Tequila The Landscape, History & Taste of Mexico

Spanish

The Essence of Tequila

Tequila is the national drink of Mexico and is certainly one of the most popular spirit beverages in the world. Tequila is made from blue agave.

Agave is a plant species that instantly brings to mind images of Mexico and represents the essence of being Mexican.  From the north, in Jalisco, to the south, in the Yucatan, various species of agave have marked the
and defined the landscape of our country, giving it a taste unmistakably linked to our identity. 

Its leaves are thick, fleshy, sharp, and– like cactus–store water in their interior in order to survive. There are over 200 species of agave of which almost all grow in Mexico.  They vary in shape, size and color.  The agave is such a rich plant that man has extracted from them fiber, paper, candy, vinegar, honey, sugar, and of course, three alcoholic beverages which are the pride of Mexico: tequila, mezcal and pulque.

In pre-Columbian times the Aztecs revered a species of agave known as “maguey” (Agave Americana), which they considered to be representative of “Mayahuel”, the goddess of alcohol who fed her 400 children with pulque that emanated from her numerous breasts. Mayahuel was also associated with the moon, femininity, vegetation and its life cycles.

A sacred beverage was obtained from the agave which could only be enjoyed on special occasions by the tlatoanis or rulers, priests or the elders. This beverage is pulque, which still remains popular in certain Mexican regions, mainly in the state of Hidalgo.

From another species known as henequen, from the Yucatan peninsula, the Mayans extracted a fiber to manufacture rope and rugs. Henequen was the engine for a huge industry in that zone at the end of the 19th century.

Mezcal is produced from the combination of various species of agave, a typical spirit from the Oaxaca region, whose handmade manufacture is a source of wonder and enchantment for visitors to this region of Mexico. It’s called mezcal because that’s the name of the heart of the agave, from which a delicious honey is extracted. In the Nahuatl dialect, mezcal means, “The house of the moon” and conceptually refers to the core, the essence; the center of something.

Finally, tequila is produced from blue agave or ‘Agave Tequiliana Weber’, the most famous drink in our country; an intensely flavored spirit associated with the lively and courageous character of the Mexican. It’s also an allegory of our history because it fuses the benefits of a native Mexican plant with the European techniques that Spain introduced during the colonial period.

In Mexico tequila is synonymous with celebration, pride and complicity between friends. The best of times are enjoyed with a few shots of tequila; with tequila you toast for success and its also with tequila that you drown the pain of disillusionment.  With a shot of tequila, unforgettable life stories are begun and with another we remember them! 

Pan de Muerto ~ Day of the Dead Bread

Ingredients1½ cups Flour

 ½ cups Sugar

1t Salt

2 Packets Dry Yeast

1t Anis Seed

½ cup Milk½ cup Water½ cup Butter4  Eggs

4½ cups Flour

Instructions

 
  • Mix all dry ingredients together except the 4 1/2 cups of flour
 
  • In a small pan, heat the milk, the water, and the butter. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture.
 
  • Beat well.
 
  • Mix in the eggs and the first 1 1/2 cups of flour. Beat.
 
  • Little by little add in the rest of the flour.
 
  • Knead the mixture on a floured board for 10 minutes.
 
  • Put the dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size.
 
  • Punch the dough down and reshape. On top put some strips of dough simulating bones, and a little ball (tear).
 
  • Let it rise another hour.
 
  • Bake at 350° F  for about 40 minute

Glaze:

1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup fresh OrangeJuice
2 tablespoons grated Orange Zest

  Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
  Sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.

Feliz Día de Muertos!

Pastel de las Tres Leches


In recent times the Tres Leches cake or Pastel de las Tres Leches became one of the most popular Mexican Desserts.  It is a sponge cake in many recipes, or a butter cake, soaked in three kinds of milk (thus the name of Tres Leches): evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy whipping cream.

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan or a glass Pyrex if you’d rather not remove the Tres Leches bread from the pan.   

Ingredients:

Tres Leches Cake

1  cups all-purpose flour sifted
6 eggs separated
½ cup granulated sugar

Tres Leches  Topping
2 cups whole milk
1 can of sweetened, condensed milk
1 can evaporate milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy  whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Beat half the sugar and all egg whites until mixture peaks at a medium to high speed.

In another bowl beat the remaining sugar with the egg yolks until you get a light yellow mixture.

Slowly add the sifted flour and beat until you obtain a smooth batter. 

Pour batter into the baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of the cake.

Cool down to room temperature. Prick the entire top of the cake with a fork. This will enable the Tres Leches mixture to be fully absorbed by the bread.

Tres Leches Topping

In a blender, mix evaporated, condensed, whole milk and sugar.

Slowly pour the Tres Leches mixture all over the cake let stand for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. (It can be left in refrigerator over night.)

Beat the whipping cream, vanilla and two tablespoons sugar until it forms peaks.  Spread the whipped cream over the cake and chill before serving.


