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A Culinary Trip to Mexico


docsconz
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Uriarte Talavera

Talavera pottery was a style and technique brought over from Spain early in their involvement with Mexico that took root in Puebla. Today it is the most famous and most generally highly regarded pottery in Mexico. After our lunch of cemitas we were given a tour of the factory by Francisco Uriarte himself, the 80-something owner of the factory. See here for a discussion of the history of Talavera in Mexico.

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Sr. Uriarte starting our tour.

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Mixing clay.

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New shapes from fresh clay.

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A cup drying out.

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The finishing process begins by cleaning up small impurities and flaws.

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Signing the plates.

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Hand painting the pottery.

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The paints.

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Unfinished pieces.

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Finished pieces.

On the way out I ran into a group of students from my College Alma mater who are in Puebla for a term studying Spanish. They happened to be doing a tour after us.

Next up are some Publan sweets before our group made dinner.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sweet Puebla

After our tour of Uriarte we had some free time to explore Puebla and explore we did. We visited a few glorious churches and also (surprise) managed to find our way to the street of sweets. It did not hurt that we were given some direction there. Amongst many other things Puebla is known for its sweets. Although much of what I tasted was in fact too sweet for my palate, it was interesting and quite beautiful in its own way.

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Camotes are sweets made from a sweet potato base with various fruit flavorings. These were ubiquitous from shop to shop. They came in many sizes and guises.

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The shops were colorful and had many different delights.

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These I believe are candied fruits, but would welcome a more authoritative explanation.

My favorite dulce was one I didn't have a photo of. It was the coconut stuffed candied lemons. Actually they are visible in the lower left corner three photos up.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks, YT and others for the compliments. I do want to reiterate that while my interest in and knowledge of mexican cuisine grew during this trip, i am still very much a novice and welcome discussion and correction if warranted on any of the topics mentioned in this thread.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Cena de Todos

The day visiting Puebla was a lot of fun, but the only time w had to rest was on the bus on the way back and that wasn't long. We had dinner to prepare!

As I mentioned upthread we were divided into groups of four with each group having at least one culinary professional. Rick, Richard and Marilyn were available to oversee the process, offer advice and assist when needed. They had divided us the night before and assigned each group a class of dishes to prepare (e.g. soup, antojito, salad, main course, dessert, etc.), given us recipes from the assigned class and cash to spend at the market. Each group then decided in consultation with Rick which recipe(s) it would prepare. He warned us not to go overboard and bite off more than we could chew in the time alloted to preparation. He suggested that we consider that when choosing amongst the recipes. My group was assigned to prepare a soup. After going through the recipes we concluded that a Cilantro Soup recipe from Marilyn Tausend looked good and do-able. We also decided that we would put a little touch of our own on it with squash blossoms. Rick agreed. We had no difficulty finding what we needed at the market in Puebla. What a treat that was! In addition, we would have certain pantry items available to us.

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Team Cilantro Soup! (Everyone else is standing on a step or two :wink: )

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Cleaning the squash blossoms.

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The cleaned blossoms

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Cleaned and cut cilantro. All of the fresh produce was washed in iodine solution unless it wass going to be thoroughly cooked.

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TCS sharing the kitchen.

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Mixing in the crema.

OTHER DISHES IN PREPARATION:

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Making albondigas (meatballs)

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Roasted jitomates (tomatoes)

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Richard helping out with the pipian rojo.

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Making guacomole with tiny avocados criollos.

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More work on the pipian.

With the food prep essentially done it was time for a Tequila Tasting. We were each given three glasses to taste representative examples of blanco, reposado and anejo tequilas.

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The blanco was Oro Azul, the reposado (aged in oak between two months and one year) was from Herradura and the anejo (aged for more than a year) was from a producer whose name I unfortunately don't remember :shock: and can't make out from my photo :sad:.

They were all good, but I favored the blanco and reposado because they tasted more like tequila to me. The anejo was smooth and delicious, but I felt if I was going to choose something like that to drink I would generally prefer a cognac or single-malt scotch. The price for a good anejo is in that league as well so that wouldn't really be a consideration. As such, when i bought tequilas to bring home I did not buy any anejo.

THE COMPLETED COURSES

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Guacomole with Crabmeat and Octopus - served with sliced Jicama

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Albondigas en Chipotle Quemado Meatballs in "Burnt" Chipotle Sauce.

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Sopa de Cilantro con Flores de Calabaza Cilantro Soup with Squash Blossoms. The queso fresco and totopitos - tortilla chips fried in lard were crumbled and sprinkled on top.

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Ensalada de berros y Cilantro Watercress and Cilantro Salad. The watercress was very spicy. There were also serrano chiles. The dressing was lime juice and salt.

