Cookin' With Leo
A Native Central American Brew
Since I have been livin' down here in hot and dry West Texas an' not too far from the Mexican Border, I thought it might be a good idea to learn more about this locale and some history, so to speak. Well, a' course the first thing that come to mind was drinkin' stuff. Not how much to drink or that sort of thing, was just wonderin' how in the world the Native Central Americans came up with all the hot potent stuff they seem to put away in a hot potent climate. Seems that HOT plus HOT equals TOO HOT, but somehow here it don't work that way. One thing for sure, I never minded eatin' hot spicy food like Chili and such, and in my travelin' days got used to good Real Tex-Mex, Real Texan, and Real Mexican cookin'. In fact that is how I came by my first Chili recipes. Bein' a northerner by birth, I always thought Chili had to have beans in it an' that crumblin' up about half a package of crispy crackers in it made it good. Probably does for most native northerners but not when you learn to make it right. Not 'til I learned what real Chili was did I start eatin' it right too.
You might say the same fer drinkin' too. And, again as a native northerner, I got used to beer, bourbon, an' booze my pa made in the bathtub. Tequila was sort of a thing ya' might binge on. Well it ain't necessarily so. So, now that I am close to Tequila Country, I figured I better learn something about it. An' here is what I found.
Tequila is made, or distilled, from a plant called agave. It grows throughout Mexico. The early Aztecs learned to make a sort of wine out of it. Later the Spanish distilled the stuff into a sort of Rum which they ran out of, while winding their way through South and Central America. They brought in Distillery Equipment, and the first attempts at distilling Aqave turned it into a form of Mescal. Tequila is a special form of mescal just the same as cognac is a special form of brandy. In time the connoisseurs found that the very best agave spirits came from a small, hot, dusty, town in Central Mexico called Tequila.
Four things distinguish Tequila from Mescal:
First, it is made from Blue Agave. That is only one of about 300 species of Cactus that grows in Mexico.
Second, it can only be made from the Blue Agave that is grown in a small region, north of Guadalajara, in the State of Jalisco.
Third, it must be distilled not once, but twice, so as to remove undesirable flavors.
Fourth, it MUST contain at least 51 percent of the distilled BLUE AGAVE, and the rest can be the less expensive distillates of other Agave.
And there are four types of Tequila. The label will state which type. They differ as to the length of aging. Tequila is aged in Oak Barrels for a period of from 6 months on up to seven years.
Blanco is usually bottled for immediate use, with little or no aging. It is sometimes referred to as White or Silver. It is best suited for mixed drinks.
Jovan abocado called Gold, has been aged up to maybe six months. It is also best suited for mixed drinks. Unsuspecting northerners will sip it as a straight drink, just because it costs a bit more.
Reposado is aged more than 6 months and on up to maybe a year. It is fairly good sipped straight up with lime and salt.
Anejo is the very best Tequila and it owes its flavor and finesse to its aging of from one to seven years. It is best enjoyed when sipped straight up.
Most Tequila found in the states is a blend of Agave and other distilled spirits. However the very best Tequila is 100 percent Agave possessing a full rich sweet flavor you can't beat. You will have to ask for it and read the label. And it will probably cost 20 bucks or more for a fifth.
So here is a good before (Mexican) meal, appetizer. This is
Tequila with Sangrita
Get a pitcher and stir in the following:
¾ cup of Tomato juice,
½ cup fresh orange juice,
the juice from 2 limes,
1 tablespoon juice from a jar of pickled Jalapeno chilies,
and ¼ of a finely grated onion with the juice.
Cover and put the pitcher in the fridge until you are ready for it.
Slice up another lime into wedges and rub around the rims of 6 cordial glasses then invert them into a dish containing chili powder to coat the rims. And drop lime wedges into the glasses.
Trim and halve a bunch of radishes and place on a dish. Peel and thin-slice up a small jicama and place that on the dish with the radishes. A shaker of salt will go with that.
Six shot glasses filled with the best Anejo Tequila will top this off.
Invite your diners to partake of the radish and jicama pieces and salt to taste, sip a little Tequila, and chase it with the Sangrita.
That should prime 'em up for that great Mexican Meal you prepared.