make 2 quarts.  Taste and if you like it sweeter, stir in a bit more crushed piloncillo.  Mi suegra sometimes just makes the water initially w/out the piloncillo and sets a whole cone of it in the water while it's sitting...letting it dissolve as it will.  You can do it either way...whatever you like!

That's it! Serve it nice and cold.

I store and serve it in my favorite clay pot, but I wanted to give you a clearer view of it, here it is, a little more visible.

This is my entry into My Legume Love Affair from Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.


*I am also entering this in Recipe4Living's Summertime Sipper Contest (thanks Sophia!!)!