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Arroz Verde Green Rice with Parsley, Cilantro, Lettuce and Chiles.

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Pollo en Pipian Rojo Chicken in Red Sesame Seed Sauce.

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Bread Pudding Two kinds were made. One had Mexican chocolate and bananas, while I unfortunately don't remember the other. Both were excellent, although I really liked the one with the chocolate.

It was amazing how well all the dishes came out. Needless to say, this was a great evening!

Next up...Chilequiles and then...Pulque and barbacoa!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Rick's Last Session

The next morning we awoke to another beautiful day. This would be our last day in Tlaxcala and it would start with Rick's last cooking demonstration. He made Chilequiles, Pork Tinga and simple red chile enchiladas.

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Enchiladas Rojas - Red Chile Enchiladas, Street Style. These are simple enchiladas with just the tortilla soaked in the chile sauce. The term "enchilada" simply means smothered with a red chile sauce. If the sauce was a tomato sauce it would be called an "entomatada". If a mole, an "enmolada" and so as I understand it. This was covered with some salad, crumbled cheese and a little chicken.

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Chilaquiles Verdes Horneados - Baked Tomatillo - Green Chilaquiles or "Tortilla Casserole". This is a great make-ahead breakfast dish and a great way to use left-over tortillas. The tortillas are fried that are softened in a broth then baked. This particular version was loaded with tomatillos, chiles, crema, cooked ham and Chihauhua cheese.

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Tinga Poblana, a classic pork stew with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes and avocados.

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Cheese with epazote and jalapeno. This cheese was passed around for everyone to try.

These dishes made a marvellous almuerzo, after which we were treated to one final demonstration by the lovely Yolanda Ramos. She showed us how to make a michiote of lamb barbacoa. while she demonstrated the use of the outer membrane of the maguey leaf, the michiotes were made with parchment.

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Ms Ramos in action. The results will come later :wink:

As we finished our Tlaxcalan education we gathered in the courtyard of our headquarters for a group photo.

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The rest of the day was spent at a Pulque Party. That is next.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Excellent thread, and thanks for such detailed posting.  You're welcome to come visit Guadalajara; I'd be delighted to show you around my city.

The pig's heads, by the way, are used to make pozole.  That would have been a great soup for your group to prepare.

Thanks, Esperanza. Guadalajara is one of a number of places in Mexico I would love to visit. To be sure, when I do, I will PM you. Prior to this trip, I had been to Mexico a number of times, but those visits were either coastal or border towns (only once to a resort - in Ixtapa). This experience was very different than those and has really whet my appetite to return to explore Central Mexico, although I love the coastal regions as well. Most likely my next trip will be to Oaxaca when the CIA returns there probably in a couple of years.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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As an aside, I made some fried beans last night with the Flor de Mayo beans I bought at El Merced. The beans were phenomenol. I used duck fat instead of lard because I happened to have some of that rendered, but no rendered lard. Between the beans I brought back from Mexico and beans I bought from rancho Gordo when I was in the S.F. bay Area last week, I think I will be eating a lot of beans for the foreseeable future :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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This is a wonderful thread! Thank you so much.

Q: how does one wash squash blossoms? The ones used in the soup look like they were torn into pieces. Were the ones in the quesadillas whole or also broken up?

Did anyone mention which variety of squash make the best tasting blossoms?

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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This is a wonderful thread!  Thank you so much.

Q: how does one wash squash blossoms? The ones used in the soup look like they were torn into pieces. Were the ones in the quesadillas whole or also broken up?

Did anyone mention which variety of squash make the best tasting blossoms?

The ones for our soup were rinsed in the disinfectant solution then towel dried before the pistil was removed and the blossoms shredded for inclusion into the soup. These last steps are not necessary per se and they are generally omitted for stuffing and frying the blossoms. I would personally also omit the rinsing if I knew the source of the blossoms and the agricultural practices used to grow them.

Yes, the quesadilla blossoms were also shredded into more bite size pieces.

I think the best blossoms are probably the ones that one can get ahold of solong as they are fresh and not wilted. To be honest, I have no idea if there are differences amongst them, although I would be surprised if there were not.

Thank you for your comment and questions. Any other thoughts on the questions are appreciated.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Re squash blossoms: I use blossoms from my zucchini and crookneck squash plants. If you harvest only the male blossoms, you'll still get plenty of fruit. The male blossoms have a longer stem and the female ones have a swollen base, so it's easy to tell. Harvest in the morning when they are still fully open, stand them in a glass of water like an arrangement of flowers and put in the fridge to use later in the day. I don't even rinse mine -- just inspect visually for any critters. I remove the stem and the stamen and stuff with a mixture of goat cheese, fresh thyme, s&p. Close the petals over the stuffing. Bake in a casserole dish on top of a fresh tomato sauce with a little garlic or onion and fresh basil until the cheese is softened and they are hot through.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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Doc, thank you so much for this. What a trip; beautifully documented with spectacular images. I particularly like the ones of the markets.

