This wasn’t any old weekend. Thank God.
This was a weekend where there was time. And Sugarcane. In season again!
Yes. Time which some weekends bring.
Not all….mind you.
Don’t talk to me about the weekends where I barely get out of bed on a Saturday morning and before I say ‘A’, its Monday. Grind day.
That wasn’t this weekend. This weekend when I had time for leisurely pursuits, such as the making of all drinks.
Coffee with cardamon. Hibiscus juice (pretty revelatory). But the big deal was freshly pressed sugarcane juice. With ginger and lime.
I hate useless kitchen utensils. Things that but serve one purpose and do no more.
Not that I have many of those in my kitchen.
The night before, I cleaned my pasta maker . Terrorised as it is by the extreme humidity in this country – some bits have began to rust.
And because you must never wash your pasta roller; I ran a few slices of bread through it, to clean. That’s on the machine.
Now on to romance and sugarcane.
I’ve never courted it. Not the way some people I know have.
Why would I? It’s hard, unwieldy bark. The chewing and chomping and labour for little juice.
Much effort. Little recompense.
Not the thing for Miss Instant Gratification. Me.
Till I remember how quickly, in SE Asia Luke Nguyen downed his glass of sugarcane juice, on the streets of some Vietnamese city, pressed between two giant rollers till juice did come forth from hardy fibres.
And so, did you know that the sugars in sugar cane make up only 15%? And that its potency is equivalent to wheatgrass juice – true with less green matter aka chlorophyll and more sugar. Yet, the sugars are raw and unrefined. (Hint: good for you?)
The other 85%? Water, with traces minerals. All fine…by me.
Several scientific studies have revealed that sugarcane is extremely high in a unique mix of compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a large class of phytonutrient compounds with powerful antioxidant properties and numerous health benefits. When consumed as a “whole package,” the polyphenols in sugarcane juice work in harmony with the vitamins, minerals, and other cofactors to slow down the absorption of its sugars into the bloodstream, resulting in a very low glycemic index (the effect a carbohydrate has on blood glucose levels), which keeps the body’s metabolism healthy and helps maintain a healthy body weight.
To give you a comparison, the glycemic index of refined sugar is 64, compared to raw sugar cane which has a glycemic index of 30 to 40 (nearly half that of refined sugar) depending on the soil in which it is grown. Source: Processed Free America
So what’s the big deal about the juice?
Where shall I start?
Cooling (like cucumbers but with more)
And deeply satisfying, with an almost vanilla flavour. Its amazing to see what ‘common’ sugarcane yields.
Apparently I have come late to this discovery for all over Africa it’s drunk – with passionfruit and ginger in Zanzibar and with lemon and ginger in Mombasa, Kenya.
In India, it is enjoyed in a a variety of ways that often but not always include black salt, lemon/lime, ginger and mint. It is of this that Santosh Desai writes so beautifully in ‘Remembering sugarcane juice’ online in the Times of India.
I’m looking forward to enjoying Nuoc Mia, as the Vietnamese call it. They enjoy it in a variety of ways and I’m most interested in having it with kumquat juice. As you know, I am a BIG kumquat fan, and was fortunate to find loads at a store in Lagos months ago. I brought some home and candied the lot, which is to say I have a fair bit of kumquats in my possession.
…..the peanuts added a complimentary savoriness to the semi-sweet drink. I say semi-sweet cause it really was not overly sweet — it just tasted like sugar water, with a bit of vegetal funk, if you can imagine that. Source: The Many Faces of Nuoc Mia, Umami Mart
So here’s the recipe:
Get some sugar cane. Be sensible, buy the ones already stripped of the tough outer.
5 stalks for 500 Naira. $3 or so. Cheap as Chips. (#onlyinnaija)
Separate the meat from the ‘seams’ that joining them – you know, the hard, unchewable bit.
You’ll need a clear head and a cleaver. Be mindful with both.
With said cleaver, and head screwed on, set the sugarcane cylinders upright.
This is no time for venting frustrations.
Gently set the cleaver down, till you cut the cylinders into flat pieces, just under a centimetre wide, which should just about fit into the largest setting on your pasta roller.
Here’s your starting point. Destination? Romance!
You may, like me, find the strips of sugar too fat for the widest setting. Gently bash the strips with a mallet. Mindful matters, so that not all juice is lost.
Begin. Strip on top.
Bowl underneath to catch all the juices. The whole point of this exercise.
You’ll have to be deft. Catch the strips before they fall into your juice bowl……
This is what we have to do, when we juice at home.
Each strip is chock FULL of juice. You’ll have to run it through the rollers multiple times, folding it over on itself, getting the juice out. Maybe even turning the knob of your pasta roller down a notch. Next setting. Smaller space between. More juice.
Continue. While you’re at it, add a few strips of ginger. Easy peasy.
For your efforts you’ll be rewarded with a pile of fibrous bits.
And a fair amount of juice. About 2 cups.
Then on to drinking.
You’ll need Ice. Crushed ice. No compromise.
Lime. No compromise. Honestly, you’ll thank me.
Decant your yellow-green juice, with a light head of froth.
We’re ready. Set to walk off into the sunset.
Hand in arm. In love.
Better still? Alone.
Not that I don’t like sharing. #thingsIlove
We all craved more. Deeply satisfying is the only way I can describe it.
It won’t keep. You must drink it right away.
No storing. No keeping. No saving.
Sip it slowly from a glass.
With a long straw.
Marvel at the goodness of life.
Saying that, I make a declaration:
How to make sugarcane juice in the blender by The Tiffin Box
The Many Faces of Nuoc Mia on Umami Mart
Have you ever had sugarcane juice? In Nigeria? SE Asia? Done anything else with it, like dry-steam chicken a la Luke? Which I did try. It was tasty, though nothing distinctive about the sugar cane. The juice captures more of the essence :-)!