[Note: Aguas frescas “fresh (cold) waters”) are a combination of; fruits, cereals, seeds, sugar and water blended together to make a refreshing beverages.]
Horchata was an old-world drink brought to the new world by the Spaniards and later enjoyed too by the Aztecs. This infectious drink has been carried across continents and language barriers, through millenniums, and by all types of people. There is a large difference between authentic Spanish Horchata and the Mexican version. The Spain version is made with chufa nuts (also known as tiger nuts) and the Mexican horchata is made of rice milk.
Horchata (pronounced or-CHA-tah) is a drink made from the Tiger Nut, a small tuber from the Middle East, about the size of an acorn with a brown and wrinkled skin. It has a fairly nutty taste that’s quite similar to the almond. Horchata is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt where the Tiger Nut was a widely and popular domesticated crop. From there it was introduced by Arabs, to Spain during the time of the Moorish kings, almost exclusively in the Valencia region, where its original recipe remained intact. Spain then took the drink to Mexico, where it was then altered; rice became the main ingredient to the beverage. When used in Horchata the Tiger Nut, is left to soak in a tub of water for upwards of 12 hours. It is then rinsed until the water runs clean and mashed (or pureed) until it forms a soft paste. More water is added plus a stick or two of cinnamon, and left to soak again for an additional two hours. Sugar is added and the mixture is then strained into a pitcher. You should now be left with a sort of “milk” that is served cold.
In Spain it is very popular and is known as Chufa. It is one of two major species of the nutsedge genus Cyperus found as a weed in the tropics and subtropics on all types of disturbed soil. Tiger nuts have long been recognised for their health benefits as they are high in fibre, proteins, and natural sugars. They have a high content of soluble glucose and oleic acid. Along with a high energy content (starch, fats, sugars and proteins), they are rich in minerals such as phosphorous and potassium and in vitamins E and C.
Tiger nuts were widely grown in Florida in the 1940’s, in the 1980s, they were still grown for livestock feed on a few farms. In Spain, Chufa is planted outdoors from late spring to midsummer by dropping the dried tubers 15 to 30 cm apart in rows 60 to 90 cm apart. Tiger nuts are widely cultivated in and exported from China, Mali and the Ivory Coast. Seldom grown as a food item in home gardens, these nuts were widely available in Britain in the 1960’s although they are rare and exotic nowadays. Apparently they gained popularity in the post-war years when sugar was in short supply but subsequently fell out of favour and are now only available in health food shops or as fishing bait.
4 cups milk (use whatever fat content you like best)
1 cinnamon stick
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup rice flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
optional: 1/2 cup dark rum
bring milk and cinnamon stick to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, and transfer to a pitcher or bowl. Mix in sweetened condensed milk, flour, vanilla, and cinnamon. Chill until cold (a good 2 hours should do it). strain mixture with a sieve, and add in rum (if using). Pour over ice, and garnish with a cinnamon stick, or a little sprinkle or cinnamon.
The Spain version of Horchata!
250g dried tigernuts
1 liter water
100g sugar (you can use other sweetener if you like)
First soak the tigernuts overnight in water. That’s essential. I leave them in the refrigerator. The wrinkly little guys will get plumpy. The next day, drain the tigernuts, which will be hydrated by now, and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Add 700 ml of water and puree thoroughly. I puree mine for as long as 2 minutes. Lay a cheese cloth or something similar on a sieve or funnel placed on a container to collect the juice.
Pour the tigernut puree, tie together the ends of the cheese cloth and press the mixture by wringing the cloth. Wring until there’s no more liquid coming out. Add the sugar and the rest of the water to the milk, stir to dissolve. You can choose to add this same amount of water in the form of icecubes instead, if you intend to drink the horchata immediately. Otherwise, put the container in the fridge and chill thoroughly.