Armed with 2 kilos of peeled ripe tamarind, at just PHP30 per kilo, it was time for a few experiments. I had little or no access to the web while at the beach, and had no previous experience with cooking ripe tamarind, so I decided to wing it, and if all failed, I wouldn’t feel bad about the monetary expense. The crew helped me peel off the stems and large veins from the ripe sampalok, then I placed it in a pot and covered it with water.
Put the pot over medium high heat and bring the water to a boil and lower heat to a steady simmer. I mashed the sampalok a bit, but after a few minutes realized it was disintegrating on its own. Tasted the water and my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets from the intense sourness of the broth, so I added a cup or two of sugar and let it simmer for another few minutes. It was still incredibly sour, and I decided I was going to make my own sampalok puree for use in roasted chickens, and additions to other cooked dishes, so I figured it had to be redolent with flavor, but not overly tart that it would be an unwelcome addition to other experiments. So I added another cup or two of sugar. So perhaps 4 cups of sugar to 1 kilo of sampalok and several cups of water.
Without much of a wait, the sampalok, water and sugar turned into this beautiful mass, it smelled wonderful and tasted so intensely of tamarind, but sweetened. I knew instinctively at this point this was going to be a really good thing. I realize this may seem really common or mundane to some of you familiar with cooking ripe tamarinds, but to me, this was a whole new food experience, incredibly unique and exciting.
I strained the solids out (the seeds and the tough layer around the seeds) and ended up with this fabulous medium viscosity puree. Had I added a bit more sugar and kept stirring over a medium flame, I would have ended up with jam. But instead, I decided to work with the puree. I ended up with roughly 5-6 cups of puree and stuck 3 cups in the freezer, and noticed the next day that it didn’t freeze up… cool. Must have been the high acidity/high sugar content of the puree.
It seemed a waste to throw out the solids that still had lots of stuff attached to it, so I added some hot water, let it all swim together and strained out the solids again, ending up with a tart/sweet tamarind broth or liquid. That’s what’s in the pitcher on the left of the photo above. It would be turned into a FANTASTIC drink, up next. Meanwhile, I was wondering what to do with my newly created bounty of sampalok puree… Stay tuned for more on the sampalok adventures. :)