Thursday, October 29, 2009

I have to make...what?

Horchata (say or-CHAH-tah and give your "r" a little tongue roll, please).

This will make my friend Courtney happy. She's a fan of horchata.

Horchata is a traditional Mexican rice-based drink. Our Little Family doesn't drink a lot of it here, but it is widely available and tastes pretty good. I'm going to get a serious horchata lesson this weekend when I have to make 20 (yes, that's TWENTY) liters of it for the town's Día de los Muertos festivities. To me, this seems a little like asking someone from, say, China, who just arrived in America, to make fifty cheeseburgers for a tailgate party. Good luck, right? I hope I don't screw it up.

As part of Día de los Muertos, the girls' school will be selling food and refreshments at the big celebration in the plaza. When I received the sign up sheet for what I'd like to make to sell at the plaza, most of the options were things I'd never heard of before or things I knew were labor intensive and very traditional -- things I knew I'd probably screw up or make the way an American would make them. Like, for instance, flan. I know how to make flan. I think my flan is pretty good. But would the Mexicans like my flan? And could I really make enough servings of it to sell? Without scrambling the eggs or curdling the milk? Probably not. So I went with something easy.


When I saw "ponche" on the list, I guessed it was "punch" and guessed that I could make something acceptable. After all, punch is pretty wide open, right? Pour a bunch of sugary stuff in a pitcher and call it punch. It's a very broad term, is it not?

So I planned to make my favorite iced tea. Hibiscus iced tea is very popular here (called jamaica -- say "ha-MAI-cah") and I make it regularly. But I don't make it the Mexican way. I make half a pitcher of jamaica and half a pitcher of limeade and combine them. Like a Mexican Arnold Palmer. Or a Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade (without the extra sweetener). I thought my version of jamaica could pass for "ponche."

Until today. After school today the guy who is organizing all the food asked if I was making hot punch. Hot? Seriously? I said, "The weather here doesn't really lend itself to hot punch."

He replied, "It's a Mexican tradition."

"Oh. Um...well...I was going to make jamaica and mix it with limeade." He looked at me like I was crazy.

"Someone else is already making jamaica," he said. "Can you make horchata?"

"Sure!" I exclaimed, with genuine excitement. "I've been waiting for a chance to try making horchata! How do you make it? I'm sure I can find a recipe on the internet, but what do you do?"

And so he told me a few of the ingredients his wife uses in their horchata. So I plugged the ingredients into Goodsearch. (You don't use Goodsearch? What? You should. It's such an EASY way to contribute to worthy causes without reaching into your wallet!)

It came up with a few very laborious recipes and then this one, which seemed the easiest to translate into a 20 liter recipe. Plus the recipe comes from my favorite organic (non-raw) milk co-op. It was meant to be!

But is it authentic? Hmm...

I'll let you know. I'm hoping for some feedback at the celebration on Sunday night. I may have to post my kids like spies around people drinking the horchata to listen in on their reactions. Wait...I don't think their Spanish is good enough. Maybe they can just read facial expressions?

I do have a half batch soaking in my kitchen right now so that I can do a test run. I would hate to screw up 20 liters of the stuff!


Fulton said...

rice in a drink? we might have to make that! im down with food and drink diversity at our halloween party.

lucythevaliant said...

it almost looks like chai tea, doesn't it? Good luck!

jeremy dickman said...

It looks like a similar thing Sarah and I had at our favorite Thai place, Lemongrass. The drink is known to us white people as Thai Iced Tea, I don't remember the proper name for it though. Anyway it sounds and looks similar to this spanish tea you are making.
Also, for a great Puerto Rico Spanish drink try Coquito. It can be made just as good without the rum, look it up for a recipe. It can only be bought in bottles pre-made in P.R.

Hillary Dickman said...

It does look a little like Chai, and has the same cinnamon flavor, but without the cardamom and clove and all of that, although maybe I'll try it with those spices next time. Call it Indian horchata.

I bet Thai Iced Tea is similar to an iced chai, too. I'll have to look that up!