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When you're packing light, it's tough deciding what to take back home for souvenirs. Is it liquid, too heavy, fragile? Well, if you're coming from the Cayman Islands, you have options! Here are 3 not-to-miss Cayman savories that you'll absolutely enjoy for weeks to come after returning from your island escape.
Tortuga Rum Cake
In 1984, while working for Cayman Airways, Captain Robert Hamaty and his wife Carlene founded the Tortuga Rum Company. For years Carlene baked rum cakes for special occasions, using a four-generation old family recipe. They first offered it at a local restaurant and demand instantly exceeded supply. The rest is history with Carlene's famous Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake being delivered the world over.
Best of all, their custom made vacuum-seal packaging machine prolongs the cakes' shelf life for up to twelve months or indefinitely if refrigerated or frozen. The results are amazing! Super moist rum soaked vanilla cake that's genuinely tasty thanks to the absence of nasty taste bud deadening preservatives.
Cayman Sea Salt
First the basics...there is a distinction with sea salt...it's mainly comprised of sodium chloride which helps regulate your body's metabolism. Not only does salt sustain us, it enlivens the food we eat. Comparing salts can be similar to a wine tasting. At its purest, salt is 40 % sodium and 60% chloride, but depending on its origin & processing, it can vary notably in taste & texture.
Table salt is often harsh due to additives needed to absorb moisture & keep the salt flowing. This detracts from the crunchy, flaky texture that define genuine sea salts. Unlike table salt, which is refined and stripped of all minerals & essential nutrients, Cayman Sea salts are solar extracted retaining many of the ocean's trace elements, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron & iodine.
A salt's quality also depends on how it's harvested and the region or body of sea water that's used. Salt farmers traditionally tend shallow ponds formed by flooding low lying coastal areas. The seawater concentrates as it moves from clay bed to clay bed until the crystals form below the water's surface.
What makes Cayman Sea Salt unique is its source location and artisanal harvesting methods. Cayman Island waters are considered some of the Caribbean's most pristine due to small population and limited impact. Rising from the Cayman Trench, these islands are also situated on the deepest part of the Caribbean with depths reaching 7,686 m providing nutrient rich sea water. The water is evaporated in large pans resulting in a brine concentrate which is then placed in shallow pans in the solar ovens until crystals form. The sea salt is then hand harvested and allowed to air dry for packaging.
Gourmet Cayman Pepper Jelly
This stuff is used by Caymanians as liberally as butter or your other favorite spread of the moment. A blend of sweet, hot, and tangy with just a
hint of garlic, Cayman Pepper Jelly is the result of resident Carol Hay’s 36 weekly 100% natural batches.
Traditionally eaten on crackers with top quality cheeses, a local favorite pairing is cream cheese. It’s also lovely with Jamaican water crackers (a plain & economical biscuit-type cracker that can be found at any Cayman grocery store). Other spreading surfaces typically include Hardough bread, hot dogs, pizza, or in chutney or ham glazes.
This pepper jelly's exotic fire comes from a secret mixture of locally grown Scotch Bonnet and special seasonings. Hay is a purist growing her own Scotch Bonnet peppers from over 45 bushes of varying species. She keeps most of them in pots so she can pull them in to the safety of her garage during hurricane threats. Since Scotch Bonnet is one of the hottest peppers in the world, Carol wears a mask and snorkel when she makes the jellies. All this effort just so we can
enjoy the best tasting jelly in all of the Caribbean!
Photos courtesy of Tortuga Rum Company and Steve Mirsky