Words and photos by Andrea K. Castillo
It’s become a winter tradition here at LargeUp to share recipes for traditional rum creams found across the Caribbean. Over the last few years, we’ve brought you recipe-slash-history lessons on coquito (Puerto Rico), cremas (Haiti) and ponche-de-creme (Trinidad). After elaborating on the theme with a batch of Trinidadian holiday recipes last year, in 2014 we’re turning our attention to Belize. Over the next few weeks, Andrea K. Castillo of Cas Rum Beverages will be sharing recipes for Belizean specialties both liquid and solid. And naturally things must start with rum popo, Belize’s own entry into the seasonal rum cream category.
The holidays are a time of year when the majority of my family touches down in Brooklyn, and the best of Belizean cuisine is on display. As a curious member of the family who’s always in the kitchen, I made it a goal of mine a few years back to preserve my family recipes. In this time, I have learned to make some key treats on my own, and I’ve found that the best time to test my skills is during Christmastime, when everyone is present, and the pressure is on.
As with most other Caribbean countries, Belize has our own version of a rum cream, called rum popo, that proves particularly popular around the holidays. Growing up, my family didn’t make the beverage and, as I learned more about it, I wondered why. So I decided to chat with Mama Cas to get the lowdown.
She told me that it was her grandmother, affectionately called “Mother,” who made rum popo when she and her siblings were growing up. As she told me, “It was a really special thing to have at Christmas. We would keep a bottle in our chest, and it is what you would offer your guests when they visited. It was also one of the few times a year that women would drink.” This was the 1950s and 60s in Belize, which was quite conservative at that time. Society has since become more liberal, and women that have an occasional alcoholic beverage are not frowned upon but, at the time, the drink provided an enjoyable exception to a societal rule.
For the past three years, I have been making and bottling my own rum popo under the moniker “Cas Rum Popo”, selling locally in New York City to friends, family and those that find me via social media. The recipe that I use is a varied version of Mother’s, containing a wee bit more rum, because I’m generous, and like to offer my guests something with a kick. Here is what you will need to make rum popo at home. (There are variations of this recipe that include raisins, which I’m not particularly fond of as it can be a nuisance to sip and chew a beverage simultaneously).
Makes approx. four 750 ml bottles
5 cans evaporated milk
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 pint white rum (I used Belizean brand Caribbean Rum, current holder of the International Rum Festival’s “Best White Rum.” A good alternative is Wray & Nephew. No Bacardi!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder (or grated cinnamon stick)
1 tablespoon nutmeg powder (or ground fresh nutmeg)
5-quart mixing bowl
Liquid Measuring cup
4- 750 ml bottles
– Blend eggs in mixing bowl 15-20 minutes
– Add evaporated milk. Blend for approximately three minutes.
– Pour in condensed milk, rum and vanilla extract. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg evenly over the mixture.
– Blend rum popo mixture approximately two minutes so all parts are evenly dispersed.
– Use measuring cup to pour mixtures into bottles with a funnel.
The finished product will look like this:
As a supporter of local businesses, I use bottles from Rappaport Sons Bottle Co., a Brooklyn family-owned mainstay since the 1930’s, for my product. I make bottles for sale in the NYC area, so if you can’t be bothered with the labor, hit me up to support a homegrown, culturally-focused business. For sales and other inquiries, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @casrumbeverages.