Ah, Horchata!

I'm writing to you today with the knowledge that perhaps I shouldn't be sharing this recipe for horchata with you. You see, after consuming pre-fab taco joint horchatas, you might think that all horchatas are emulsified and homogenized and are just a little too perfect and a little too sweet. But, if you see beauty in imperfection, if you get lost in the deliciousness of a homemade beverage that might have tiny bits of rice in it, whose cinnamon taste comes from the bark the cinnamomum verum tree of Sri Lanka and not from a powder, if you love to drink it from a handblown glass with a thick ultramarine blue rim, then I must declare that you will never have enough horchata to satisfy your cravings—and what will become of you then?
Take my Belgian friend Claudine that tall and thin, elegant in an island-vibe, free-spirited kind of way, funny and talented and oh so insouciante Mexican food loving horchata-connoisseur artist friend of mine. She had been hounding me about making her some. So we struck a deal. She offered me some of her prized Belgian chocolate in exchange for my homemade horchata. How could I say no to that?
Of course, there are many ways to make horchata. The Spanish drink an horchata made from the tiger nuts, a starchy root that grows in the Valencia region of the country and are called chufas. (Monna of Slow Blogs, a Canadian teacher living in Barcelona, Spain, is probably enjoying one right now come to think.) Mexicans love horchata made from rice and cinnamon, almonds sometimes, with a few drops of lime juice. Regardless of how you make it, it is one refreshing drink, perfect for those winter days when it is a blazing 80 degrees outside like it was just last Sunday here in California (so I'm bragging). I can always count on an icy horchata to quench the flames when chiles burn hot and furious on my tongue. I love to ladle it up from a large beehive shaped glass jar that has pieces of cinnamon bark floating on top. In Mexico it is part of a colorful and delicious line up of aguas frescas like garnet colored agua de jamaica (hibiscus flower tea), agua de tamarindo (tamarind water) and other natural fruit flavor drinks that are found all over the country.

It is a little surprising to me that people can be oh so particular about this white sweet drink. Some like it watery, others thick. Some put milk in their horchata, others don't. So I decided to experiment. I wanted a classic Mexican tasting horchata strong on cinnamon and a just a hint of lime. Sweet without being cloying, full bodied without being thick. Chalkiness was positively out of the question. Most of all, Claudine had to love it.
I think I have come up with a good one. And the best part is that you can adapt it to your taste. It can be as sweet (or not) or as milky (or not) as you want. One thing is for sure, it will pack a cinnamon wallop that is essential to any great tasting horchata. Will it look or taste just like your Mexican abuelita's? I'll let you fiddle around with the recipe until it does.
So, if you can appreciate something natural and unrefined and are willing to forgo ready-mix powdered horchata "perfection", then give this horchata a try. You might find that imperfection has a beauty all its own.
How well your horchata turns out will mostly depend on the preparation. Grittiness or lack of it depends on how well you strain the cinnamon and rice. Use a very fine mesh strainer or a cheese cloth over a large wire mesh strainer. (I like to use a thin cotton flour sack cloth or something similar instead of cheese cloth.) If you want your horchata to be thick or thin to the point of wateriness depends on how long you blend the rice and how much cold water and/or milk you add to the almost finished drink. So, add it one cup at a time until it is at the consistency you like best.
4 ½ cups raw long grain white rice
3 long sticks of cinnamon bark, shredded
¼ cup of almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
7 cups of boiling water
4 to 5 cups cold water and/or milk
couple of drops of lemon or lime juice
simple sugar syrup (recipe below)

Instructions:To make the sugar syrup mix 1 cup of raw sugar with 1 cup water in a small sauce pan and boil together, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside and let cool. About 3 minutes or so. Set aside.

Take the shredded cinnamon bark and toast in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. (Do not burn.) Remove from skillet and place in a medium to large sized pot. Add rice and almonds. Pour 7 cups of boiling water into the pot. Cover and let it sit overnight or for about 7 hours.

Next, ladle some of the water, rice, almonds and cinnamon bark into a blender. If you want your horchata to be a bit watery, blend for only a few seconds. If you want a more milky consistency, blend until the mixture reaches an almost paste-like consistency. Now, take the blended mixture and strain over a wide-mouth pitcher using a steel mesh strainer that has been covered by a cheesecloth that has been folded 4 times over to ensure that the horchata will be smooth and not gritty. Repeat this step until all the rice and cinnamon have been blended.
Now, add about 4 to 5 cups cold water and/or milk into the pitcher, or until the horchata is as thin or as thick as you like. Add a few drops of lemon or lime juice. Add simple sugar syrup to taste. Don't forget to add a few drops of vanilla extract if you wish.
Refrigerate for a few hours. Stir before serving. Pour over ice and enjoy the warm winter's day. Makes approximately 2 quarts. Serves 4.


Anonymous said...

