Horchata de chufa, the "white gold" born in the Valencian orchard

Legend has it that the word horchata is due to King Jaime I. A young woman would have tried this delicious drink in the mid-thirteenth century. What is això?asked the monarch. Llet de Xufa (Goat milk), replied the subject. Això is not llet. Això és or, xata! (This is not milk. This is gold, beautiful!), Exclaimed the sovereign. It is a curious story, but little trace of truthfulness. What we do know, thanks to ancient writings, is that this tuber was already a food appreciated in the first Egyptian dynasties. The cultivation of the chufa extended from Egypt to North Africa, reaching the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily with the Islamic waves of the Middle Ages.

In the territories of the current Valencian Community, where the Arab culture took root deeply, the consumption of milk of chufas became popular as a refreshing drink and as a remedy against inflammations of the respiratory tract and stomach discomfort. The fertile and well-irrigated lands of populations such as Alboraya and Almázera specialized in the cultivation of this small and rugged tuber, which requires arid climates for its growth, soils with good drainage and very rich in organic materials.

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The process begins between April and May with the plantation, and ends between November and December with the harvest. The chufa of the campaign is stored for six months in dryers or "cambras", where it is removed daily so that the drying is uniform and the chufas acquire an optimum flavor and quality. The Valencian variety differs from the African one in that it is much sweeter, larger and paler in color. The industrial horchata, as well as much of what is marketed as artisanal but without the certificate of the Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin, usually uses the African variety, which is remarkably cheaper (sold at 90 cents per kilogram, while that the Valencian has a market price of about 2.5 euros).

There is no clear consensus on when or how the modern concept of chufa horchata came about (result of extract the juice from the tuber, mix it with water, add sugar and in some cases a small proportion of cinnamon and lemon), although it is known that this tasty vegetable drink was already made at the beginning of the 20th century in many houses in the region of l'horta Nord (province of Valencia). It was a humble drink for those who could not afford to make horchata with more "noble" fruits such as almonds. Initially, its commercialization was carried out with street carts. As there were no refrigerators, the horchata was sold very hailstorm. We must bear in mind that we are talking about an extremely delicate drink, which even if kept at a temperature between 0 and 3 degrees Celsius, has a life span of only two days. Due to the high microbial load that chufas contain when they are removed from the soil, horchata spoils quickly if extensive pre-disinfection is not performed.

To learn about its elaboration process, we move to the cradle of the horchata: Alboraya. Specifically to Daniel, establishment run by the Tortajada family, third generation of a saga of masters horchateros initiated by his grandfather in the late forties. This spacious establishment of two heights and 600 people, surrounded by terraces overlooking the Valencian orchard, is one of the few that has its own workshop. All the horchata that is shipped here - up to 4,000 liters on a summer Sunday - is handmade and served freshly made.

Hundreds of personalities from the world of culture, sports, politics or business have passed through this “cathedral” of the horchata. Since Dalí Y Alberti until the judge Baltasar Garzón or the actor Viggo Mortensen. The anecdotario that enclose these walls is unbeatable, although without doubt one of the most striking visits they have received was that of the Prince Ben Turky Ben Abdel of Saudi Arabia in August 1984. He arrived without warning, preceded only by the dust that raised the propellers of his helicopter to perch like a bird in a plot next to Daniel. The Sultan took a seat at the bar, drank with pleasure a good glass of horchata and left leaving the waitress a tip of "10,000 pesetas of those then."

We visited Daniel's basement, where we found the "laboratory" where horchata is manufactured tirelessly, from early morning to night. The twenty stacked bags that we observe when entering already indicates that this establishment only works with Valencian chufa with Denomination of Origin.

The horchata recipe may vary slightly according to the teacher that elaborate it - especially as regards the sugar point or the ratio of liters of water that are used per kilogram of chufas-, but the process itself has not undergone variations throughout its history.