 

Dulces Tradicionales Mexicanos

Los dulces típicos Mexicanos ademas de deliciosos son también una obra de arte culinario. Coloridos, incorporando tradiciones coloniales y prehispánicas son un reflejo de nuestra rica cultura. He aquí algunos de los dulces mas populares.

1.Pepitorias
Las pepitorias están elaboradas con obleas de harina de trigo, pepitas y miel de piloncillo.

2. Alegrías
Las alegrías están elaboradas con semillas de amaranto, originarias de este país. Su preparación consiste en semillas de amaranto que tiene un alto valor proteico y miel.

Alegrias

3. Palanquetas de Cacahuate
Las palanquetas de cacahuate se elaboran con cacahuates en trozos, agua, glucosa liquida, azúcar, margarina y aceite vegetal.

Palanqueta de Cacahuate


Pre-Columbian Mexican Cuisine: 300 Meals a Day to Choose From

Spanish

During pre-Hispanic times, the territory which today comprises Mexico was a mosaic of many cultures, all very different from each other.   These included not only the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Mexica in the Valley of Mexico, but also the Zapotec and Mixtec in the state ofOaxaca, the Totonac in Veracruz, the Tabasco Olmecs, the Toltecs in Hidalgo and the Purepecha in Michoacan … 

Each culture had its own social structure, its own language, their own artistic expressions reflected in beautiful buildings, sculptures and crafts, as well as their own gods.

Moreover, each culture, being in a natural setting with different resources, found its own way of using them for food.  The forests, jungles, and deserts offered different meats, fruit, seeds, roots, spices and even minerals that little by little revealed their delightful qualities to the ancient Mexicans, creating a culinary diversity that fortunately persists to this day.

However, the variety coincides in some respects, such as the trilogy of cornbeans and chile as a staple of the common man in all the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico.  Likewise, they shared the belief of the sacred meal of corn, which was even represented by a deity.

All Pre-Hispanic cultures considered food, and specially maize, as an essential element of the offerings to their gods. A few grains of amaranth were placed in the mouth of the dead and after being incinerated, they were buried along with  rich offerings of food.

When the Mexica of Tenochtitlan became an Empire that dominated all other cultures, they began to exact tribute from all the surrounding regions. That’s how this metropolis became the meeting point of different styles and ingredients, some so exotic that Western civilizations couldn’t even imagine.

The richness of colors, flavors and aromas acquired by Mexican cuisine can be imagined with the descriptions made by chroniclers of the Conquest, Hernan Cortes and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, referring to the cuisine ofTlatoani Montezuma, emperor of TenochtitlanHeriberto Garcia, author of Pre-Hispanic Mexican Cuisinesummarizes:

“Runners on foot, in relays, like ancient postmen and couriers, carried seafood to the emperor Moctezuma (…), who maintained up to three thousand men and women in his service.  His tableware consisted of gold and silver glasses, gourds and jars. Daily, his chefs prepared up to300 different dishes for him to choose which they should serve him.(…)    Every day they served the emperor turkey, pheasant, partridges, duck, deer, rabbit, birds and various fowl, fish and seafood, plus gourds of frothy chocolate that he drank with relish.”

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, in his book History of the Things of New Spain, lists some of the dishes that were prepared in Mexica noble houses that are now the pride of the national recipe collection, such as pipian, turkey and fish sauces prepared with various chiles.

Color also defines Mexican cuisine.The first sense that seduces is precisely sight.  Heriberto Garcia said: “One thing distinguished pre-Hispanic indigenous cuisine more than any other in the world: its presentation and good taste: the rich and varied color of its victuals and the taste emanating from them. (…)Perhaps no other people in the world, served so many varied dishes, prepared with more colorful flowers, as the ancient Mexicans. And when they had no natural color; annatto, prickly pear, chile, sapodilla and other vegetable dyes provided them coloring.”

With all this culinary richness, one could imagine that among the ancient Mexicans there was a propensity for obesity, but not so. Before the Spanish arrived, most of the inhabitants of Mexico were of medium height and had an athletic figure with taught brown skin over lean muscles. There was a great sense of moderation among them. Parents often instructed their children in this regard, as evidenced in the following speech related byFray Bernardino de Sahagun:

“Be advised, my son (…) do not eat too much in the morning and evening. Be temperate in eating lunch and at dinner, and if you work, you should have lunch before work begins. When you eat, eat slowly; do not eat with too much abandon, nor by using great mouthfuls, nor should you cram different food together in your mouth or swallow what you eat, like a dog. You shall eat at leisure and at rest, and drink with moderation …”

Long and delectable is the list of flavors that pre-Hispanic Mexico brought to the world.  Exotic and spicy flavors with bright colors that invite you to taste them.  While many recipes from those times are forgotten, practically all of the ingredients have survived.

Thus, we Mexicans have a living legacy from our ancestors, one that we share proudly with the world.