You mentioned that chef Ricardo will be bringing out a cookery book in the near future. Have you any idea when this will be? And in the meantime, is there any chance that you could post one of the mole recipes?

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Doc, thank you so much for this.  What a trip; beautifully documented with spectacular images.  I particularly like the ones of the markets.

You mentioned that chef Ricardo will be bringing out a cookery book in the near future.  Have you any idea when this will be?  And in the meantime, is there any chance that you could post one of the mole recipes?

The book is not yet complete. He is working on it with Marilyn Tausend.

I'll see if I can get permission to post one or some.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pulque Party: Part One: A Welcome Place

Our bus took us up into the mountains to the town of Tlaxco and the Ex-Hacienda de Xochuca now a large producer of Pulque, the indigenous alcoholic beverage of Mexico made from the agua miel of the maguey plant. Upon entering the former hacienda (my understanding is that old time haciendas were to Mexico what antebellum plantations were to the American South) From Wikipedia:

Haciendas originated in land grants, mostly made to minor nobles, as the grandees of Spain were not motivated to leave, and the bourgeoisie had little access to royal dispensation. In Mexico, the hacienda system can be considered to have its origin in 1529, when the Spanish crown granted to Hernán Cortés, the title of Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, which entailed a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos. Significantly, the grant included all the Indians then living on the land, and power of life and death over every soul on his domains. There was no court of appeals governing a hacienda.

It is therefore important that these impressive estates are now known as "Ex-Haciendas". The Ex-hacienda de Xochuca is indeed impressive and evocative of another world. The colors were particularly beautiful

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The entrance after we pulled up.

As we entered the courtyard we were greeted by the owner of Xochuco, his staff and a wonderful Mariachi band.

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We were also greeted by shots of herradura tequila served in carved out wonderfully crisp cucumbers with salted chile/lime powder around the rim. These got us off to a fine start.

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Molotes de Papa y Queso "Masa and Potato "Torpedos" with fresh Cheese. These were very tasty antojitos served during our welcome.

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A boy and his donkey. I noticed the boy outside the courtyard loading up this donkey. The purpose will become clear shortly. :wink:

Off the courtyard in the other direction was a very interesting space.

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This area was the dining room that we would become better acquainted with later on in the day.

Hasta luego!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I LOVE this thread! Please say there is still more to come. :biggrin:

It is so interesting to me to see REAL Mexican food, vs. the Tex-Mex style that I am more accostomed to. It is absolutely, totally different. You have made me want to go to interior Mexico in a very bad way! Thank you so much for this.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I LOVE this thread! Please say there is still more to come.  :biggrin:

It is so interesting to me to see REAL Mexican food, vs. the Tex-Mex style that I am more accostomed to. It is absolutely, totally different. You have made me want to go to interior Mexico in a very bad way! Thank you so much for this.

Thank you MissAmy! I still have a bit more to go including the rest of the "Pulque Party" and the following day. It has been fun for me to relive the trip, although I am finding that the further removed I get from it, the harder it is for me to remember certain details. :wacko: Unfortunately, it has been fairly time consuming to do this and I haven't been able to do it in a more timely fashion. Regardless, the conclusion that I have drawn from my trip is that Central Mexico is indeed worth visiting on so many levels. I urge anyone who has any desire to travel to do so, especially with an organization like the CIA or Marilyn Tausend's independent trips at least until one becomes more personally experienced visiting the country.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Mexican cooking varies by region considerably, so one could go again and again. This all looks so delicious and the trip sounds like grand fun.

Thank you for making the time and wracking your brain to present it to us.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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...including the rest of the "Pulque Party" and the following day.

Yes, thanks for the great pictures and commentary! Initially I had a little sticker shock about the prices on the website; but, seeing this travelog it looks like it was well worth it. I especially enjoyed the market pictures.

I hope the day after the pulque party wasn't too painful.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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...including the rest of the "Pulque Party" and the following day.

Yes, thanks for the great pictures and commentary! Initially I had a little sticker shock about the prices on the website; but, seeing this travelog it looks like it was well worth it. I especially enjoyed the market pictures.

I hope the day after the pulque party wasn't too painful.

