Tamarind Water Kefir: A Probiotic Jarritos Tamarindo Copycat
Two weeks ago our dear friend Peter got married in a gorgeous ceremony and had a rockin’ reception in his backyard in San Diego. Or so I heard. For logistical reasons, I wasn’t able to attend the wedding. Worse yet, my husband was. Of course I’m so happy that my husband was there to support one of his oldest friends on such a special day. I was also extremely jealous that he got to be there and be in San Diego while I stayed home in the Philly swelter. (I love you, Philly, but I could use some crystal blue waters about now).
Missing the wedding was the worst part, of course, but adding insult to injury, I also missed the taquerias. If there’s one thing I miss about living in California it’s the taquerias. Like every major city, Philly has some very good taco options, and I live 2 blocks away from some of the best fresh, tortillas in the country. But the ubiquity and quality of California Mexican food cannot be beat. I miss it! My husband was apparently harboring some secret grudge against me because he continuously texted me tantalizing photos of taqueria food: salsa bars with 10+, perfect house made options. Pickled carrots, onions and radishes galore. Fresh ingredients and bright colors painted his plate next to abundant avocado slices. I briefly thought of divorce. Then I remembered the old adage: if you can’t get on a plane to California, make your own Tamarindo.
Anyone who has any exposure to taqueria life (yes, I’m calling it a lifestyle) will be familiar with Jarritos, the glass-bottled sodas that come in fantastic flavors like guava, hibiscus, pineapple and, my favorite, tamarind. As you may have guessed, given that I write a real foods blog, sodas are not something in which I generally indulge. I will make a couple yearly exceptions to this rule: a Vernors while visiting family in Michigan and a Tamarindo Jarritos while visiting family in California. The former will always be true, but with this recipe, I may be off the taqueria tamarind permanently. I can get my fix whenever I want it and in a more probiotic fashion.
If you aren’t familiar with tamarind, it’s an ingredient that you should be able to find at just about any Mexican or Asian grocer. It has a uniquely tart/sweet flavor and grows in beautiful, smooth brown pods. You can substitute the paste here, Iwould estimate a scant half cup of paste as a substitute, but I prefer the pods. They hold together decently well which leads to few pieces making it through the strainer.
PROBIOTIC TAMARIND WATER KEFIR RECIPE
It is important to use water kefir that is still relatively sweet for this recipe. The sweetness will be consumed in the bottle and give you some serious fizz. I recently read that that all of the sucrose in water kefir was consumed and converted after 24 hours of fermentation, and a 24-hour primary fermentation leaves it plenty sweet for this. I’m sure there are factors that alter this (sugar quantity at the start, temperature, etc) but know that the sugars are consumed and converted relatively quickly, so you don’t need to stress about it too much. The secondary fermentation you’re doing here will take care of the majority of the sugar, but still fructose is a by-product of water kefir fermentation, so if you avoid sugar, water kefir may not be your best fermenty choice. If it’s just sucrose you want to avoid, make sure to let your finished tamarind kefir sit in the fridge for a couple extra days. It will be more tart, but it will contain less sugar.
- Half-gallon growler or other sealing container for bottling. A thoroughly cleaned, two-liter plastic soda bottle works great.
- 1 cup (8 oz or 225 grams) shelled tamarind pods
- 3 T light brown sugar
- 7 cups still sweet water kefir (click for recipe)
1. Shell the pods, but otherwise you can keep them whole.
2. Strain your finished but still sweet water kefir into your bottling vessel. Reserve grains for your next batch/es.
3. Add brown sugar and mix thoroughly until dissolved.
4. Insert whole tamarind pods into the bottle.
5. Seal bottle and allow to sit at room temperature for one day or until fully carbonated (if bottling in plastic, you can feel that the sides of the bottle have gotten hard). If bottling in a mason jar, check for a puffy lid. If in in a growler or other glass bottle, keep very close tabs, because there is a risk of explosion. If the lid puffs at all, stick it in the fridge. Under no circumstances should it be left at room temperature for longer than 24 hours. Water kefir is vigorously bubbly and it will explode if not refrigerated.
6. Once carbonated, place your vessel in the fridge for 24 hours, longer if you want a more sour less sweet beverage.
7. Use a fine mesh strainer, such as the one you would use to make primary water kefir to avoid tamarind bits in your fizzy drink. You can reserve the tamarind pods and bits for another use, just make sure to use them quickly.
8. Enjoy chilled with some tacos topped with pickled or fresh whole radishes.
NOTE: I cannot stress enough that there is an explosion risk during secondary fermentation of water kefir. From all my emails and all of the forums I’m on, I know one thing: water kefir is the most explosive of all the countertop ferments. DO NOT put yourself at risk. Bottling in plastic is the safest way. If you bottle in glass, it’s best to put your container in a container (a cooler or in a plastic bag stuck into a double paper, grocery bag both work), and check regularly and carefully for carbonation. Once it’s done, into the fridge it goes, IMMEDIATELY.