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bshrum

Mar 21, 2004, 12:22 PM

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Mexican Cookbooks

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Hi! I want to add to my cookbook library with authentic mexican cookbooks, especially if they are area specific, i.e., Recipes from the Women of Guadalajara or Ajijic, etc... The cookbooks can be in English or Spanish. Does anyone have any good suggestions and where I would be able to acquire them?

Thanks! Bridgett



N2Futur

Mar 23, 2004, 1:22 PM

Post #2 of 20 (3622 views)

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Re: [bshrum] Mexican Cookbooks

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Check out this Sept 11, 2003 post by Esperanza:

ˇVIVA MEXICO!~Independence Day and Its Special Food

I made this dish and it was absolutely fabolous!

Elke
___________________________
"When choosing between two evils, I always like to pick the one I never tried before." - Mae West


bshrum

Mar 23, 2004, 2:19 PM

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Re: [N2Futur] Mexican Cookbooks

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Thanks! The recipe looks delicious....I'll give it a try.


TomG

Mar 23, 2004, 7:20 PM

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Re: [bshrum] Mexican Cookbooks

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There is Susana Trilling's Oaxaca Cookbook, a Mexicana restaurant owner from NYC has got a Veracruz one out. You don't want to miss those two regions. Anything Diana Kennedy wrote is important.

And then you need a mocajete, a clay comal, and some cal.


bshrum

Mar 24, 2004, 6:49 AM

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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Hi! Thanks for the suggestion! I have a mocajete and a cast iron comal. Do you recommend clay over cast iron? What is cal?


ET

Mar 24, 2004, 7:44 AM

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Re: [bshrum] Mexican Cookbooks

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bshrum writes:
....What is cal?


Calcium oxide, aka lime.


TomG

Mar 24, 2004, 8:32 AM

Post #7 of 20 (3579 views)

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Re: [bshrum] Mexican Cookbooks

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We have a cast iron comal in the USA where our stove is electric. We use a clay comal here in Oaxaca. Maria, an immigrant and one of our dearest friends, is from rural Guanajuato; she says it makes no difference, "a comal is a comal". She uses an old aluminum griddle. But Maria could produce miracles over an open fire of dried cornstalks with an empty coffee can.

Maria is the young Mexican woman that everyone dreams exists. I don't know how Mexico thinks it can afford to loose people like that.

Anyway, if you have gas or open wood flame the clay is preferable in my opinion. The clay is inverse dome shaped and the flame licks up the sides as the heat rises. I think it makes a difference. Fired clay is really a brick. Bricks make good ovens - they store heat. So does cast iron, but I think that the clay is more even. A lot of folks us a thin sheet steel one, but steel heats more locally and I wouldn't give two cents for one except to roast tomatoes.

I wouldn't ruin my life looking for a clay comal if there wasn't one in my local market. But I wouldn't miss an opportunity to buy one if I saw one and didn't have one. I plan to cart a 3 footer (diameter) back to Iowa this spring. I can't wait to here everybody hoot when we have a party. Florencia: "I'm not cooking handmade tortillas for 16 Mexicans." Maria: "Muy bueno comal, Tom." Flor: "Ay, Tom."


sfmacaws


Mar 24, 2004, 9:25 PM

Post #8 of 20 (3562 views)

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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I bought a copper comal when I was in Santa Clara and it seems to work great. I'm no expert though. It heats fast and seems to keep an even heat. I've used it for other stuff besides cooking tortillas and that worked well too. I didn't want a clay one as I was afraid it would break easily and we travel in the RV alot.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




TomG

Mar 25, 2004, 10:23 AM

Post #9 of 20 (3551 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Mexican Cookbooks

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Copper is the best conductor of the materials we have talked about. It should heat very evenly.

ET would have to address copper health issues if there are any. Is it tinned?

Do you use cal on it?


sfmacaws


Mar 25, 2004, 11:21 AM

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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Not tinned and haven't used any cal. My understanding is that you should not cook acidic food in copper but I think that is mainly because it pits and corrodes the copper. It probably makes the food less than appetizing as well but I don't know about health issues.

Cal is something I see in the markets and know that the corn is cooked in it before grinding but I didn't know that it was used at home to put on the comal until your post. Isn't it a powder? Do you just sprinkle some on the comal? Here in QR the Maya burn limestone rock at their milpas to make cal. I haven't ever gotten any so can't speak to the real texture of it, it looks powdery. I will ask more questions and perhaps get some at the market. This is very interesting, by the way, thanks for all the information.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




Rolly


Mar 25, 2004, 1:23 PM

Post #11 of 20 (3544 views)

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Re: [ET] Mexican Cookbooks

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As ET said, calcium oxide is called lime, or more commonly quick lime.

Calcium hydroxide is also called lime or builders' lime.

Either can be used to process corn into hominy or the base for masa, but cal hydroxide is easier to use and, usually, easier to find, Any building supply store will have it. Using quick lime is a two-step process that is a bit messier and more trouble.

There is a third way using lye. That is really messy and dangerous. It was, probably, the original method because the lye can be made from wood ash.

Rolly Pirate


TomG

Mar 25, 2004, 9:07 PM

Post #12 of 20 (3532 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Mexican Cookbooks

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Cal is something I see in the markets and know that the corn is cooked in it before grinding but I didn't know that it was used at home to put on the comal until your post. Isn't it a powder? Do you just sprinkle some on the comal? Here in QR the Maya burn limestone rock at their milpas to make cal. I haven't ever gotten any so can't speak to the real texture of it, it looks powdery. I will ask more questions and perhaps get some at the market.


Rolly has made the chemical distinctions. I have heard negative stuff about builder’s lime for food use, but am not certain about it. What I use and what all agree about here in Oaxaca city is the cal that is sold here in all markets. It is a white rock that is usually sold in gravel form. In the Central de Abastos on major marketer has big rocks of 6-8 inches and whacks them up with a hammer, then bags them. You get a lot for 5 pesos, more for 10. It comes from the mountain outside of town on the road to San Bartolo Coyotepec. You can see it because the mountain has some white cuts in it. According to Joaquin sellers just go up and pick it up along the road.

To use it you put a piece of say ˝” gravel on your comal, or the bottom of your simple clay pots and casuelas (upside down, of course) and add little bit of water. After a time (a few minutes, or bad luck 10 or so minutes) it will begin to bubble and fizz as the rock expands and softens. The stuff is fairly caustic, but not dangerous so it could sting a little if you put your hands in it for a few minutes and didn’t rinse them off soon. But better is to get a little natural brush called a escobita (little broom) from the market people – 4 pesos.

So when it fizzes up it softens and you can spread it around with your brush or your fingers if you can’t afford the brush. It keeps your tortillas from sticking to your comal. People that wood fire cook with barro (clay vessels) put the cal on the bottom of their pots and comals. At this point you are outside gas delivery and really in Mexico – wood-cooking Mexico – the root of Mexican cooking. Roasting, toasting. Some village people with gas will take the beanpot out in the yard and cook the beans over a wood charcoal fire (not cute things from the USA). Jaunita from San Bartolo Coyotepec says the frijoles are better this way, and hers really are. A wilder flavor, not tame. How that wildness came through the clay pot is a mystery to me, but I tasted it. We use the same beans (black bean), she and I. We both use plenty of onion, I’m sure she used her garlic like I do, we both put our epazote in 20-30 minutes before we finish cooking (although she may use more than I – but not for long).

By the time you’ve come this far you are all set up and you might as well start toasting your own coffee beans and cacao (for chocolate).

By the way, to clarify, wood charcoal making is a messy polluting business, and wood cooking as it is done hereabouts is causing considerable lung damage to the people according to Dr. Ismael _ who has had a foot in both camps.

We ought to talk about wood fired adobe ovens sometime.


(This post was edited by TomG on Mar 25, 2004, 9:13 PM)


Rolly


Mar 26, 2004, 7:01 AM

Post #13 of 20 (3521 views)

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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The cal that fizzes and gets hot in water is cal oxide (quick lime) which is very unstable in the presence of water. When it has finished fizzing, it has been converted into cal hydroxide (builders' lime). It is easier just to begin with builders' lime. The end result is the same.

In my Making Tortillas picture story, we see builders' lime being used. http://rollybrook.com/tortillas.htm

Rolly Pirate


sfmacaws


Mar 26, 2004, 12:38 PM

Post #14 of 20 (3515 views)

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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After looking at Rolly's pictures, I think that the cal I've noticed in the market is cal hydroxide as it looks like a powder. The cal I've been told about that comes from burning the limestone rock around here is probably cal oxide. It may also be in the markets and I haven't noticed it. After the corn is harvested, they build a fire in the milpa and put the rocks in it. I don't know how long it has to burn (or cook) but eventually when it is cool they bag it and bring the chunks home.

