I love market days.
This morning, I was at the market and my vegetable lady had some fresh nutmeg for sale.
Penang is famous for nutmeg juice and nutmeg slices and all sorts of nutmeg balms and oils because nutmeg is grown quite a fair bit on the rural side – in Balik Pulau. I think it’s because we get it so easily we kind of look upon it unkindly and don’t really appreciate the fruit for its medicinal qualities.
I bought a kilo of fresh nutmeg and the vegetable lady taught me how to cook this down into a syrup. I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen so this was just perfect (just like making roselle syrup!).
Plus nutmeg drinks are healthy and contain a host of good stuff for your body. I read that nutmeg oil stimulates the brain and relieves stress. Nutmeg on its own helps with detoxification of the liver. If you have heart problems, nutmeg can stimulate blood circulation. It can increase appetites, reduce joint and muscle pain (that’s why we have nutmeg salve and nutmeg balm), can get rid of gassiness and bloatedness, and help with coughs and colds and general respiratory issues. It removes halitosis, treats menstrual pains and is reputed to be an aphrodisiac! The only contraindication is that pregnant women should avoid taking this.
If you have trouble falling asleep, nutmeg is the answer. In fact, nutmeg is so useful, it’s a wonder why we don’t love this fruit more! Besides nutritional benefits, it seems that pagans used nutmeg as symbols of luck, money, health and fidelity. Nutmeg was so expensive back in 1800s that Europeans wore graters around their necks so they could grate their own nutmeg into their food!
OK, now that you know the nutmeg is such a wonderful spice and fruit, let’s cook the nutmeg.
Wash the fruit under running water, drain and cut the fruit up. Remove its seed.
Inside is the nutmeg seed covered in the reddish skin (which is called mace and very much useful so don’t throw this seed and mace away). Dry these seeds and mace under the hot sun – now’s a good time as Penang is very warm! Perfect for sunning nutmeg seeds. According to the vegetable lady, you can crack 1 nutmeg seed into your pot of ‘tau yew bak’ (braised pork in soya sauce) for extra yumminess. So keep them.
Place the fruit into a pot and add 1 kg of rock sugar. I added 2 large bowls of water and put the pot over a medium fire for 15 minutes, covered. After 15 minutes, turn down the fire to its lowest and simmer for another 30 – 40 minutes (pot still covered) until the syrup has thickened slightly. Cool and store in jars in the fridge.
The syrup will be of a golden colour. Coffeeshops around Penang do serve nutmeg drinks but I’d sometimes ask if they’re freshly made or boiled. The colour of these nutmeg drinks is whitish and a friend told me why this was so. If the drink is whitish instead of a deep golden hue, it means the skin was removed before boiling. Not sure if this is true or if the coffeeshop people just blended the flesh of the nutmeg fruit! You know, like how you’d make a fresh watermelon ice blended. Just blend the fruit! One day I must investigate or ask why the colour’s different from my homemade syrup.
When you want a thirst-quenching drink, just spoon a few tablespoons of nutmeg syrup and mix with water. Top with ice cubes and serve. For the elderly, you can mix the nutmeg syrup with warm water. It makes a refreshing warm drink!
One more thing, you can reserve the softened nutmeg fruit and eat them, or you can keep them to serve with the nutmeg drink. I suppose you could dry them in the sun and eat them as a snack but I haven’t done that before. To me, it’s such a waste to throw out the nutmeg fruit.
If you have a large enough slow cooker or crockpot, you can boil this syrup overnight or more. I don’t have a big slow cooker so I did mine over a regular stove.