Tamarindo!

Yesterday I made tamarindo.  Not from a powder or a mix, but from a bag full of actual tamarinds.  Incidentally, the http://www.mexgrocer.com/mexcocina-sep4.htmltamarind is a pretty freakin’ amazing fruit.  Not only is it the main ingredient in the popular Mexican agua fresca, agua de tamarindo, it has about a gazillion other uses, and is on some folks’ watch list of up and coming fruits for the next century.  I’m on a bent to discover more about all the odd fruits and vegetables that you stumble across in ethnic markets, but rarely see in mainstream grocery stores.  Part of this is due to the fact that these ethnic grocery stores are invariably quite a bit cheaper for fresh produce.  Part of it is just culinary curiosity and a desire to experience more of God’s amazing creation.

But, back to making the tamarindo. 

It’s not a complicated recipe.  Shelling the tamarind pods is easy and quick work, and they’re only mildly sticky.  In addition to removing the hardened carapace, you need to also remove the 2-4 fibrous veins that run down the actual seed pod.  This is pretty quick work.  I opted to go ahead and boil the shelled pods, though I did find a recipe that indicated this was not a necessary step.  Apparently you can just pour the water over the pods and the flavor will still leech through.  But I wanted to use the actual pulp, not just the flavor of the pulp, so I boiled.

The exhaustive part is seeding the resulting pulp ‘mash’.  Probably the best way to do it would be to mash it all up and put it through a sieve, which is what the better recipes tell you to do.  Being ‘lazy’, I just stood there with my hands in tamarind goo for half an hour or more, pulling the seeds out.  Most of the pulp is mooshed off pretty easily at this point, but the seeds remain in a slightly firmer encasement.  Since I have a Vita-Mix, I knew that leaving the encasements (but removing the seeds, which are remarkably hard) wouldn’t be an issue.  For anyone who wants to utilize fresh or frozen fruit, and retain as much of the fiber and nutritional value as possible, I can’t recommend the Vita-Mix highly enough.  I’m looking forward to grinding our own flour in it for baking next week.  Woohoo!

Once I had seeded the pulp, I pureed it in the Vita-Mix, and added the remaining water called for in the recipe.  Having just had agua de tamarindo for lunch at a *very* authentic hole-in-the-wall here in town, I knew how watered down it usually was.  Perhaps they make theirs from a powder/mix.  Mine was much thicker.  I only used 1 cup of sugar, as opposed to 1.5 cups.  Tasted fine to me.  I also added more water to dilute the mixture a bit – perhaps another 2-3 cups worth. 

I’m looking forward to enjoying it tonight with our homemade chicken tortilla soup!

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