When our daughters were younger I remember that whenever anyone was coming to visit from Trinidad and Tobago they always had a few bottles of Sorrel Shandy in their suitcase for them. Especially Tehya, who felt grown-up drinking from a bottle which looked similar to a beer bottle. My memories of sorrel (the drink and not the salad greens) is one of much joy, especially since it’s a drink most people from the Caribbean associate with the holiday season around Christmas.
My mom and dad would always plant sorrel between their corn and pigeon peas in the garden and come the later part of the year is when the flowers would be in full bloom and ready for harvesting. The flowers of the plant is what’s used for making the sorrel drink. In the recipe below I’ll be using dried sorrel which is commonly available in most West Indian and some Asian markets as I couldn’t source fresh sorrel petals. This will also serve to prove that sorrel does not have to be a drink enjoyed around Christmas time as the dried sorrel works just as great as the fresh stuff and is available all year long.
Before we get to the recipe I must mention that if you use less water and no sugar (as mentioned in the recipe) you can make a concentrated syrup, which you can bottle and keep in the fridge for quite a while. Then all you do when you’re ready for a refreshing glass of sorrel on a hot day, is to pour some out, add sugar and water and you’re good to go.
2 cups dried sorrel
8 cups water
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup sugar (see note below)
Note: I started off with 1 cup of sugar, but ended up using 2 cups. I only mentioned 1 in the recipe since your tolerance for sugar will be a bit different than mine. This way we have a starting point to which you can use as a gauge to add more (to your liking).
This is a very simple recipe, which does need a bit of time and patience since the sorrel must steep to release all it’s wonderful flavors.
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, then add all the ingredients to the pot. Bring back to a boil and reduce the heat to a rolling boil. Allow this to boil for about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow this to steep for at least 4 hours (overnight would be best).
Next up, strain the contents into a juice jug and add more sugar as needed (see note above). You can store this in the fridge for about a week… if you don’t finish it before then.
* You can certainly add more cinnamon and cloves if you want to give it a more ‘spiced’ flavor and if memory serves me correctly, I believe my dad would also put some dried orange peel when boiling. I add my sugar when the water is hot so it dissolves faster… just my way of doing things. If you want a grown-up version you can always add a shot or two of dark rum or vodka to your glass.
Here’s the video I did when I put this sorrel recipe together: