I spent New Year's in Jamaica again this year and discovered some new inspiration from the local Jamaican cuisine. This year in Negril, I got a chance to cook an authentic Jamaican meal with Donovan, a Rasta friend who lives on the beach. We made sorrel, a drink that Jamaicans make for Christmas, and a fabulous anti-oxidant rich hangover cure; callaloo, a vitamin packed green sometimes called Jamaican spinach; and ackee, which paired with salted fish, is the Jamaican national dish.
Sorrel, a relative of hibiscus, is made from the spiky dried flowers of the sorrel bush. To make sorrel: Pour boiling water over 2 cups of dried sorrel flowers and let it sit for an hour. The liquid will become bright magenta. Add fresh grated ginger, cane sugar, and overproof rum if you want to give it some extra kick. Pour it over ice and its ready to drink. Donovan made us an extra bottle which we smuggled home with us. I found a great website that sells dried sorrel on line here.
To make callaloo you peel the thick stems and chop them up with its leafy greens. It can be cooked in a covered pot with water, or fresh grated coconut to give it some richness. A little bit of canned coconut milk will work well if you don't have the time to grate coconut. If you're lucky you can find fresh callaloo from your local farmer's market. I get my callaloo from a charismatic Jamaican farmer at the Central Square farmer's market on Mondays when the Market is in season.
Ackee is poisonous if it is not processed correctly and can lead to "Jamaican vomiting sickness." The only edible part is the yellow around its shiny black seed. Ackee has the consistency of scrambled eggs when it is cooked. Outside of Jamaica you can get canned ackee, but I prefer to enjoy it it as breakfast on the island mixed with scrambled eggs.