Yesterday I visited with my grandmother and we shared such beautiful memories of Dominican Republic in olden traditional days and recipes of delicious sweets. Amongst other things, my creative grandmother was also a pioneer in home-made liquors! As she explains it, around the holidays she received requests from neighbors to prepare her famous vintage-style specialty wines and tonics. One of her favorites was a wine she made from the Cajuil fruit (cashew). Just in time for the festive season, here are a few recipes from Caribbean holiday traditions that she shared with me last night.
Vino de Cajuil (Cashew Fruit Wine):
Go to a local market and get a box of Cajuil fruit. Squeeze the fresh juice from the fruits and pour into a dark bottle. The bottle is to be fermented. In olden times, it was placed in a dark place for 1.5-2 months, (i.e. burying in the earth in such a way that just a little bit of sunlight can hit it. I would suggest keeping it here for 3 months. 15 days before you touch the bottle again, prepare a marmalade of sugar that will be added to your fermented cajuil juice. To prepare the marmalade, slowly melt sugar in water to create a syrup and let cool. Once cooled completely (and still liquid) add to your wine and allow to sit for the rest of the 15 days. After which your wine is done!
Dulce de Cajuil
From the left over ‘masa’ (pulp) of the squeezed fruits, you can made traditional sweets. To do this, first boil the fruit in water until very soft. In a separate pot, bring to boil some water. Add cinnamon sticks (as well as any other spice you think appropriate) and allow that to boil as well. Then add sugar to the boiling cinnamon sticks to create a sweet marmalade. Once you are happy with the consistency, add the softened cajuil fruit and allow this all to boil together until you get a more or less uniform consistency. Allow it to cool down and it is done.
Toasted Cajuil Seeds
Another winter holiday tradition is toasted cajuil seeds, think chesnuts roasting on an open fire….yes. In Dominican republic everything is used, nothing is to be wasted. A popular treat to share with friends, cajuil seed vendors prepare these toasty delights like this: peel and cut in half the cajuil seeds, then toast. These are ready when browned. Toast seeds at your own risk, caution should be used when roasting as possible fumes may occur. There are reports that the fumes can cause acute inflammation an external poisoning if near face or hands.
OTHER HOLIDAY CLASSICS…
Peel the skin of as many oranges as need for one liter of 90% proof white alcohol
. Put in the skin into the bottles and allow to ferment for a minimum of one month in a dark place. Afterwards, prepare a marmalade of sugar as explained above and add this to your alcohol once cooled, mix and allow to sit for another 15 days after that. Then it is ready to drink.
Medicinal Uses and Properties found in Cajuil.
“The oil must be used with great caution, but has been successfully applied to corns, warts, ringworms, cancerous ulcers and even elephantiasis, and has been used in beauty culture to remove the skin of the face in order to grow a new one. Ground and mixed with cocoa the nuts make a good chocolate.”
“The fruit is a reddy yellow and has a pleasant sub-acid stringent taste, the expressed juice of the fruit makes a good wine, and if distilled, a spirit much better than arrack or rum. The fruit itself is edible, and its juice has been found of service in uterine complaints and dropsy. It is a powerful diuretic. The black juice of the nut and the milky juice from the tree after incision are made into an indelible marking-ink- the stems of the flowers also give a milky juice which when dried is hard and black and is used as a varnish. A gum is also found in the plant having the same qualities as gumarabic; it is imported from South America under the name of Cadjii gum, and used by South American bookbinders, who wash their books with it to keep away moths and ants. The caustic oil found in the layers of the fruit is sometimes rubbed into the floors of houses in India to keep white ants away. ”
“Anacardic acids found in cashews have been used effectively in vivo against tooth abcesses due to their lethality to gram positive bacteria. They are also active against a wide range of other gram positive bacteria. Many parts of the plant are used by the Patamona of Guyana medicinally. The bark is scraped and soaked overnight or boiled as an antidiarrheal. Seeds are ground up into powders used for antivenom for snake bites. The nut oil is used topically as an antifungal and for healing cracked heels.”
Botanical drawing and quotes are excerpted from History of Cashew, Tropicaldriedfruit.com
Check back for our posting on the medicine of the Patamona of Guyana…coming soon! See ‘Guyana Herbals under the ‘Topically’ section in the ‘Community index of plants’ under the ‘Research’ Tab.