Jamaicans have nuff pride in, and love of, their world-renowned cuisine. Any excuse to feast is seized and savoured; Christmas time is no exception. From a culinary perspective, nothing says Christmas in Jamaica like fruitcake and sorrel.
Fruitcake, rum cake, Christmas cake or black cake are but some names given to the dense alcohol-soaked fruit-packed rich pudding-like cake that has been a Christmas tradition as far back as the 18th century. The evolution of local adaptation of British plum cake to local ingredients is a coveted gift for the holiday. Every family has its own special touches added to a standard recipe. The journey to the delectable dessert is a yearlong process, from the end of the last Christmas season when fresh batches of dried fruits and raisins are put to soak in a rich port or red wine and/or rum in preparation for next year’s baking. Served as refreshment to the many holiday visitors, as a snack for between meals “peckishness” or as the dessert for the main meal, fruitcake is eaten almost continuously during the holiday season. No authentic Jamaican Christmas is without this delight.
Another indelible Jamaica Christmas treat is the refreshing drink: sorrel. So entrenched in Jamaican culinary heritage is sorrel that it is known in Latin America as flor de Jamaica. This wine-red, sweet, gingery, spiced and traditionally alcoholic drink is brewed from the dried fruit of a flowering plant in the Hibiscus family, Hibiscus sabdariffa. Non-alcohol versions include ginger beer or soda water added to substitute the kick of the alcohol. No Jamaican Christmas is complete without at least one “taste” of sorrel.
This Christmas season you can combine the two and make yourself a sorrel fruitcake!
Sorrel Fruitcake (from Jamaicans.com)
2 cups sorrel pulp (saved from making sorrel drink)
7 oz margarine
2 cups flour
2 tsp almond essence
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup mixed fruits
1½ cup cherry brandy
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp mixed spice
½ cup browning
Blend the sorrel pulp
Soak mixed fruits in 1 cup cherry brandy, then blend with the sorrel pulp
Cream together margarine and sugar until light
Whisk eggs and add eggs to butter mixture
Add blended fruits to the mixture
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl
Add dry ingredients and remaining ½ cup brandy to mixture
Add browning and mix
Pour cake batter into a greased baking pan
Place in oven and bake at 350F until done (1 hour)
Serve with sorrel drink or rum punch