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“It’s delicious! “
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In the slew of social media postings leading up to Day of the Dead, there’s a good chance the food most posted about is the traditional sweet bread: Pan de Muertos. True, who doesn’t love fluffy light sweet bread scented with orange and coated all over with the sandy crunch of fine sugar?
But, whether living or dead, ‘man cannot live on bread alone’. Vegetables and fruits are necessary nourishment for the returning souls, and on Day of the Dead altars they also represent the deep connection to the source, to Mother Earth.
Let’s take a look at some of the fruits and vegetables typically found on Day of the Dead altars.
It’s said that on the altar, this tuber represents the earth from which man comes, and to which we return in death. As water is necessary for sustaining life, this watery vegetable can also serve that purpose to give the dead precious refreshment. The vine of the jicama may also be used to make an arch over the altar.
The glow of sweet oranges and tangerines, along with the bright golden cempasuchítl flower (Mexican marigold) light the way for the dead. Their sweet juice also gives sustenance.
Calabaza en tacha is a preparation of small hardened squash cooked soaked in a syrup of piloncillo (raw cane sugar formed into pylon-shaped cones). Holes are bored through the wall of the squashes in order to fill the centre with the syrup before roasting. The seeds are left in – to be used by the dead to find their way back – and the sweet syrupy dish is a rich delicious treat.
Guayaba (guavas) and tejocotes (a Mexican crabapple) are seasonal fruits that perfume the altar and rejuvenate the soul. Both are also ingredients in ponche – a warm fruit punch that is served from Dia de los Muertos into the Christmas season.
While neither fruit nor vegetable, sugar cane joins guayaba and tejocote as another ingredient in the seasonal ponche. Some say the long canes, sometimes attached together into a tripod formation, represent a place on which enemies can be hung, but most look upon it for the sweet and juicy sugar itself which family enjoys snacking on at the gravesite with the usual chile and lime.
To honor the memory of the dead, It’s important to personalize the ofrenda, so other favorite fruits like papaya, or cooked plantain might also be offered. The dearly departed deserve plenty of sweet sustenance in order to refresh them, and to ease the soul’s long journey back to its resting place.
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ChefAlejandro Ruiz is widely regarded AS the unofficial ambassador of Oaxacan cuisine.
He heads up a small empire; Casa Oaxaca, a boutique hotel and group of restaurants that celebrate the complexity of Oaxaca’s culture and traditions. He is the founder of ‘El Saber del Sabor ’ — ‘The Knowledge of Flavor’ — a festival in Oaxaca celebrating the marriage of art and food, and, in March 2018, his cookbook was published.
He’s obviously a busy guy, but not entirely inaccessible; he loves to connect with his guests, to share meals and stories. How I met him, myself, was — I like to think — entirely fate.
In March of 2017, I‘d reserved 5 weeks to explore Oaxaca, wanting to learn more about its regional produce. Previously, I had made an overview of the more ubiquitous and essential foods to include in my ebook, and Oaxaca being one of the more biodiverse States, it begged much more of my time. Plus, you know… Oaxaca is magical. So, despite the heat and general overwhelm that I experience in massive markets, I was duty-bound to explore the labyrinthine Central de Abastos (having meditated beforehand).
Oaxaca City’s Central de Abastos is the distribution hub for all produce going into, and out of, Oaxaca. It is where local chefs, cooks and vendors from smaller markets in the city come to stock up on produce from within the region as well as from elsewhere in Mexico and Central America. It’s also considered a ‘Mecca’ for food-lovers who visit Mexico. Wafts of ever-changing aromas from sweet and musky mangos and guavas to the smokiness of the region’s chiles fill your nose. Jewel-tone fruits might be cut open to display their succulent flesh, and the sometimes impossibly tall or wide pyramids or vertical stacks of the many shaped food items are impressive. Chiles are strung, greens piled into mounds and insects piled high in handwoven baskets.
Chicatana ants are not a snack food
Two pesitos (the vendor emphasized how few pesos) was the payment requested for the trio of tiny chicatana ants now sitting in the palm of my hand. As a sustainable protein and a traditional food in this part of Mexico, (and plant food lovers themselves) I’m a keen supporter of insect-eating.
