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When it comes to Christmas, Trinidad and Tobago may very well be atop the list of big celebrators. From the pre-Christmas cleaning, where house painting is almost a priority on the list, to refreshing the indoor decor- new curtains, new furniture and appliances and whatever else, the people of Trinidad and Tobago are traditionally Christmas lovers.
Now, for those who many not be aware, there are some very special delights that make a Trini Christmas second to no other.
This rum soaked fruit cake is a big deal during Christmas time and many request it for their wedding. Never had it? Well, at first glance it may resemble that of a chocolate cake, but the deep dark color comes from the main ingredient- dried blended fruits. Prunes, currants, raisins, and glaced cherries are chopped finely then soaked in red wine and dark rum for months and sometimes even years! The fruit mixture is added to cake batter along with aromatic flavorings and spices.
Trinidad and Tobago’s answer to the American eggnog, this traditional Christmas drink is alcohol filled and deliciously mixed with condense and evaporated milk, eggs, nutmeg spice and the citric flavor of a lime peel. It’s best served in crushed ice. Everyone loves a good Ponche de Creme at Christmas!
Wrapped in banana leaves and traditionally tied with twine, pastelles are a corn meal and minced meat treat. The corn meal creation boasts additives like raisins, olives, capers and delicious Caribbean seasonings. Pastelles must be steamed after being made and straight out the steamer is always tastiest.
Trinbagonians must have a tasty baked ham on their table on Christmas morning! Whether smoked or salt, cloves stuck in the baked delight, sometimes topped with Pineapple slices, make for a yummy breakfast sandwich inclusion, on Christmas morning.
Though not a favourite for some, ginger beer is also among the island’s Christmas delights. Ginger is grated, clove is added, orange peel and water added. It’s then placed in the warm Caribbean sunshine, and left for approximately three days for fermentation to take place. Ginger beer lovers will attest to the increased cost of the ingredient around Christmas time. Despite that, almost every Trinbagonian home sets a bottle or two of tasty ginger beer on the table, when guests stop by.
In Latin America, it’s called agua de flor de Jamaica; in North Africa, it’s karade and in the Ivory Coast, this red beverage is called da bilenni (where the plant itself is called “da”). In T&T, we call it Sorrel. It’s another Christmas favourite. The Sorrel is sold by vendors weeks prior to Christmas and when bought, it’s cleaned, boiled with spices like bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon, left covered for two days and then sweetened to taste. Some folks add their choice of rum to the juice, making it that delicious drink kids just won’t be able to partake in! Without rum, of course the little ones can enjoy.