South Indian cooking is very tamarind intensive. In my early cooking days, I used the tamarind extract that comes in a jar. As my cooking skills advanced, this convenience no longer tasted good to my refining taste buds. Now, I am all about fast cooking and if it has no taste, so be it, as I mentioned before, but if I make a dish that is supposed to have certain ingredients and taste a certain way, I can no longer make do with pre-processed foods. As I used to call myself before, I am an idli (a lentil-rice cake eaten dunked in stew made with – you guessed it – tamarind) snob. Fresh ingredients and the works.
I have always said to R that what stops me from making South Indian stews most of the time is the tamarind juice extraction. It really doesn’t take that much time when all is said and done, but it is just one extra step of planning that I hate doing. So, up went the phone, dial went the numbers, to my aunt. She’s an expert in these shortcuts (if you’re reading this S-P, here’s giving you credit). What to do on Sunday night so that the week’s cooking goes faster. There it is! She told me that the juice can be extracted and frozen in ice cube trays.
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Note that I don’t say how much tamarind. I used the entire packet that I bought.
1. Submerge tamarind in excess water and forget about it for a few hours.
2. Messy step coming up – squeeze all the juice you can out of the tamarind. Pour into a thick bottomed stainless steel vessel (not aluminum or non-stick), even if it means adding a lot more water. Because you’re going to boil it down anyway.
3. Add salt and turmeric, place on a low flame and kind of forget about it. Not quite because it should be stirred occasionally. It should boil down to a thick syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.
4. Once cool, transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. I didn’t freeze it. It was good for about a month (I used it up by then, so I am not sure how much longer it would have been good).
The turmeric, salt, and sugar are all antibacterials.