Unlike chapulines (grasshoppers), chicatanas are not a snack food. This, I learned the hard way. Once I’d cracked the thin, dry carcass between my teeth, glass-like shards and little legs proceeded to scratch their way down my throat. Tears filled my eyes as I tried not to sputter. A bottle of water appeared in front of my face and a tall smiling man asked was I ok. I choked – now with a mix of surprise and glee. I glugged some water and quickly composed myself.
“Chef! I had been hoping to meet you!”
Oaxaqueños are very warm people — he placed his hand on my shoulder. “Really?” he said with a big smile. He thought he was merely saving a silly gringa from choking on chicatanas.
This was my moment!
I tried to remember my 30 second elevator pitch. I didn’t have to tell this guy that Oaxaca was more rich in diversity of edible plants of any place I had been to, but i did. And to let him know how invested I was, I explained that I had created an eBook for foreigners like me who come to Mexico with little or no knowledge of the breadth of Mexico’s plant foods, nor the hows and whys of using them and their value to the culture. From there, the conversation was easy.
Next thing, we were in his car, driving out to the Casa Oaxaca farm. He vaguely mentioned there would be some sort of filming going on, but for me, it didn’t matter; I was happily along for the ride.
Rick Stein’s On the Road to Mexico
It turned out that the filming was for a BBC program: Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico. Rick is a chef from the UK and a downright affable fellow. Alejandro and his family set about cooking while the crew filmed and recorded his stories. I pitched in with prep as his members of his family prepared the fire and the beautiful clay comal that much of the meal would be cooked over.
Out in the field, we harvested various greens and herbs for salad. Alejandro explained that they grow some of their own produce, like lettuces, to ensure the restaurants have consistent supply, and he sourced as much as possible from people of the community for the most seasonal and regional, foraged for in the mountainous regions around Oaxaca.
At the end of the day, as the equipment was being loaded into vans amd we were saying goodbyes, Alejandro offered: “If you ever want to do anything together, we can collaborate.” His intention was to build the farm into an enterprise that would give his family employment as well as give back to his local community.
A Collaboration is Born!
Now, 18 months and some earthquakes later, we are preparing to do just that, as the project that began with the aforementioned eBook has evolved into ‘Frutas y Verduras Plant Food Lovers’ Experiences’. On November 8, we will present A Day of Traditions with Chef Alejandro Ruiz. This market to table experience will focus entirely on the plant foods of the region.
This is a unique offering, and a special opportunity for Alejandro, himself, to take a fully plant-focused approach to his food traditions. He’s as excited as we are. Together we’ll visit the market in the village near his farm, to learn about, taste, and shop for ingredients. Then, on to the farm, where we’ll meet his family, and share in the preparations. Cook, taste, relax, repeat… all culminating in a 4-course meal plus the requisite mezcal — the agave of this region giving us this most valued plant-based drink.
Suzanne Barbezat, Oaxaca contributor to Afar.com and TripSavvy.com, author of ‘Frida Kahlo at Home’ and our Frutas y Verduras Oaxaca guide will be accompanying the group and I’ll be there too. We’re looking forward to this day of fresh-food discoveries in the countryside of Oaxaca, with Chef Alejandro, his family and the chirping chapulines.
Knowing Mexico, you could say, starts with its food. The foundation of any meal begins with what the earth offers. Ask Chef Alejandro Ruiz: ‘El Saber del Sabor’, the knowledge of flavor, begins with an appreciation for the plants and herbs.
This is a small-group event. Please get your ticket now, to avoid disappointment. Book here
Ramón: Breadnut, Ojite, Ojoche, Capomo, Jushte, Ash, and Ox… AKA the “Maya Nut”.
In 2014, when I travelled to Chiapas to see what I’d find there forFrutas y Verduras I was hosted by a young couple who were working in a community in the rainforest of Chiapas as part of an NGO. The project was to make use of the seed from a tree they called ramón.
The fruit and the seed from the tree were both edible, but the seed in particular was known to be highly nutritious, At times of famine it had been valued as a food source but once the desperation for food was relieved, the process of drying, roasting and grinding them was more, perhaps, than local people wanted to do with this food they associated with harder times. Instead, the trees were being felled for lumber, an unsustainable practice that was endangering an eco-system where a great many foraging animals depended still on this tree for their food. Even, still, some Maya locals were collecting not just the fruit, but the seeds themselves to eat with corn, either as a drinkable gruel (atole) or made into tortillas, Since the early 2000’s, NGOs in Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua)had been working with communities to make best use of this resource, and, as this couple told me, it was important for Mexico to follow suit.
