As I end the week posting of fruit, I would like to share an excerpt from one of the cookbooks I am working on, yet in progress, the one on Mexican and Western foods. In the beverage section, it goes something like this:
Agua Frescas are everywhere in Mexico, served on street corners, in side alley eateries serving comida corrida and even in the finest restaurants. Translating as ‘fresh waters’ these drinks are refreshing to the palate. Light bodied, a cool agua fresca serves to counter-balance the strong flavors of chiles and spices found in many dishes and to refresh your body with fruit base water filled with vitamins. Also known as agua de fruta, these stimulating drinks contain whatever fruit is in season, sometimes made with flowers and seeds and always sweetened with sugar or honey.
All Agua Frescas pretty much are made using the same technique. Cut up some fresh fruit, cover with just a little water and blend to make a coarse pulp. Place in a large vitrolero or jar-like container adding more water and stir in a sweetener.
Agua de Guayaba
Made from fresh ripen guavas, this is more full-bodied, fruit nectar like and is especially good served truly cold.
1 cup peeled, seeded and diced guava
5 cups water
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
Remove the seed sacs, peel and dice. Place in a blender and cover with water. Blend to form a smooth, thick pulp. Place in a pitcher, add remaining water and stir in the sugar. Chill well before serving. Many drink it with light rum and soda water.
Agua de Melón
Sweet and juicy cantaloupes or honeydews make a mouth-watering agua and are probably the most popular with tourist.
1/2 cantaloupe or honeydew -seeds and rind removed, diced
1 quart water
1/4 cup sugar or to taste
Agua de Sandía
A children’s favorite agua, this watermelon drink uses a bit more melon than above and depending on the sweetness of the watermelon decrease the amount of sugar.
11/2 cups diced watermelon -without rind
5 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
Folks in Mexico blend the melon with the seeds and allow the bits to settle to the bottom before serving but I prefer to remove the seeds prior to placing in the blender.
Agua de Jamaica
No, I’m not switching countries; this drink is made using dried hibiscus flowers, known in Mexico as Jamaica and can be found in Latin markets and health food stores. It is high in vitamin C and is a natural diuretic.
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers
8 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
To make this drink, rinse and drain the hibiscus flowers in a colander and place in a saucepan with 4 cups of the water along with the sugar. Bring to a slow boil stirring and then lower heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Let completely cool before straining into a pitcher. Add remaining water and chill before serving. The flowers will create a wonderful deep red color.
Agua de Tamarindo
The pods from the beautiful Tamarind tree create this delightful and popular agua. You can find these pods in markets catering to Latin, Asia or Indian communities.
10 tamarind pods
1 quart water
3/4 cups sugar or to taste
Peel the pods removing the veins that run along the sides being careful to leave the seeds and the sticky pulp. Place the pods in half of the water and bring to a boil cooking until the pulp is soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool and remove the seeds from the pulp and any bits of the outside peel that may have adhered to the pods. Place the pods, the cooked water and sugar in a blender. Liquefy well and strain juice through a sieve into a pitcher. Add remaining water and chill before serving.
Other drinks include Agua de Fressa (strawberries), Agua de Papaya (papaya with added lime), and a even a very refreshing Agua Fresca de Pepino made from cucumbers.