Tejuino is a popular beverage in central Mexico, especially in Guadalajara. However, its consumption has rapidly spread to other Mexican states such as Veracruz, Nayarit, Michoacán, Baja California Sur, and Colima.
In Mexico, as in some other Latin American countries, research on traditional indigenous fermentations from starch-rich substrates such as cassava is common, from which a non-alcoholic fermented beverage is obtained and in which it is possible to find lactic acid microorganisms with probiotic properties, as well as in tejuino, which is a reference in our culture as a suitable beverage with several benefits such as reducing diarrhea or hangover due to excessive alcohol consumption.
The first stage of research carried out at CIATEJ consisted of defining tejuino, for which research was carried out to know the historical background of the beverage and its origin.
There is a variety of traditional beverages in Mexico made from corn substrates, and there is great diversity with different process particularities such as:
- Tesguino- made by the Tarahumaras in the State of Chihuahua
- Pozol– made in southern Mexico and associated with the Mayan culture
- Tejate- made in Oaxaca
- Atole agrio– made in Puebla
- Tejuino- made in Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco
In this case, tejuino is a type of corn-based beer with a malting process where the corn kernel is germinated with water; the germination is interrupted so it can be cooked and hydrolyze as many sugars (starches) as possible, and the resulting malt is fermented.
Interesting facts about Tejuino
It is a viscous beer with very light alcoholic content that the Tarahumaras used in traditional religious ceremonies; it is a beverage consumed by both adults and minors in the community.
Tejuino can be made in two ways: fermented corn dough (masa) formulated with piloncillo (a form of raw caramelly sugar) and water to obtain the drink and served with salt and lemon.
The second, which is the most common process, consists of fermented atole. The exact origin is not very clear since the other corn drinks have an origin associated with culture; however, the tejuino has not been attributed to a specific one yet.
In a study conducted by Mexican Scientists, pathogenic and beneficial bacteria were found during the characterization of the fermentation process in both processes.
As I mentioned before, the Tarahumaras and Yaquis prepare and use tejuino for ceremonial purposes and drink it as an offering to sacred figures in their traditional Catholic ritual feasts.
It’s called the drink of the gods because it is made from corn, which in Nahuatl means “the food of the gods.”
Piloncillo, a key ingredient
Piloncillo or “chancaca” comes from the Nahuatl word chiancaca, which means “brown sugar.” It is prepared from undistilled sugar cane juice.
In 1493, at the time of the conquest of America by the Spaniards, the cultivation of sugar cane was introduced during the culinary mestizaje.
Along with this new crop came the sugar mills, milling, and its different products. At that time, it was the main source of sweetener for peasants and rural inhabitants.
How is Piloncillo made?
The traditional piloncillo manufacturing process may vary according to the area and customs. In general, the following steps are followed:
- The sugar cane is harvested and squeezed to obtain the juice (trapiches)
- The leftover bagasse is left to dry and is used to stoke the oven
- The cane juice is heated in the oven to boiling point
- It is transferred to a stirrer that doesn’t stop turning until it makes the “sugar” thick
- Then it gets poured into cone-shaped wooden molds, as piloncillo is commonly known
- Once cold, it is unmolded and packed for distribution
The clarity of the piloncillo is related to quality; that is, the clearer and sweeter the piloncillo, the better the product.
An average of 10 to 12 tons of sugar cane is needed to obtain one ton of piloncillo, depending on moisture and sugar concentration. It is important to remember that it is a natural sweetener with no added chemicals.
Tejuino Recipe: Make yours at home!
Now that you know all about tejuino, it’s time to make your own and surprise your guests.
- 500 gm corn dough
- 500 gm of piloncillo
- Juice of 1 lime
- Piquín chili bell pepper
- Lemon sorbet (optional)
- Boil ½ liter of water, lower the heat and add the piloncillo. Stir until the piloncillo dissolves
- Blend 2 and a half cups of water with the corn masa until smooth and strain into the pot of water with the piloncillo
- Leave on the heat for 10 minutes, until a consistent form is achieved
- Wait until it cools and add the lemon juice. Cover the mixture with a lid or cloth and let it ferment for two days
- Serve in a glass frosted with salt and lemon and add the chile piquín
- You can accompany the drink with a lemon sorbet (my favorite)
I hope you get to try this beverage at some point. It is a bit intimidating at first, but once you taste it, you will love it!
As I mentioned above, try it with extra lime juice, salt, and a floater of lime sorbet. Let us know what you think and share your comments with us. Salud!