Thanks to Google, I was able to conclude that they were talking about the ‘Breadnut’, or ‘Maya nut’ tree. (Brosimum alicastrum). Although interesting, it didn’t fit my criteria for Frutas y Verduras as it wasn’t a fruit /vegetable that the average traveller would likely stumble upon in a market setting and take home to cook or snack on, so I didn’t pursue it further.
The Bread from the Breadnut
Now 3+ years later, with a longing for some good bread, I wandered into Panaderia Rosetta*, a bakery-cafe in the Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City, and a mecca for all good things bready. There on the shelves, I sighted a hearty-looking round “peasant” loaf. Nut brown, with a sprinkling of oats on the top. My kind of bread. I asked what it was.
“Pan de ramón – un nuez de Chiapas”.
“It’s ramón bread – a nut from Chiapas”
I hadn’t thought about it since my visit with that young couple, so I was delighted to buy a loaf and taste what ‘ramón’ had to offer.
The bread from Rosetta was dense and chewy. My first bite revealed a nutty and sweet earthiness that reminded me of the hot chocolate of Oaxaca. Although it was described as a ramon and avena(oat) bread, it was made on a base of wheat flour. However, ramon could be well used in an assembly of ingredients for a gluten-free bread.
Reading up on it, I learned that this ramon powder, in addition to being used as an alternative flour, is being added to teas and some coffee-alternative hot beverage mixes to add an earthy richness. Unlike coffee,however, it’s caffeine-free and is said to have a relaxing effect due to its content of the amino acid, tryptophan. According to the Maya Nut Institute, it’s even being used to add flavor (and nutrients) to beer.
Ramón’s Food Value
Ramón is not a ‘true’ nut, it’s a drupe, like a plum, cherry, or almond. This means it does not contain the alkaloids or allergens that people with nut allergies react to.
Fat-free, gluten-free, ramón is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with 19 of 20 possible amino acids along with folic acid and proteins.
The seeds can be eaten fresh and, traditionally, when they are collected, they may be cooked until soft and mashed – but as a food product for distribution they are more often dried and roasted after which they can be kept for up to 5 years without loss of nutrients.
For the communities where the tree grows, harvesting ramón is accessible work for young and old – children can easily gather the fallen nuts which are easily split open to be processed into a usable food. With a supportive infrastructure for distribution, and a system to manage the forests to ensure that none are over-harvested, ramón, this “Maya nut” as you may see it called, is a sustainable food. If you consider it, the common acorn is a similarly viable food source, one that native people in the northern parts of North America utilized, though Europeans never took to it as a food; it was left to the squirrels.
As many of us look upon our consumer food supply with skepticism, this is inspiration to look in our back gardens. After all, foraging animals are one indication that a plant will be good to eat. Ramón is just one of many ingredients that are being “rediscovered”… naturally “organic” and an opportunity to sustain many.
If you can’t find ramón powder at your local health foods market, you can order it through Amazon
Agriculture starts with seeds and ends on the plate. The cook stands in the middle. By influencing our food habits to become more respectful of family farmers, cooks have the potential to be great “shakers”.
~Phrang Roy “Link biodiversity with the pleasures of food” by Janneke Brull
The Slow Food movement, the 100-mile Diet, Monsanto and other agriculture giants – awareness of the many issues we face as eaters have, for years now, influenced my choices any time I considered a recipe. Is it in season? (Living in Canada, the answer to that for 9 months of any year, would be no). How was it grown, what’s its carbon footprint… cooking is a responsibility.
As a cook in Mexico, it’s possible to go straight to the source, to cook and eat locally and responsibly. There’s almost always going to be a mercado or tianguis where you can go and buy your ingredients from people who are directly connected to where the food was grown or raised. It’s remarkably easy to stop supporting Big Agriculture.
As I write this, it’s a month after the earthquake. I’m in Mexico City, living in the Roma-Condesa neighborhood.
There was major destruction near my apartment, many lives lost, and while I was lucky to have been spared any damages – aside from lingering anxiety any time a truck passes, shaking the building – several friends who live nearby were displaced from their homes. Resources and assistance, by civilians and international aid, poured into this neighbourhood within hours of the disaster. To call it ‘heartening’ would be an understatement.