Tom, if what the cal does is keep the clay comal or cazuela from sticking, I don't see that I would need it on a copper comal? I'm a little leery of throwing lime around in the kitchen. We used to put it on dead animals to keep the smell down and hurry the decomposition, I think that I have seen it in rural cemetaries used the same way. ie In a cemetary near Soltuta there was a white powder visible in the dirt of some of the newer graves.

re: roasting coffee and chocolate. I have always intended to buy green coffee beans and roast them myself, I've just not gotten to it yet. I think the next time I'm in Chiapas or Oaxaca or Vera Cruz, I will buy some beans and try it. I need to figure out how to tell good green coffee from not-so-good first. A friend described doing it and it sounded deceptively simple. My maid is from Tabasco and whenever she goes home she brings back home made chocolate. It comes in rough bars with her name scratched on the back. It's been sweetened and has cinammon in it and we make hot chocolate with it and put some in the coffee sometimes.

I think that food cooked over wood or charcoal always tastes better but I know that the smoke is sometimes overwhelming. Here in the Yucatan it is mostly from slash and burn but I remember in the mountains of Oaxaca that there was often a thick haze hanging in the air from cooking. Same in Chiapas.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




TomG

Mar 26, 2004, 3:14 PM

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Re: [sfmacaws] Mexican Cookbooks

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I've got a quarter gunny sack of green coffee here from Yecuatla, Veracruz. Grown and hand-picked by Santiago Ventura, for all the good it will do him - 1 and 1/10th peso per kilo. He always gives me some because I helped his son a few years ago. I don't know beans about grading beans. But it is always fun to shake out the BS and get down to the core of a thing, like making your coffee from scratch.

We've been invited by friends to their Zapotec village again, we are going to toast cacao beans on a 3 foot comal over a wood fire. It is a back to basics thing they enjoy once in a while. They say food culture helps people define who they are.

The homemade chocolate is great. Here we go to the grinding mill where one picks there own mix (molienda). Mine is 1 kilo cacao, 1 1/2 kilo sugar, 50 grams canela, and 50 grams of almonds. It is milled twice and comes out warm with the consistency of dough. You shape it the way you want and cut it like cookies or brownies. Real down home is hand grinding on the metate. The machine mills here all have stone grinding wheels at their heart. Chocolate in this form is very healthy, and in the last year has been shown to have anti-cancer and heart health properties. 79 pesos gets us about 2 1/2 kilo yield of chocolate from the formula.


ET

Mar 26, 2004, 5:00 PM

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Re: [sfmacaws] Mexican Cookbooks

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jonna "sfmacaws" writes:
After looking at Rolly's pictures, I think that the cal I've noticed in the market is cal hydroxide as it looks like a powder. The cal I've been told about that comes from burning the limestone rock around here is probably cal oxide. It may also be in the markets and I haven't noticed it. After the corn is harvested, they build a fire in the milpa and put the rocks in it. I don't know how long it has to burn (or cook) but eventually when it is cool they bag it and bring the chunks home.....


That's the classic production method for making calcium oxide (CaO), and the source of several of the other descriptive names for the end product, specifically "burnt lime" or "calcined lime". Technically the process takes limestone aka calcium carbonate (CaCO3), and heats it to the point that carbon dioxide (CO2) is released, yielding calcium oxide. Reacting the calcium oxide with water (H2O) yields calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) which Rolly calls "Builder's Lime" and is more descriptively referred to as either "slaked" lime (think of slaking your thirst) or hydrated lime.


Quote
....We used to put it on dead animals to keep the smell down and hurry the decomposition, I think that I have seen it in rural cemetaries used the same way. ie In a cemetary near Soltuta there was a white powder visible in the dirt of some of the newer graves.....


Although you hear of people using either calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide for this purpose under the name "lime", the intended lime for disease epidemics, sanitizing latrines, and similar applications where large quantities of a low-cost disinfectant is needed is actually a third different lime. Chloride of Lime, aka Bleaching Powder is a crude mixture of calcium chloride hypochlorite, CaCl(OCl); calcium hypochlorite, Ca(OCl)2 ; and calcium chloride, CaCl2 formed by reacting calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2 with chlorine gas (Cl2). The main disinfecting capabilities stem from the chlorine (Cl) component, which acts as an oxidizer. Ironically the odor reducing behavior stems from the inhibition of decay and although the traditional dumping of a murder victim into a shallow grave and then covering it with "lime" reduces the probability of the body being found by smell, it actually tends to preserve the evidence.