Thanks, eje. The trip was a great value as was the Spain trip I took with Worlds of Flavor from the CIA. This was not simply about travel, hotels and dining. it was much more than that with opportunities that I could never hope to have on my own, not to mention traveling with some of the top people in the field. The trips are not cheap, but I would have to pay much more to get something resembling this on my own..

Actually the next day wasn't too bad, but I'll get to that :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pulque Party: Part II: Agua Miel

I thought something was brewing when the boy was loading up the donkey. in fact it was. We were about to go experience the harvesting of the agua miel from the maguey agave plant that is used to make pulque, a lightly fermented somewhat sweet alchoholic beverage of ancient Mexico.

We were already in a good mood heading out to the magueys

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In fact the mood was dancing good!

Morre donkeys arrived, got loaded up and proceeded to the farm.

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Of course they needed a drink first!

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Of course we needed music too.

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The agaves were on a berm.

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This maguey was ready to tap and already had its crown sawn off. Inside the well is accumulated agua miel or the sap from the heart of the maguey. Obviously this is ultimately not good for the plant.

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The staff had great shirts. I asked the owner if he had any to sell. They had a few that quickly sold out. They weren't really prepared for sales and hadn't planned on selling anything to us until asked. They are not generally set up for tourism.

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The agua miel is siphoned up into the blue "club" and then emptied into these yellow containers to be brought back for fermentation.

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Pouring out some fresh agua miel for us to taste.

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Mostly clear, but slightly milky in appearance.

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Sweet and delicious - much more so than raw unprocessed maple sap.

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A loaded donkey.

Next up is stripping the maguey leaf for michiote. This was done solely for demonstration on a specific plant.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pulque Party: Part III: Michiote Membranes

Maguey leaves have a membranous surface that can be strippe off and traditionally has been used to make michiote, basically meat and vegetables cooked within a wrapper. Today this is most commonly done as stripping the maguey leaves tends to kill the plant which is economically unviable. nevertheless, the membrane has some qualities that make it ideal for cooking en papillote. It is impermeable, strong and does offer some flavor to the finished dish. Unauthorized "poaching" of the mebranes from the maguey remains a significant problem for maguey growers who do so primarily to make pulque.

We were shown the process of peeling the leaf, nevertheless.

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Starting the process.

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The process.

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The membrane was very aromatic with a lovely scent.

Next: making and sampling pulque

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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This maguey was ready to tap and already had its crown sawn off. Inside the well is accumulated agua miel or the sap from the heart of the maguey. Obviously this is ultimately not good for the plant.

The Agaves that are used for Tequila, Mezcal, and Pulque are what's called "monocarpic" plants. They grow for years, building up a huge reserve of carbohydrates, flower once spectacularly, and then die. They don't tap (or harvest the hearts) of the Agave until they are fairly close to flowering. So, really, the plants are close to the end of their life, anyway.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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This maguey was ready to tap and already had its crown sawn off. Inside the well is accumulated agua miel or the sap from the heart of the maguey. Obviously this is ultimately not good for the plant.

The Agaves that are used for Tequila, Mezcal, and Pulque are what's called "monocarpic" plants. They grow for years, building up a huge reserve of carbohydrates, flower once spectacularly, and then die. They don't tap (or harvest the hearts) of the Agave until they are fairly close to flowering. So, really, the plants are close to the end of their life, anyway.

Thank you, Erik, for the additional information. My understanding is that the bigger issue regarding the health of the plants is the removal of the leaf membrane to make michiote wrappers. This damages the plant at any time of its life cycle and depending on how much is removed can ultimately kill it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pulque Party: Part Four: Finally Some Pulque!

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The donkeys were back and we followed.

We were brought into the carefully kept fermentation area and specifically asked not to touch anything other than the ground that we were standing on as our flora might contaminate and ruin the pulque making. This is a fairly quick, low alcohol fermantation. The pulque needs to be drunk fairly fresh as it spoils quickly. This is one reason why it is not exported. While very popular in the past and very traditional the drinking of pulque has until relatively recently been somewhat out of fashion. However, it has gained acceptance in places like Mexico City and has regained at least some of its former popularity In Mexico City and other nearby burgs. The popularity has risen to the point that ciudadanos of the City and elsewhere have taken to restoring old ex-haciendas like Xochuca and making pulque for regional distribution.

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Filled barrels waiting to be brought inside for fermentation.

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The fermentation room.

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A barrel with finished product getting ready to be transported to market.

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Large barrels with fermenting pulque

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Fresh pulque to sample. It tasted yoghurt like only somewhat fermented and still sweet. I liked it.

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Back in the courtyard there was cold pulque mixed with either coconut or tamarind. These were also quite tasty.

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and led to more dancing...

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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