Horchata - Drink of the gods.
(lower case gods)
A liquid craze is sweeping across our nation from the south. This infectious drink has been carried across continents and language barriers, through millenniums, and by all types of people. I also hear it is trendy in Manhattan.
The title that best sums up this drink process is "Horchata." (pronounced or-CHA-tah) A little known fact is that large portions of Latin America are lactose intolerant. Studies show figures as high as 30 percent! This trend is increasing among Americans as well. What can be done as a substitute turns out to be an amazingly refreshing drink. It perfectly compliments the spicy nature of Mexican food.
As a drink process, removing grain and nut oils and tasty nutrients and mixing them with water is nothing new. All cultures have done it like, well, forever. But the Horchata - Chufa style - has its origin in ancient Egypt. Chufa is one of the earliest domesticated crops and in fact, was found in vases and used in the embalming methods in the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs. The Chufa nut was widely used in Egypt and Sudan. The Arabs dragged the plant by excessive force to Spain during the time of the Moorish kings (700 B.C. a 1200 A.D.). The eastern Spanish province of Valencia was the best environment for growing Chufa. (remember Valencia: oranges, and Chufa nuts. Oh, and sausages, and paellas, and..)
This nut is like psycho good for your health, with high levels of iron and potassium. It does not contain sodium, is very low in fat content, and is valued for its minerals and vitamins.
Wild and unfounded conclusions: The Egyptians knew something of the awesome life preserving qualities of this little tuber. The Spaniards picked up this information second hand. (Think fountain of life. ) The honorary title "drink of the gods" pops up. Plus I feel really good when I plant my extra long straw in and vacuum my tanker dry. You be the judge.
Chufa - Tiger nut (cyperaceae cyperus esculentus) are the tiny, tuberous roots of a Middle-Eastern plant of the sedge family. In other words, the Chufa (pronounced CHOO-fah) "nuts" are basically the little pea sized roots of a middle eastern / African plant, that looks kind of basic brown. It has a basic off-white flesh that you would suspect. In other words if you hit an almond with a hammer you get similar pasty goo. Technical enough?
Where the name came..
Here is a wild explanation of where the name "Horchata" came from. I found it on the internet, so it must be accurate, right??
Well, there's an old story about a girl in a little town that offered some of the drink to the visiting King of Catalunya and Aragon. After enjoying the drink, the king asked, "Que es aixo?" (What is this?). The girl answered, "Es leche de Chufa" (Chufa milk - which was its original name), to which the King replied, "Aixo no es llet, aixo es OR, XATA!" (This is not milk; this is GOLD, CUTIE). The word "Xata" in Catalan - which the King spoke - is an affectionate nickname for a child.
The fame spread throughout the country and the name of the drink started to be known in Spanish as Orchata. Later, the H was added to the beginning.
Sounds pretty convincing, no?
The root meaning of the word Chufa is to hiss at, laugh at.
CHUFA Horchata - Horchata de Chufa
You will find Horchatas made from Chufa in most areas of Spain . It remains a very popular and refreshing summer drink. This is the real deal, the authentic and ancient recipe for Horchata from Chufa. Trust me on this one, Horchata made from Chufa nut tastes nothing like Mexican Horchata made from rice. Don't confuse the two because they are VERY different. And I have to add this little bit of funny: In Spain this drink is accompanied by a 'farton', a foot long donut-like pastry to dunk in. Oh yeah, I'll have a farton.
1 lb. Chufas
1 Cup Sugar (or to taste)
2.3 Quarts of Water
1 Cinnamon Stick
- Bathe your naked Chufas very well, rubbing and rinsing them in clean water. If you find them having little hairy fibers, get them off.
- When they are completely clean, drown them for 14 hours in cold water. (make good and sure they stay under.)
- Rinse the naughty little Chufas in clean water, until it is completely clear, then drain.
- Mash the Chufa or put them in a blender - to make them into a soft paste. Add a little water if needed. (Some have told me that it MUST be done with a mortar and pestle. I say Yeah, right.)
- Add the 2.5 qt of water to the paste that you have made and put in the cinnamon stick. Stir and let it sit in a cool place (I have heard
fridges are cold) for 2 hours.
- Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
- Strain the mix through a metal mesh filter, and then through a wet, damp cheesy fine-cloth. Repeat until the strained liquid does not have any particles left. Particle man, particle man.
- You now have a fine, cloudy-milky liquid that keeps in the fridge for about four days.
Try: Serve the Horchata in slushy form as you would ice-cream. Simply put it in the freezer, scraping the sides off and stirring occasionally or it will freeze ice solid. Those freezing liquid cup thingies work well.
RICE Horchata - Horchata de Arroz
Ah rice, let me tell you the wonders of rice. Well, it is rice. Um, just rice. This is the Mexico's answer to the lack of a Chufa. Often the Mexican versions have milk in them as well. (no wonder they taste so good) I have never had good results from any recipe that says to cook the rice. (or toast/fry/nuke the cinnamon stick)
Recipe: Same as above, use 2 cups rice. DON'T PEEL THE RICE! Soak time is about 8 hours. Try adding a little Mexican dark vanilla. (don't use imitation flavorings, vanilla, almond or otherwise.) eew.
On second thought, I might give the cinnamon sticks the same soak-mash-strain treatment and see what i get.
ALMOND Horchata - Horchata de Almendra
Almonds are a so-so substitute for Chufas; you will end up with Horchata of the same texture and approximately a somewhat similar taste. (not.)
1 pound Almonds
1 cup (or to taste) sugar or sweetener
Half of a lemon
1 cinnamon stick (a heavy dash of powder can be used, but strain it out)
A miniscule dash of salt
61 oz. water
- The first step is to remove the skins from the almonds. The best way to do this is to buy them already skinless. If you are bored, or desperate, you will have to boil the skins off. Put the almonds in a pot of boiling water and let sit until the skins become very soft. With time, the skins will loosen and can be scraped off.
- Crush, mangle, or otherwise pulverize the almonds into a coarse powder. If you boiled your poor little almonds to get the skins off, then mutilate them (or put them in a strong blender while adding some water) into a mush.
- In a large bowl/container add the water with a tiny dash of salt. Slice and add the lemon. (if you use cinnamon powder, you can put some in now.)
- Mix in the almond powder (or mush). Cover the container and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Strain the liquid with a fine cloth. Make sure you remove all of the large particles. Otherwise you get scratchy throat feedback.
- Add the cinnamon stick and leave it in the fridge until it is VERY cold and lonely.
Secret V.2 Horchata - Horchata de YouWish.
I will not divulge this recipe; it is completely my invention. It is not similar to any above. Want to try it? You will have to come to Sierra Vista, Arizona and buy some from the little vendor shop in the Swap Meet. (I have huge jugs. Umm, GLASS Jugs.)
Where to get it?
Horchata mixes are common. They all taste from bad to ok. Do not evaluate the drink by some off-the-shelf dusty old powder or brown concentrated syrup with no expiration date. Fiesta is the largest distributor, and has some decent product if fresh. (note that most of these contain milk solids and other scary things, so think of it as an attempt to approximate only the flavor.) I love whatever they sell at Someburros in Tempe. The only information I have about their source is Fresca-Carribe (or carriba?) I have tried to find it online without success.
www.DonaJuana.com Hunt for the search button and search for horchata to find it. (simple?) Chufa version.
www.Tienda.com also has a cheap supposedly authentic chufa version. I am still waiting for this one to arrive.
www.MexGrocer.com has small rice type powders, concentrates, and quick shipping. KLASS brand powder is really nasty - don't waste your money on it.
Chufas can be bought in Spain at little candy shops that sell nuts (frutos secos). In the states you might find some at health food stores or Mexican shops if you are a keen adventurous hunter and happen across some divine intervention. There are a few big grocers in Mexico that carry them. I've read that Chufa is grown in the Southern United States and can be purchased through farmer co-ops as seed. Supposedly it is grown as a feed crop for game hunts. I have actually seen such items, and some people have contacted me for advise on how to grow it. (www.tecomate.com. www.Chufa.com )
p.s. there is finally suitable machinery for harvesting Asparagus! See the videos! Shudder! www.asparagusharvester.com