Remember "Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies...."


(This post was edited by ET on Mar 26, 2004, 5:03 PM)


sfmacaws


Mar 26, 2004, 6:47 PM

Post #17 of 20 (3488 views)

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Re: [ET] Mexican Cookbooks

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ET, you are a diamond! and Tom, you are too. I love learning about this stuff.

Because good coffee is important to my life, I do want to learn how to at least roast it. I've picked coffee, just to do it - luckily I wasn't trying to make a living at it, and I want to know how to roast it as well. Mainly, I need to learn how to tell good beans from their looks because getting good coffee down here is always a quest. I've been told that it's difficult to get good roasted beans here because most of the good beans are sent north unroasted. The corollary to this is that if you want to get good coffee, it's easier to buy it green and roast it yourself.

Another cal question. Is cal put into the comal every time it is used or just once to season it?

And for ET, what do you think the white powder mixed into the graves was? Perhaps it was just for the smell, some of these cemetaries don't smell too good if there have been recent burials. Not everyone is buried in the ground, many are placed in the family crypt - really a concrete box with a roof. I didn't get down and look inside this time so don't know if the white powder was in those as well.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




ET

Mar 28, 2004, 10:53 AM

Post #18 of 20 (3465 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Which Lime?

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jonna "sfmacaws" writes:
And for ET, what do you think the white powder mixed into the graves was? Perhaps it was just for the smell, some of these cemetaries don't smell too good if there have been recent burials....


If a corpse is enclosed in a casket, anything you added to the soil would be of limited value because the casket would create a microenvironment for the corpse to do all kinds of yucky things, with the soil amendments acting only when the yuck escaped.

I suspect that what the white powder mixed into a grave varies on a local and tradition basis, rather than any hard and fast facts. What I was trying to point out in my previous post was that if the concern was public health, such as during a disease outbreak or following a natural disaster, the preferred material would be chloride of lime, which would have a distinctive "cloro" (chlorine bleach) odor. Calcium oxide (calcined lime) would be a logical choice from my viewpoint because it would tie up what we should probably refer to euphemistically as "available water" (an argument could also be made that the caustic nature of calcium oxide would speed tissue decomposition, but the two would work at cross-purposes). Calcium hydroxide (Rolly's "Builder's Lime") would, however be considerably more available both as both a building supply and food-processing agent. Crushed limestone (calcium carbonate) and gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate) would also be options because they're white, powdery, and readily available.

A coworker has been after me for some time to read Death's Acre, William Bass' memoir of founding and running the University of Tennessee Medical Center Anthropology Research Facility, immortalized by Patricia Cornwell and others as "The Body Farm". I counter that I can find weirdness just shambling down the street, and don't have to go out of my way to read about it.....


TomG

Mar 28, 2004, 2:10 PM

Post #19 of 20 (3455 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Mexican Cookbooks

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Another cal question. Is cal put into the comal every time it is used or just once to season it?



It is brushed on every now and again at our house. Local wisdom varies here on my street, and can be at cross purposes. I think I'm the only one who is making tortillas on the block. Vicky, whose job it is to be pretty, is more likely to be wrong. It seems that after some uses, or burning, scratching, etc. the cal surface fails. When this happens the tortillas stick more readily and more hot spots occur. It is harder not to burn in that spot. It the cal coating is sort of heavy you can just take the little broom/brush and a little water and sort of re-spread it. Then dry it over the fire just before use. If you are running short just put a little more cal on.

Incidentally, we were watching a woman making tortillas in a fonda along the street at the Juarez market the other night. They had a gas fired steel griddle about 2 x 4 feet with a number of burners under it, and the surface temperature was lower than what I was using. She was pressing them with a steel lever press and kept a number going at once. There was no cal on the surface (it was blacken with use). Anyway every one of them was puffing up beautifully about 3" high.



sfmacaws


Apr 7, 2004, 12:33 PM

Post #20 of 20 (3420 views)

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Re: [TomG] Mexican Cookbooks

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I was looking at some clay comals in the market in Uruapan the other day and asked the vendor about using cal on them. She said, they say you should but I don´t. I didn´t buy one as I´m still too mobile and afraid it would break.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán


 
 
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