This was not true for a great many communities. In less wealthy, less tourist-oriented communities, assistance came too slowly, many said. No matter how you look at it, the poor don’t have insurance or emergency funds for repairs.
From Tlalpan and Xochimilco in the southern part of the city, to pueblos in Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas, millions of poor were affected.
In these areas, subsistence milpa farms are the foundation of the local economies. From small, densely productive sustainable agricultural plots, comes beautiful food – the ingredients of their heritage, the base crops being corn, beans, squash and chiles. The community shares what is needed and sell or barter the rest.
In most towns and villages, aside from the mercado(s), tianguis –roaming markets– set up each week at set locations under colorful tarps. These tianguis are typical throughout Mexico –in Mexico City, the sheer number of them is astounding. Amongst the more “commercial” vendors, there are the true regional entrepreneurial growers who have travelled for hours in some case with their baskets of freshly picked produce. In many cases, they are women, sometimes bent and wizened, sometimes with small children in tow.
Outside the Mercado San Juan in the historic centre of Mexico City.
I’m ashamed to say I don’t recall this vendor’s name, though I did ask him at the time. He told me they were from Puebla, and for more than 40 years he has set up outside the market, along the sidewalk. The stalls inside were too expensive, he said. He is now blind, and was accompanied by his grandson and six year old great-granddaughter. While we talked he was teaching her how to add and make change. She goes to school ‘on some days’, she told me.
It is October, now, post rainy season and high time for harvest of the corn, beans, chiles and the other milpa crops. However, those who farm, harvest, glean and sell, have other serious matters to attend to like building shelter, and repairing what homes can be salvaged. More hands will be needed and this will undoubtedly affect the children whose families are poor – they will be kept home to help.
Floods of donations were collected to assist earthquake victims. But what can we do in the long run? What if each of us made a greater effort to support their work as agricultural guardians?
Given the choice, the supermarkets and big-box stores where shiny apples and perfect peppers grown for the masses by big Agro, are not where I want to put my pesos. Frutas y Verduras – A Fresh Food Lover’s Guide to Mexico was my own small effort to make foods less known by us foreigners more approachable. I encourage you, now more than ever, to take the time to discover the beautiful foods grown lovingly by real people who work the land with their hands, who pray for rain and who trust in nature.
Until the end of this year, I will contribute 25% of all sales of Frutas y Verduras (both iOS and Kobo) to groups that I will personally be vetting, who are actively working on the re-building of pueblos especially in agricultural areas.
‘Day of the Triffids’ came to mind as I witnessed enormous mounds of golfball-sized hairy red fruits, like peculiar creatures, swarming the area around the central market of San Cristóbal de las Casas, borne in chariots wheeled about by local vendors.
Rambutan is a fruit I was familiar with from Asian markets, but for a moment, I was confused. Was it native to Mexico and I’d thought it was Asian? After all, the pitahaya, a fruit native to Mexico, had become better known as ‘dragonfruit’ as Asian markets dominated its export, after re-branding it with a catchy name.
The subtropical climate of Chiapas is ideal for growing rambutan
In fact, the climate of the Soconusco region of Chiapas happens to be ideal for growing these and other exotic fruits native to Southeast Asia. In the mid-1980s, Alfonso Pérez Romero, a Mexican specialist in botany, brought seeds, collected in Asia, of rambutan and other exotic fruits, recognizing the great demand by about 10 million Asians living in the United States (and Canada), not to mention the Asian population in Mexico itself.
It’s turned out to be a worthwhile commercial effort with thousands of tons of these fruits exported by Mexico to the US each year. In fact, its flavor is reported to be superior to the rambutan imported from SE Asia.
You wouldn’t think such a cute fruit could kill.
More recently, however, an alarming question was raised by this article about a mysterious illness in India causing children to suddenly die. About 100 deaths each year reported over 20 years. New research, published in the medical journal The Lancet suggests they were poisoned by a toxin contained in lychee fruits:
“Most of the victims were poor children in India’s main lychee-producing region who ate (lychee) fruit that had fallen on to the ground in orchards”
Lychee contains hypoglycin, a toxin that prevents the body from making glucose. Ackee fruit contains the same toxin and similar illnesses, though rarely fatal, have been reported in the Caribbean. Rambutan contains the very same toxin as both these fruits. In India, once health officials had a grasp of what was happening, and were able to deliver advice to parents that they should ensure young children got an evening meal and not eat too many of the lychees, the number of reported deaths dropped dramatically.
