Turmeric has a long history of culinary and medicinal use in South Asia, and India is the largest producer and consumer of turmeric. The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu is known as the “Yellow City" in reference to both the beautiful bright yellow color of the spice, and its position as the world epicenter for turmeric trade. Turmeric is widely used in many Indian dishes as well as in healing practices and traditional ceremonies and rituals. I've read that it is used in over 80% of Indian dishes, and is known to possess anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. One ritual use that may be familiar is the 'Pithi or 'Haldi' ceremony (haldi means turmeric in Hindi), which involves the act of applying turmeric to the hands and faces of a couple before their wedding ceremony. This ritual is one of purification of the body and soul. It is performed to ward off bad omens, or 'Buri Nazar,' the Sanskrit term for evil eye, and also serves as a blessing for a long and strong relationship.
For me there are multiple layers of connection to what turmeric represents culturally, artistically, and culinarily. It is one of many ingredients that comprise my mixed ancestry, and a piece of my heritage that looks and feels like 'home.' I use turmeric in most of my Indian preparations and in some of the Filipino dishes I make. I also use it as a natural dye in my art making and it's great for dyeing Easter eggs too! But my favorite use of this gorgeous ingredient is to make Honey Turmeric Tea.
I like to make a jar of this tea throughout the winter to keep in the fridge for daily use. It's a great throat soother and cough easer when you're feeling ill, and a warmer-upper when you're chilled to the bone during cold winter days. The recipe is quick and simple - no actual cooking involved! This tea is lovely for gifting around the holidays; the homemade jars feel like little offerings of warmth and care.
Honey Turmeric Tea
1 cup honey
2 lemons, sliced into ¼ inch slices
2 1 inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
2 tsps ground turmeric
1 16oz jar with lid (wide-mouthed Mason jars work great)
Note: These measurements are a basic guide. You can add more or less of anything to adjust it to your taste. You can also add a bit of garlic or a dash of cayenne if you want to experiment but these are the ingredients I stick to.
Add the lemon, ginger turmeric and honey to the jar in layers. Start with 2-3 slices of lemon in the jar, add 1-2 pieces of ginger, sprinkle with a bit of turmeric, and then a top with a few spoonfuls of honey. Repeat this process until the jar is full. Once full, screw the lid on tightly and place in the fridge for a day to let the ingredients settle and the flavors meld. Whenever you want a cup of tea, add one or two teaspoons to a mug of hot water and enjoy.
That's it. Seriously. It's simple and so delicious.
Notes: The longer you let the tea sit in the fridge the more integrated the ingredients get. It's normal for the mixture to become soft and the ingredients to break down. You can stir it every once in awhile to mix it further which makes for easier spooning. The mixture will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 2 months but it never lasts that long in our house!