It all starts with him washing of the chufas to eliminate impurities. "This step is essential, because it is a very rough tuber that hides a lot of land," he explains. Daniel Tortajada, grandson of the founder. Two hours of washing and several rinses with bleach afterwards, the chufas pass yet another test of flotation selection with salt water. "If there were any apparently healthy, but spoiled inside, it comes out and we remove it," he explains. Then the tubers are crush with water with water and the mixture is left macerating. Then go through a press that separates the pulp from the liquid. In the stage of sifting it is when the final liquid and the residue are separated, which is a valuable gluten-free flour with multiple pastry applications. Finally, sugar, lemon and cinnamon are added - these last two ingredients are optional - and refrigerate at a temperature between 0 to 3 degrees. Ready to drink

How do we distinguish a good craft horchatato which it is not? The difference in flavor with its pasteurized version is so obvious that it leaves no room for confusion; industrial manufacturing significantly reduces the characteristic nuances of nuts. As for the color and texture, the most common is the broken white and a certain density - that granted by the starch -, although they tell us that the years in which it rains more than usual and the collection is delayed, the handmade horchata of The campaign can acquire a slightly more yellowish color.

The inventors of fart

Every Valencian knows that horchatas asks to wet (formerly it was made with pieces of bread). It is a very grateful drink, which marries well with many accompaniments, but none enhances its qualities as much as the fart, which in the native language means "glutton". This characteristically elongated pastry piece owes its name to its ability to soak from end to end in horchata when it is introduced to the bottom of the glass.

The best version of a fart It is undoubtedly the one they elaborate in Daniel's workshop: slightly crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, and always served with a heat stroke, to achieve a contrast with the drink, which always has to be cold. Carmen Tortajada, granddaughter of the founder, is the soul of this workshop, where 3,000 pieces are baked on average during the summer season. It is certainly the star bun, which follows the recipe invented by his grandfather and later versioned on an industrial level by other companies. Carmen, meanwhile, has devised many other pastry recipes based on flour and chufa cream, such as danielets waves flirtatious.

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A very versatile vegan milk

Now that superfoods seem to be the measure of all things, and diagnoses of gluten intolerances grow exponentially among the population, horchata has become fashionable. In cities as foreign to the tradition of the garden as New York, London or Berlin, horchata is advertised as vegan milk and almost a miraculous remedy. Rich in vitamins and minerals, and with an oleic acid content very similar to that of olive oil, its health benefits have been amply demonstrated (yes, provided we exclude sugar from the equation).

This vegan drink is not only streak among the forofos of healthy living, but also in haute cuisine. Without going further, Raúl Resino (who owns a Michelin star in his restaurant in Benicarló), won the Best Chef of the Year 2016 contest with a menu whose dessert was a spruce ball with citrus mosaic. Another good ambassador is Quique Dacosta (three Michelin stars), who has developed in his restaurants interesting recipes based on the Valencian horchatera tradition, such as the "Pisco sour de horchata", the "Fartón puff pastry filled with horchata ice cream with coffee liqueur" or "Tendones and horchata ".

In addition, the Regulatory Council of the DO Chufa of Valencia has on its website a section with numerous recipes that demonstrate the endless versatility gastronomic of this precious white gold.

Other horchata temples in Valencia

Mmmmm ... seen like this, it makes you want to throw yourself in the head. Do you also pass # HorchateríaPanach #Alboraya Avda. De la horchata, 19)

How could it be less, the Valencian lands offer a multitude of places where horchata is one of its biggest claims. Fortunately tourism has not ended because of the craft tradition of many horchaterías that often continue with the family legacy open all year.

  • Panach (Avenida de la Horchata, 19) - Together with Daniel, it is another of the essential classics of Alboraya, where they can also boast of making their own horchata since 1971.

  • Secher Lo Blanch (Camino Hondo, 23) - An establishment located in the orchard, and with a double function: horchatería and arrocería. They have been cultivating and preparing their horchata for more than 60 years taking care of every detail of the production, from the selection of chufas.

  • Els Sariers (Calle de Sarcet, 6) - Family horchatería that also works with artisan pastries.

  • Santa Catalina (Plaza Santa Catalina, 6) - Emblematic horchatería-buñolería located very close to the cathedral of Valencia. It is usually very frequented by tourists because of its privileged location in the city.

  • Fabian (Císcar, 5) - It is one of the favorite meeting places for Valencians living in the city center, also very popular for its hot chocolate and pumpkin fritters.

Images | Horchatería Daniel, Regulatory Council DO Chufa de Valencia and Marta Moreira

Video: Como hacer horchata de chufa. Receta de horchata casera (December 2019).