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Juice: Romancing Nigerian Sugarcane

by on November 13, 2013
 
Romance – budding or not
A glass of crushed ice (must be beaten. To ‘crushes’ with a rolling pin)
Must
Fragrant lime cheeks, off the slant. Squeezed for juice (Held and inhaled. Transported to green hill far, far, away. Romance again)
Yellow ginger. Fresh. Peeled with a spoon then sliced thin. Juiced too.
The heat warmth of a tropical afternoon
Caressing my fine brown skin
And sweet, sweet sugar cane juice
Pressed between barrels of steel
With tools meant for another
Dug from dark and humid places
Marked with rust
 
Juice
Gently poured on ice, fragrant with lime
Glasses festooned with straws of red and white
Spiraled paper
Eager hands and throats
Cooled off in the tropical afternoon
Falling in love
With juice
And more
Over
And over
And over again

 —–00000—–

This wasn’t any old weekend. Thank God.

sugarcane juice on ice, ready for drinking

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.

I am determined that my pasta roller will do  more than just roll out fresh pasta. And thin pizza crusts. This is the time to employ its rollers for juice.

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.

That is till I began reading the epistles of men and women the world over. Well, specifically the world of the Indian sub-continent  where this juice is nectar to the souls and bellies.

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?

Sweet.

Cooling (like cucumbers but with more)

Refreshing

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)

Fresh sugarcane

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.

Sugarcane cylinders

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.

Sugarcane, being cut up for juicing

Here’s your starting point. Destination? Romance!

Sugarcane, cut up for juicing

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.

Tools of the trade

Begin. Strip on top.

Juicing sugarcane in my pasta dough maker

Bowl underneath to catch all the juices. The whole point of this exercise.

Juicing sugarcane in my pasta dough maker

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.

Spent, juiced sugarcane

And a fair amount of juice. About 2 cups.

Then on to drinking.

You’ll need Ice. Crushed ice. No compromise.

Ice ready for sugarcane juice

Lime. No compromise. Honestly, you’ll thank me.

Lime ont he rocks, ready for sugarcane juice Set a strainer over each glass.

Ice, sieve...waiting for sugarcane juice

Decant your yellow-green juice, with a light head of froth.

sugarcane juice on ice

We’re ready. Set to walk off into the sunset.

Hand in arm. In love.

sugarcane juice on ice, ready for drinking

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.

Enjoy.

Saying that, I make a declaration:

I will not_3

Sugarcane Stories

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 :-)!