The Autumn season is official as we passed the Autumn Equinox…and that colder and rainy weather is here. Winter is coming our way. How do you feel about the colder months ahead? As the winter approaches and the change in climate weaken your immune system, you want to keep your body healthy and prepared for flu season, right? Many hot beverage products are an excellent part of daily health routines, and there are many more hot beverages than just the standard soup, coffee and black teas that most people are familiar with. Today, I’m going to talk about Atoles. This delicious beverage, usually sweet, also comes from ancient times. Besides, the atole, or some of their variants as the pozol, one of the most popular ones, has been an all-time favorite because is an exceptional energy source. Atole (pronounced ah-toll -eh) is a popular, grain based hot drink in Mexico, which celebrates the use of corn. Recipes for atole date back to pre-Colombian times. Atole mixes cooked cornmeal with water and cane sugar blocks, which are called piloncillo. The resulting blends vary in texture, ranging from porridge to a very thin liquid consistency. Atole can also be prepared with rice flour or oatmeal in place of masa. Traditionally, atole is sweetened by adding piloncillo, which is an unrefined sugar with a high molasses content that’s pressed into cones.
Atoles are very popular beverages in Central America with roots in Mayan cuisine. The most traditional times to serve atole is on holidays. It’s always seen as part of the best ofrendas, or altars, for Day of the Dead. It’s served to the pilgrims knocking at the door during the Christmas posadas. People from El Salvador, in Central America, make an “atol shuco” which means “dirty atole”. This is because their recipe for atole has gray flecks in it due to the black beans or purple cornmeal they like to add. Pumpkin seeds or ground chilies are other possible ingredients in atol shuco. El Salvador atole is served hot, like Mexican atole recipes, but it is often a lot thicker because of the addition of beans. Atole is considered a comfort food in South Texas, as well as in the North of Mexico, and it is often enjoyed as supper or breakfast on cold days.
The Bromelia Pinguin, native to tropical America, produces a compact rosette that may contain as many as 40 leaves. The stiff, linear, long-attenuate leaves are up to 2 inches across and 6 feet in length. Widely grown in Central America and used as a fence or barrier for its beautiful leaves. Most of the prickles curve toward the leaf apex but an occasional one curves toward the base. The leaves gradually change from a shiny green to a reddish color as they age. The white or pinkish flowers are produced on a dense panicle that arises from the heart of the plant. The youngest leaves are pinkish while the flower is developing. The flower stem has up to 100 pinkish red flowers. The main rosette dies after blooming. The small amount of pulp is acid but makes an excellent refreshing drink. It is a fair source of calcium and vitamin C. The pinguin also is a source of a protein-splitting enzyme, pinguinain. This enzyme can be used as a meat tenderizer, and the juice of the fruit has been utilized as an anthelmintic. The genus name ‘Bromelia’ comes from a prominent Swedish medical doctor and botanist, Olof Ole Bromell (1639-1705).
I’ve had a craving for atole for awhile now and have been looking for a basic recipe. My Grandmother use to make it for us and now I wished I’d watched her make it. But it’s never too late to learn, so I I google it and find this hot wintertime drinks that hit the spot when you need warming up from the inside out. So the next time you are feeling cold on a winter’s night try a hot Atole to warm yourself up. Here’s to your health!
1 ½ pound of uncooked rice (crumb)
4 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 small sweet peppers
5 all spice
15 cups water
1 piloncillo, (Mexican sugar cones) chopped fine or grated
½ teaspoon salt.
Wash the rice under running water in a strainer, and let soak for about 3 hours, changing the water as it becomes cloudy. Cook the rice in 3 cups of water with the cinnamon stick. When soft, add the milk, salt and allspice. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes. Let cool slightly and blend. Set aside. Wash the Pinuelas thoroughly and cook in enough water to cover until tender. Then remove from water and let it cool. Once cold, cut off the end to extract the pulp. Chop well and remove the seeds. Place the chopped pulp in a large pot over medium heat, add the water (15 cups) sweet pepper and piloncillo cover the pot and bring to boil for ½ hour. Then add the paste we have prepared with the rice into the Pinuela water little by little until completely mixed and free of lumps. Cook for another ½ hour, stirring to prevent scalding. It should have the consistency of heavy cream. Additional milk may be added to thin it if desired. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot in mugs.