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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Aguas Frescas: Refreshing Fruit Drinks from Mexico

Agua de melón

Agua de Melón: Refreshing, Economical, and Made from Seeds!

The "fruit waters," or aguas frescas, of Mexico are a unique culinary marvel: abundant, economical, beautiful, refreshing, and easy to make. What’s not to like?

Throughout Mexico, these jewel-colored fruit drinks are displayed in glass jars in markets, at road-side stalls, and even in restaurants and sold to thirsty customers in plastic cups or in plastic bags with a straw. In homes they provide a way to use up fruit that may be past its prime for salads or other uses. With three ingredients only, the possibilities are limitless. Fruit pulp, water, and a sweetener—whiz them briefly in a blender, or make them the traditional way by mashing the fruit with a fork before adding the water and sugar (or honey, agave nectar, or the unrefined sugar called piloncillo). Sometimes a squeeze of lime is added as well. The amounts are up to you. In Mexico, these drinks are rarely served very sweet, nor are they particularly thick with fruit. These are not thick, rich smoothies; rather they are light, thirst-quenching refreshments, not unlike the -ades found in the United States. Rice-, almond-, or oat-based horchatas are also considered aguas frescas, but let's save them for another post.

Some of the most popular aguas frescas are:
Agua de piña (pineapple)
Agua de guayaba (guava)
Agua de pepino (cucumber)
Agua de sandia (watermelon)
Agua de limón (lime)
Agua de nopal (prickly pear cactus paddles)
Agua de mango
Agua de papaya

Other aguas frescas are made from flowers or seeds:
Agua de jamaica (hibiscus flowers)
Agua de tamarindo (tamarind)
Agua de chia (chia seeds)
Agua de melón (cantaloupe)

You might wonder why melon is listed under the drinks made from seeds, when, if you look of the picture above that I took of an agua de melón, the drink clearly looks as if it is full of melon flesh. Would you believe that this drink is made purely from the seeds and the stringy mass of fibers that hold them together? It contains zero melon pulp, yet retains both the full flavor of cantaloupe and its soft orange color. Every recipe I have found in either books or online, calls for the flesh of the melon, but you really can make an authentic drink solely from the seeds of the melon that you normally would discard.

Agua de Melón
Simply scoop out the seeds and fibers from the hollow center of one cantaloupe and place them in a blender with water. Puree the seeds, taste, add sugar (or other preferred sweetener) and a squeeze of lime if necessary. Strain and serve over ice.

Another favorite agua fresca that I frequently serve in my Mexican cooking classes is:

Agua Fresca de Pepino y Limón
Cucumber Fruit Water
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin via Martha Hernández Martínez)

3 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (approximately)
Sugar to taste, approximately 1/4 cup
8 cups water
Slices of limes for garnish

Place the cucumber in the blender with some water. Strain into a pitcher, adding water, sugar, and lime juice to taste. Serve chilled over ice. Garnish with lime slices. Serves 6.

Variation: Add a small piece of celery or a few celery leaves to the blender with the cucumber.

1 comment:

Lori said...

That is really interesting about the cantaloupe water/juice. I will have to try that this summer. when I lived in AZ, I loved to drink tamarindo and orchata! very difficult to find here but i have made orchata myself.