What about the children of Chiapas, Mexico? This new fruit is a novelty: sweet, refreshing and fun to eat. In this state where there is poverty and illiteracy, and where this fruit has not been tested by centuries of traditional wisdom, it’s not a stretch to think that there may be not a few children who come upon these fruits and fill their little tummies. Has this information of the potential harm it can do reached those families who grow, harvest and sell this fruit? It’s fortunate that the native subsistence foods of corn and beans are ubiquitous and abundant where this alien fruit is grown, hence –one would hope – ensuring that those children are not eating this fruit on empty stomachs.
Rambutan may be good for the economy of this region of Chiapas, but there’s always more than economics to consider when it comes to agriculture and food supply.
Several months ago, when I had decided I was going to commit to this project, I reached out to a few online groups where expats get their information. There is a big Yahoo Group in Michoacan and another in San Miguel de Allende. (Both, incidentally, are resources worth plugging into if you are exploring the possibility of moving to either of those areas. I’ll include the links at the bottom of this post.)
My post described that I was working on decoding the mysteries of the fruits and vegetables here in Mexico that are most foreign to most of us expats– that with this information, I would build a practical field guide and make it publicly available.
I immediately got an email from Linda, who was living outside Pátzcuaro at the time. She had come across a tuber that she said was the root of the chayote. It was no surprise that if the chayote yielded a tuber, or that if it was edible, then it was eaten. However, here in San Miguel, I had never come across it.
She sent me photos and described how she and her husband had prepared it. I was so thrilled, not just to know about this new vegetable, but that it affirmed for me that when we share information – as I wanted to do on a larger scale– it could lead others to feel safer to experiment with foods they were curious about.
Trouble was, I hadn’t been able to get my own hands on this raiz de chayote. The second hand information was great, but of course I wanted to be able to try it myself!
Recently, I was talking to a friend who lives in La Manzanilla, on the west coast of Mexico, but spends some time in San Miguel. Eileen teaches cooking in La Manzanilla, so, as a kindred foodie-spirit, when she mentioned she was going to Patzcuaro, I told her the story of Linda and the Raiz de Chayote. (AKA Chayocamote, chinchayote, chayotestle and probably other names).
So when Eileen was in Patzcuaro, she tracked it down and brought me back a whopping big tuber. Finally, a chance to try it out (that post coming soon), but what was most rewarding was Eileen thanking ME for sending her out on this mission… I know for myself what fun it is to search and discover!
SO LET’S SHARE!
How I’d love to see this work: You’re at the Tianguis, or in the Mercado and a vendor presents something– you don’t know what the heck it is, or what to do with it…
Buy it, and try it, or just take a photo of it with your phone, and share it with me here :
I’ll write a post here and will also be able to add this to the content for my upcoming eBook…because you are not the only one who’d come across that very same food and had the same conundrum– the more we share, the better it is for the community, and for the indigenous farmers from whose culture we are gaining so much… When we explore more those foods that are ancient and unmodified, we help preserve them for generations to come.
When the milpas become ready for harvest… the corn (maiz), the vines of beans that have wound around the corn stalks, the squashes that weave through the fields at the base, and the volunteer greens like verdolagas and quelites, that help keep the soil moist under the hot sun… so does the bastard child of the corn come ready for harvest too. Those cobs plagued with disease, a pathogenic fungus that invades the corn, replacing the normal kernels of the cobs with large bloated silvery silvery-grey tumors: call it Corn smut, or ‘Devil’s Corn’… either way, in the North, it’s not been looked upon fondly.
Nothing short of a blight for corn farmers, in fact, often rendering 10% of a US harvest useless. But in Mexico, the Aztecs had long been enjoying this as a food. They call it huitlacoche (or cuitlacoche). Etymologically, there’s several possible meanings for this Nahuatl word, and the one that has had the most ‘hook’ is ‘raven’s excrement’, which may explain its dark mystique.
It’s amazing what a little re-branding can do; in the past 5 years or so, huitlacoche has been introduced to the gourmet market in the US, as the ‘Mexican Truffle’ – it’s a fungus, so that’s appropriate enough.. and it sure sounds better than ‘smut’ or ‘excrement’. But now that the vocabulary around Mexican cuisine is improving North of the Border, ‘huitlacoche’ is claiming its right to be named as such in the food-lovers’ syntax.