I tried your recipe and wow, it was so smooth and creamy! My daughter and I were fighting for the last drop! Gracias!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic recipe and great information! Thank you for sharing this.

Emma said...

I am swooning. SWOONING. Can't wait to try this! Thank you! xo

La Traductora said...

Nice to hear from you! Glad you like the recipe. BTW, do you like nopales?

Hi 5 Star Fookie,
Hope you'll like the drink!

Ha_Huynh said...

Thanks for telling me about your site & the Horchata.

- Ha
from --> http://www.mftnetwork.net/

The Diary of a Shy Black Woman said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I will save this so I can try the recipe! I'm not Mexican but I lived in Arizona for over a year and fell in love with Mexican cuisine. I'm African American of Haitian descent.

Great Blog...I'm following!

FlippyO said...

Normally, I get huffy when someone comments on my older blog entries and tells me to come visit their "site" because it's usually completely off-topic. Thank you for being the exception to the rule! This horchata recipe sounds fabulous. I'm not sure that I want to put that much effort into something that we'll drink up so quickly, but I'm going to give it a shot at least once because it sounds so good. I love horchata. I have a carton in the fridge right now. Thanks for posting your recipe!

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe and thank you so much for stopping by my blog! I can't tell you how happy I am to find a great Mexican food blog based in Cali. It makes me cry a little just thinking about how homesick I am. If I can use your techniques and recipes to try and get some of that delicious authentic taste here in my little apartment all the way down in the South, then I think that will make being away from home a little more tolerable.

La Traductora said...

Thank you all for visiting my blog! Whenever I post a new recipe on my blog, I look for those who have written about it in the past year or so. It's a nice way to meet others who like Mexican food as much as I do. Hooe you'll like the recipe!

El Random Hero said...

delish and so are you ;-P

La Traductora said...

Hola Random Hero,
Esta media-vieja te da las gracias!

Chef Luck said...

Thanks for leading me to your blog, it's beautiful. I'm excited to continue reading the blogs and picking up some new tips. ¡Comer feliz!

La Traductora said...

Hola Chef Luck!
Saw your blog today. Wish I could eat all on your menu. Of course, that would mean I wouldn't be able to squeeze throught my front door, but Grill Asparagus with French Onion Creme with Wild Mushrooms is worth it!

jesse said...

This is beautiful. I can practically taste the horchata just from your stories and your words alone...

Grace said...

i'm quite certain that i've never had an authentic glass of horchata, so i really appreciate you for providing a true recipe! and for the record, your blog is super enjoyable!

Kristina said...

I love those glasses! I needs to get me some just like those.

I've never had horchata, but now I know to avoid it until I've tried making my own. Thanks!

Lynn said...

Great post on Horchata! I wasn't familiar with it. Also knowing the Spanish equivalent is nice (hoping to travel there soon). Think I'll have to give it a try soon.

La Traductora said...

Hi Lynn at Sacatomato!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I sure enjoy yours! I hope you have as much fun in Spain as I did. Valencia is not to be missed (it's the home of horchata and paella)!

Anonymous said...

I ran across your blog while trying to search for a picture of arroz con pollo. browsed around, love it, and linked it to my food blog! I am learning spanish (through my kids in dual language in LAUSD) and will be coming back to practice and see what wonderful foods you are making. My friends recently taught me how to make agua de jamaica and tamarindo, and I am in love!
Thank you and look forward to returning soon:)

La Traductora said...

Hi Melissa,
Thank you so much! I can't wait to try one of your recipes!

Screwed Up Texan said...

This is perfect...my husband is going to try this recipe. He spent two years living in Ecuador and fell in love with this drink. I've always wondered how to make it by hand.

Clementina aka "La Traductora" said...

Hello Tejanita With Her Head Screwed On Right--
I hope your husband enjoys the recipe. I'll be back to visit your blog soon!

elizabethrosasjewelry said...

I have never tried Horchata (because it looks like milk, and I'm not a fan of it) but your recipe looks and sounds delicious.

I will be trying this recipe out while on my beach vacation

thank you

Clementina aka "La Traductora" said...

Hola Elizabeth Rosas!
First of all, I love, love your jewelry!
Now that I have that out of the way, I know exactly what you mean. I don't like milk, either, but I think you won't taste any milk in the horchata, just vanilla and cinnamon. Horchata can be as light or as milky as you want it to be.
Have fun at la playa!

New Mommy said...

Yum, I will have to try for sure. I love horchata and so many places make it differently. Thanks for the recipe.

Clementina aka "La Traductora" said...

Hola New Mommy,
I saw the pix of your new muchachito. Que hermosura! Hope you like the recipe for horchata. BTW, a friend of mine puts condensed milk when she makes her horchata. It's tastes full bodied and rich, just in case you like it like that.
Take care!

Pedhakka said...

I have been looking for a good Horchata recipe for so long !! I finally found it !!! Thanks for sharing !! Love your blog collection !! Will come back for more !!
Gracias !!