We haven’t had much of a winter and it will soon be warming up even more, so it is a good time to familiarize yourself with cool, refreshing, and delicious flavored waters.
As you are purusing the fruits and vegetables at any market here you will see dried flowers and bean pod things. What are these and what are they used for? The dark red dried flowers are hibiscus flowers used to make Jamaica tea and the bean pod things are tamarind pods used to make Tamarind water. The other flavored water you will see offered in restaurants is Horchata water (rice milk). Most of these are sweetened with sugar which increases their calorie count, so feel free to substitute agave syrup (or try them without any sweetener).
Here is how you make locally Flavored Water for your enjoyment as our temperatures rise:
A couple handfuls of dried Jamaica Hibiscus flowers
8 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over hibiscus flowers. Let the flowers soak in the water for about 20 minutes. Pour the liquid and flowers through a strainer a couple times to remove all the tiny little dried bits. Pour into a large pitcher and add in sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour in remaining water. Add more sugar or water if necessary. I like to add fresh mint or basil leaves at the same time that the dried flowers are soaking for additional flavor. Chill and serve. This can also be served hot.
15 tamarind pods
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, remove from heat. Prepare the tamarind by removing the outer shell and pulling off as many strings as you can. Place the tamarind pots and sugar in the water. Let the tamarind soak for a couple hours. Place the soaked pods in the palm of your hand and squeeze out any liquid and pour mixture through a strainer. Chill and serve.
1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
2 cinnamon sticks, preferably Mexican
8 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
Heat 4 cups water to a boil and remove from heat. Add rice, cinnamon sticks, and sugar. Let soak for a couple hours. Puree mixture in a blender in batches until smooth. Pour through strainer into a pitcher. Stir well before serving. Chill and serve with a dusting of ground cinnamon.
by Shelly Johnson