How good can sticky black goo taste?
You’re asking me? I love it. The flavor is earthy, a little smoky (if you add a dash or two of mescal while it’s cooking, that brings out the smokiness). … at the same time, there are smooth undertones of vanilla and a bright fruitiness a bit like cherries. And there’s no denying its visual appearance, so dark and wicked. Texturally it’s interesting because where the galls have separated from the cob, you’ll get that chewy nuttiness like a kernel of corn has. Under heat, when the silvery membrane breaks open, the black spores start to soften, break down, almost liquify into a slick, smooth, almost oily mass of black goo.
Even though it’s delicious, it’s oddly difficult to describe it in a way that is conventionally appetizing. Perhaps that’s best… we wouldn’t want Chipotle’s to get too excited about it!
It’s not difficult to cook, and it doesn’t need much in the way of seasoning; like mushrooms, the flavor is best left to stand on its own.
Sautéed finely chopped onion until translucent, then add the huitlacoche. Be sure to pick the threads of corn silk out first! The key is to cook it long and slow on a low simmer adding as little liquid as possible as it cooks and allowing the spores to break down fully and unify into a nice, lumpy black puddle…perhaps dry white wine or mescal to deglaze the pan if you want to get fancy.
How to serve it without scaring anyone…
Yes, some people are funny about what they eat. Fussy. Let them miss out on this delicious experience… leaves more for you and me.
Traditionally, it’s at home in a taco. For heat, strips of roasted poblano chiles (rajas) , chipotle or another smokey cooked salsa. As a quesadilla or filling in any other corn masa based snack: sope, tlacoyo, huarache…
But there’s no reason to be restricted to tradition!
Try using the huitlacoche as you might use mushrooms….
… over pasta, even in lasagna
…stuffing for chicken breasts
…as a sauce to accompany a steak (adding some smokey chile and pureeing it to a smooth creamy texture)
My most recent effort, here, takes a hollowed out calabacita (you can use regular zucchini) which I baked til it was tender, then filled it with the cooked huitlacoche I topped it with a creamy avocado guacamole which I seasoned with hoja santa) and that’s a pasilla salsa finishing it off. It was nice, and used up some of those calabacitas that ramble through the same milpas.
But where can I find it outside of Mexico?
First of all, I recommend you come to Mexico. Let a señora serve it to you atop a handmade tortilla that’s been cooked over a big metal barrel-cum-griddle…
Failing that, canned huitlacoche is really not a bad substitute for the fresh stuff and most authentic Latin markets will sell it. It’s not cheap, but it is intense, and goes a long way.
Or, you can see what happens if you grow your own corn… maybe you’ll get lucky and wind up with some smut instead, like my friend Steev did… read about that here, along with a recipe for his Squash blossom fritters stuffed with huitlacoche.
The quince is not native to Mexico, nor is it widely cultivated here. Its native origin is in Central to Southwest Asia: Turkey, Iran and into Morocco where it is a popular ingredient in tajines. From there, it would have entered Spain, which is likely how its seed was transported to Mexico. It grows on woody hillsides and orchards, so wherever you might find an apple tree there might also be a quince growing wild. The fruit comes into season in mid-late August into October, and here in Mexico it’s more likely you will find it through the local vendors who bring in produce from small orchards or the countryside, rather than from the larger vendors who bring in cultivated fruits and vegetables.
Generally, the fresh fruit is not eaten. The pulp is hard, somewhat woody. Its tartness mellows with cooking and floral aroma is released. Canning in syrup is a popular way to prepare and preserve it as well as jams, jellies, candies and liqueurs. It’s a nice addition to apple or pear compotes with its rosy-pink colour and firm texture. Having a high pectin content helps in gelling.
In Mexico, as well as other parts of South and Central America the membrillo is cooked, using plenty of sugar, into a pin block of firm jelly, called ate (AH-tay), or a darkish pink paste known as dulce de membrillo. The pectin level in the fruit along with the sugar, ensure that it holds up firmly. It’s delicious served with cheese, especially nutty Manchego, or soft curds spread on toasted bread or crackers and is classic Spanish tapas… A handful of almonds along with this, and a glass of sherry, or Jeréz, of course in Mexico, is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my evening…