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drfugawe


Dec 10, 2006, 6:57 AM

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Holiday Specialities

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OK, the holidays are rushing in on us at breakneck speed, and at the risk of asking one of those "repeating seasonal" questions, I'm wondering what kinds of regional special dishes appear on Mexican plates during the Christmas/New Year holidays? Knowing Mexico to be proudly provicial regarding culinary traditions, there must be many regional holiday treats - How about those of you who are knowledgable sharing a few of them with us, and maybe ever steering us to an online recipe (or even the recipe itself!).

I'm already salivating in anticipation.
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H.L. Mencken
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Ed and Fran

Dec 10, 2006, 9:46 AM

Post #2 of 7 (6123 views)

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Re: [drfugawe] Holiday Specialities

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Although it can be found being sold by some street vendors or small puestos throughout the year, what is really traditional in the Tuxpan area at New Years is "Zacahuitl" (or zacahuil), or as I call it, "The tamal that ate Chicago".

This is a large (up to 15-20+ kgs each) tamal made with very coarsely ground masa, carne de puerco (I've seen recipes using guajalote, but not here), tomatos, manteca, chile color, chile seco, garlic, cebolla, and comino.

All mixed up and wrapped in a bunch of banana leaves then baked in a beehive oven overnight. Actually, when done in very large batches like our family does, it needs to be in a plastic bag, then inside a burlap bag for strength, then inside the banana leaves. We usually make a couple of these, or about 30-35 kgs in total.

As they start to get above 15kg each, they start to get rather unweildy and difficult to handle. There's nothing like trying to wrestle 24kg of soft zacahuitl into the opening of a very hot beehive oven. Been there, done that.

Preparation is done on the 31st, and the Zacahuitl is opened on New Years morning. The family and assorted hangers on pig out throughout the day and the 2nd. We usually put aside some frozen to thaw out and eat a couple of weeks later when the initial glut of stuffing yourself with Zacahuitl has worn off.

Commercially prepared zacahuitl that you find sold on the street usually has mostly masa and sauce, with very little meat. Ours has about 30% meat by weight.

Here's a recipe that uses guajalote, but gives you an idea.
http://www.tamales.com.mx/...eta=8&IDEstado=5

My job in this adventure is to fire up the oven, keep the leña buring throughout the afternoon to slowly heat up the walls, and get a good bed of coals ready for when we put the zacahuitls in at sundown. Then the oven gets sealed up and left to cook.

Hmmm, just three weeks to go!

Regards

Ed & Fran


esperanza

Dec 10, 2006, 10:20 AM

Post #3 of 7 (6116 views)

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Re: [Ed and Fran] Holiday Specialities

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Ed, this sounds just wonderful! I'm impressed. And thanks for that website, too. I doubt that I'll be preparing a zacahuil this Año Nuevo, but maybe sometime in the future...wow!

After reading your post and looking at the list of ingredients, I'd say this isn't the tamal that ate Chicago, but rather the tamal that all of Chicago could eat!

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drfugawe


Dec 11, 2006, 7:14 AM

Post #4 of 7 (6089 views)

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Re: [Ed and Fran] Holiday Specialities

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Ed/Fran,
That's a rather majestic creation, isn't it! I take it that the intent - at least the traditional intent - was to make this gigantic goodie for holiday visitors, right? Do you have to be careful that you don't make it so big that it becomes dinner for the next two weeks? But I guess if it's fantastically delicious, who'd complain?

Thanks for sharing. BTW, has anyone seen a holiday sweet tamale made with meat? I've had these in the Yucatan wrapped in banana leaves.
jm
_________________________

"Self-respect: the secure feeling
that no one, as yet, is suspicious."
H.L. Mencken
____________###



Ed and Fran

Dec 11, 2006, 11:00 AM

Post #5 of 7 (6080 views)

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Re: [drfugawe] Holiday Specialities

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I take it that the intent - at least the traditional intent - was to make this gigantic goodie for holiday visitors, right? Do you have to be careful that you don't make it so big that it becomes dinner for the next two weeks?

I guess if you count the extended family including the brother and sister-in-laws who live nearby, yeah they make it for all of them. With the size of my extended family, and their ability to stow it away when available, there's little left after the second day. As difficult as that is to fathom, it's even more incredible seeing that quantity of food disappear in real life.

Traditionally, these beehive ovens are constructed over a framework of flexible branches. Every year they need a bit of upkeep maintenance. And every so often, depending on the care given and how dry the oven can be kept, they need to be rebuilt. Ours was in that shape last year. Having trouble getting someone experienced to come and make a new framework out of fresh cut branches, we went and had a new framework made out of 3/8" rebar and alambrón, all welded up. This puppy is stout, and should last a good while. After going through so much trouble we thought it would be a waste to only use it once a year, so this year we made another batch of zacahuitl on Mother's Day.

Regards

Ed & Fran


thriftqueen

Dec 11, 2006, 3:37 PM

Post #6 of 7 (6065 views)

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Re: [Ed and Fran] Holiday Specialities

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I'd love to be a guest at your house to help eat the "big" one. How about a photo of the oven made with the branches (not the new rebar one). Apparently Sonora doesn't have this art. I know about the beehive ovens here and in NM-especially on the Indian Pueblos.


Ed and Fran

Dec 11, 2006, 5:05 PM

Post #7 of 7 (6059 views)

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Re: [thriftqueen] Holiday Specialities

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You don't see the branches, they're just used as the framework to give form to the oven, and they get covered inside and out with a think layer of mud, and in many cases, also lined with brick on the inside. The framework only serves to support the wet construction until the mud dries hard. They probably get carbonized during the first firing.

You need to let a new oven air dry for a couple of weeks (depending on your climate) and even then you ought to stoke up a couple of small slow fires to completely dry out the walls and drive out any residual moisture. If you try firing one up full blast before the walls have sufficiently dried out you can cause big cracks.

Regards

Ed
 
 
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