Okay – so this will be more of a cooking lesson today, which should interest any of my readers out there who are foodies. Paletas are frozen treats and can be made from fruits, nuts or other foods. They can have a milk base or a water base, and therefore can be described as a popsicle or a frozen fruit bar. With the heat during the day reaching the 80’s, and the availability of a tremendous amount of fresh fruit, I decided to start making paletas.
The initial flavors were strawberry, blackberry, guayaba, jamaica (made from hibiscus petals and it tastes like a slightly bitter fruit punch, so it is loaded with sugar), lemon and peach. As different fruits come into season, I will experiment further and flavor them to the local taste. I am told the milk-based paletas contain milk, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla.
Whenever I find lemons, they are imported from the U.S. I believe some lemons do grow in Mexico, but much further north, as the lemon trees need cooler weather to thrive. My lemon paletas were basically frozen homemade lemonade, and I label them lemon-ada to differentiate them from limonada, the local drink made from what we gringos call limes, but are called limones in Spanish.
One thing my friend Lourdes told me to do was to put a little green food coloring in my lemon-ada paletas. I thought this was very strange, but she said they associate the yellow color with pineapples and are used to their limones being green. So in order for them to coordinate what they are tasting to what they are seeing, green they must be. I guess it would be equivalent to us suddenly having to eat green or purple mashed potatoes – it just wouldn’t be comfortable emotionally.
So far I have been doing water-based paletas and the recipe varies slightly according to what food you are using. With the strawberries, you just blenderize the fruit with hot water mixed with sugar, put it in the molds and wait several hours for it to freeze. With fruits that have a large quantity of seeds, such as blackberries and guayaba, I strain the fruit to get rid of the seeds after the fruit is blenderized with the sugar water.
Here are the raw materials I started with last week. From left to right: strawberries, jamaica petals, lemons and guayaba. To condense the post, I will be concentrating on the preparation of the lemons and guayaba. First the lemons:
The first thing to do is to obtain lemon zest by grating the rind to obtain the proper amount for the batch of paletas.
Then mix water, sugar and the zest into a pan and heat, simmering for 3 minutes after it comes to a boil.
Slice the lemons and squeeze out the proper amount of juice for the batch, then pour the juice plus more water into the sauce pan and mix. The recipe I found on the internet calls for the fluid to then be strained, but I do not strain the liquid and only take care to pick out any stray seeds that might have found their way into the liquid. I do this because the Mexicans seem to like a lot of pulp in their paletas.
Next, don’t forget to add green food coloring to cater to the Mexican clientele. Pour into the mold and place in the freezer. I have found that watery solutions such as this take about two hours before it is mushy enough to hold the popsicle stick upright, so after 2 hours I pull them out of the freezer and insert the sticks. Then they go back into the freezer for at least another 4 hours.
After they are frozen solid, I run hot water over the mold for a few seconds, pull out the paleta, wrap in plastic and Voila! – a nice green lemonade popsicle!!!!!
For the fruit pulp-based paletas, it is a slightly different process. Many of the fruits here have a tremendous amount of seeds, such as the blackberry and guayaba, so it is a little more involved.
First the guayaba is peeled. Now this can be a bit tricky and messy because they are fairly small – maybe the size of a ping pong ball – and get really soft in your hand. I have a very good potato peeler, so the skin comes off pretty easily, but as I said, the fruit gets very soft as it is manipulated and frequently splits open with soft fruit and seeds oozing out as I try desperately to finish peeling off the skin.
Meanwhile, water and sugar is heating on the stove. Once the fruit is peeled, into the blender it goes with some of the warm sugar water, after which you have pureed guayaba with tons of seeds.
Slightly more fun than peeling the fruit is separating the pulp from the seeds. Into the strainer it goes, a few spoonfuls at a time. Once the seeds are out, you are left with something that has the color and consistency of applesauce.
Into the molds they go. For the pulpy fruit paletas, they only need an hour to harden enough to hold the sticks, so at that point they come out of the freezer, the sticks are inserted, and back in they go.
Several more hours, and we now have a fresh batch of guayaba paletas.
Beginning yesterday, I am now making batches of paletas with sugar and batches with Splenda, due to the high incidence of diabetes in this country. From my experience, Splenda tastes closest to real sugar, and I notice that it is often offered along with real sugar. In fact, many times when I order coffee, I have to ask for real sugar, as only Spenda has been offered.
Here ends the tour of my kitchen and the tastes of Mexico – and so, Dear Reader, I wish you buenas noches/good night until next time….