A foray into homemade Tejuino
Travel hangovers hit me hard after every trip. Together with my husband, we dive deep searching for we could recreate the tastes of what we’ve enjoyed on our trips. The destination of the moment is, of course, Guadalajara.
As we are more than lucky that the diversity of the population in the United States, of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex gives us some admittance to cultures) that would not be easily accessible by the old me, half way across the world, in the Philippines), there are supermarkets and restaurants catering to each migrant group’s needs for a taste of home.
And Texas, formerly part of Mexico, has a sizable Hispanic population. According to the 2020 American Community Survey, there are 1.76 Million Mexicans out of the 7.45 Million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. That’s 24% of the population! So I should not have a hard time finding what I am craving for.
This time around, it’s tejuino, a pre-hispanic fermented corn drink. It is sour, reminiscent of my favorite tamarindo, tamarind drink, and viscous as it is made from fermented masa, the same dough that is used to make tortillas, and piloncillo, unrefined cane sugar that’s known as panucha in the Philippines. (Side bar: Be careful using “panucha” in Mexico as it is also the same term for vajayjay.) The drink was sold in every corner in Guadalajara and the surrounding towns inside shops and mercados. And there even were mobile carts that drove around neighborhoods to peddle this refreshment, served with a squeeze of limon, a teaspoon of coarse salt and a scoop of nieve limon, lime sherbet. The squiggle of chamoy and dash of tajin optional.
I suspected this to be easy to find around here as there always was a selection of aguas frescas on display. But, alas, on my first look-see in our city’s Fiesta, hispanic grocery chain and the surrounding eateries in the strip mall, there was NONE.
No hay tejuino aqui! Por que no? Ay dios mio! So, the only option was to make my own.
I scoured every page of the Mexican and Latin American cookbooks from my personal library, but there were none. So I borrowed a few cookbooks from the public library - My Mexico by Diana Kennedy, The Mexican Home Kitchen by Mely Martinez and Chicano Eats by Esteban Castillo. The former two did not have a recipe, but I found gold in the latter. While the written recipe provided clarity, I took to YouTube to provide a clearer visual of what to expect. I am a stickler for nailing recipes (at times to a fault), not wanting to waste and throw disasters into the bin.
Now to check on ingredients in our pantry. Piloncillo: yes. Corn starch and corn meal: yes, but not usable for this recipe. So I had to make another drive to the Hispanic grocery for masa harina, limon and maybe a clay jar where I could ferment my tejuino.
As gas prices have soared (I just paid for a full tank of more affordable gas at $49. I used to pay between $30-35 in the past.), each drive out is planned. El Rancho was a stop in the drive for an assignment I was working on.
I’ve not been in the supermarket to specifically buy ingredients for recipes as I’ve been eating through all leftovers from the restaurants I’ve covered. I stood in front of the masa harina shelf for five minutes, unsure of what bag to buy, whether I’d buy the correct product or not. For a rice and bread eating household, homemade tortillas were not in the rotation. It was a long way from home, so I had to be 100% sure. I grabbed the only bag that had “nixtamalized” emblazoned on its name.
Limes were next on my list. My knees buckled as I saw the price - two limes for a dollar. I used to buy a pound at $0.40! This is what it is now for everyone. So I just grabbed four limes.
I knew I did not absolutely need to use a clay vessel for fermenting. But I wanted a taste closest to what I bought from the vendors everyday in Guadalajara. Knowing that the culture does use clay vessels for cooking, there may be some for sale. I found a shelf and grabbed an olla de barro con tapar, clay pot with lid, giddy that I had everything I needed for this kitchen project.
Unloading the groceries from their plastic bags, I removed the newspaper from the insides of the clay jar then washed with cold water. I lay down a tea towel for the jar to dry on, turned it upside down to drain the water and then saw words inscribed at the bottom “May poison food. Hecho en Mexico. Only for decoration.”
Wah! Now, I had a clay jar sitting on the pantry shelf, which I am still contemplating on what to use it for beyond decoration.
I took to the stove that day, not deterred by the shopping mistake I made, cooked the masa-piloncillo mixture over the stove. The piloncillo cone melted into the molten atole that bubbled like lava. I squeezed two limes and added the juices after I removed the pot from the heat. The mixture cooled down to a wiggly, wobbly gelatin, which I covered and allowed to ferment for two days. I’ve read that like wheat dough, masa dough turns sour after time and warm temperatures. This is what gives tejuino its distinct flavor.
So yesterday, I scooped some tejuino gelatin in my blender, topped with a bit of water and gave it a go to liquify the mixture. In a glass, I squeezed a lime, added a teaspoon of salt and cubes of ice then poured the tejuino in. I got another glass and poured all the contents into it, repeating the process between the two glasses. This allowed all the ingredients to mix and cool down at the same time. While I did not make my own nieve limon, I had a pint of limoncello sangria sherbet from Sugar Pine Creamery in the freezer. I scooped some into the glass of tejuino to finish.
We are now on the brink of the Texas summer, when spring goes by with a blink of an eye. My cold glass of homemade tejuino was the perfect balm to that warm afternoon. YES!
Homemade tortillas next?
What I’ve worked on:
It’s been a while, so lots have been published. Yay! Hope you get to read my work on:
What I’ve been watching:
Last weekend was a Binge-rton one of the new season of Bridgerton, which I found more chaste than I was expecting it to be. Perhaps because of the South Asian casting? Or no?
We did watch the Oscars last night, but there are too many takes on that. So I’ll pass. I will add a lot of new movies to my watch list though.
I started watching “Thirty Nine”, the K-drama about three friends going through life, skirting a pivotal age in a person’s life, but will hold off watching the newer episodes until they’re done.