Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Horchata

So my daughter is having a program at her school in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. They will be doing a presentation and parents were asked to bring in culture appropiate treats for a pot luck during the program. There was a check list for what you will bring. On the list were items such as chips/salsa, cheese dip, taquitos, plantain chips, guacamole, soda (!), juice boxes, cupcakes/brownies, plates, cups, plastic utensils, decorations, or food. There was also an option for making a monetary donation. Of course nothing on the list jumped out at me. Junk, junk, more junk. I started to do a monetary donation, but then I changed my mind. I wanted to take something in that would actually be culturally appropiate, and I thought about Horchata. I had made it once before, it was fairly easy, I don't care a whole lot for it honestly, but I know its something that most of the kids probably haven't tried before, and I wanted to take something different, because I get sheer joy out of exposing people to new things.

It had been probably 2+ years since the last time I made horchata. It was a recipe I had got from my boyfriends mom, and of course had no idea where it was. I vaguely remembered how to make it, but wanted to try to be as authentic as possible. I browsed the internet looking at several different versions of horchata, as the beverage varies according to region. Some places use rice, others use chufa, or several different types of nuts that it can come from. I was left dazzled and not sure what I wanted to make it with. So I took to facebook and polled all my Latino friends and asked their opinions. I was looking for an exact recipe. Not one that I can get online myself, but one from someone who actually makes it and drinks it. That task proved not as easy as it sounds. I ended having a conversations with a few people who explained to me how their culture would make it, and what they used. One person mentioned oats, and that idea immediately hit it off in my mind.

It's the begining of fall, we have two small pumpkins that need to be made into something, and I flirted in my mind with the idea of making pumpkin horchata. I would have soaked some of the raw pumpkin flesh in the mixture, let it soak up the flavor, and then strain the pulp out. I thought about this long and hard, but in all the pictures I've seen horchata is white, and this would surely make it a yellow-y orange color. Great idea for something of my own, but this is a public event and so I wanted to try to keep it as authentic as I could. One person I spoke with mentioned that it was the spices that are key to making the horchata and that no two horchatas are ever the same. He suggested I experiment, so I did. So after much debate in my mind, I decided I would NOT add the actual pumpkin, but in an attempt to be myself, I would use pumpkin pie spice, and make a Pumpkin Spice Horchata. I felt that didn't stray too far from the original idea.

Lastly, I had my boyfriend call his mom and try to get her recipe again, so I could use that as a base, but she, like my family when I try to get recipes from them, doesn't actually use a recipe. She just makes it by taste. So I took everything I read, and everything I heard, and I went to work on making the horchata. I, like my family, don't use or rely heavily on recipes in normal everyday cooking, so I decided to forgo using a step by step recipe, and just make it! How much more authentic can you get than that?

Here is an approximation of what I did:

My Pumpkin Spice Horchata Recipe
Long Grain White Rice
Steel Cut Oats
1 can condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
Cinnamon stick
Pumpkin Pie Spice
So, I took about a cup and a half of Rice and about 3/4 cup of steel cut oats, put it in a container. I then filled the container with water. I believe the container holds 4 cups of water, and I filled it to the tippy top. I let it sit, and then when walking by later decided to add in a cinnamon stick, so I did. And I let it sit overnight.
This morning, I stirred it up, it was a milky cream color by now. I poured all the liquid into another container so I could get the rice into the blender (about a tenth of it ended up in the sink. smh).  Scooped the rice into the blender and blended it all together. I considered taking the cinnamon stick out, but it was soft enough that I thought it would blend well, so I left it in. Then I added the can of condensed milk. This was something I contemplated. I considered using almond milk to keep it dairy free. I don't drink milk, and since it was for the public, I though it would be better in case anyone has milk allergies or sensitivities. But in the end, I ended up going for the milk anyway. I used the sweetened condensed milk, and one can of evaporated milk. The reason I opted for the condensed was for the texture. So it wouldn't be super watery, but kind of thick and creamy. I added a tsp of pure vanilla extract (not imitation-please!). I blended all of this up, added a little powdered cinnamon, and the pumpkin spice. Then blended it again. I then took the blended milk and mixed with the water I had poured off in the begining.
Lastly, I took the whole thing through a nutmilk bag and strainer, because of course I already own that. If you don't have a nut milk bag, you can use cheese cloth, or a mesh strained then maybe a coffee filter if too much gets through. My nut bag worked perfectly, and I only had to strain it one time.
The consistancy was perfect. Creamy, not too thin, but after losing all I did in the container transfer process (cause I'm clumsy like that--sike no, really it just kept running down the side of the container as I was pouring it out. The sink got a nice drink!) it had only made about 1.5 quarts of milk. Since I was taking it for a large group of I don't know how many people. I knew this wasn't enough. So I added water until the container was at just under a gallon. Maybe 2 more quarts of water. Then I put on the top, shook it up, and let Naima taste it.
Before she could remove the cup from her lips she was enthusiastically nodding her head yes, and giving me the yes in sign language to let me know she approved. I then poured a taste for myself. Meh. I don't care much for the drink anyway. But it was decent. Sweet enough for me, but I don't like super sweet, so I contemplated adding sugar. The people-pleaser in me thought I should, but I was content with the level of sweetness it had. I opted for making a healthier beverage and did not add additional sugar, though you are more than welcome to sweeten it to your own taste if it is not sweet enough for you.
To me-the condensed milk had already sweetened it enough. I did a little math. 2 tbsp of the stuff is 17g of carbs. Thats like a medium apple. The whole can was about 10 servings. Thats 170g of sugar in the whole gallon (minus what I spilt out and all :-) ). The cups I brought to serve it in are the small dixie cups, because of course a gallon isnt enough to feed masses. They were 3oz dixie cups. So assuming each cup is filled to capacity, (b/c 1 gallon =128oz),  42.6 people will get to taste the horchata. Thats about 4g sugar per serving of 3 ounces. More than enough, right!?
I garnished with a little more pumpkin spice and cinnamon, of course, but the time it gets to the school, it'll be all mixed in with the rest. I was actually at the end of my pumpkin spice mix, but may pick up another one to garnish each cup. In hindsight, I think it would taste really good with the actual pumpkin, and since Naima loves the drink, and I had to buy a 3lb bag of rice cause thats all they had at the store I was at, and I don't eat rice, I may make some more and do that next round.
PS. You know I'm a DIY-er and hate to waste, so the pulp did not go into the trash. I squeezed it out, put it in a ziploc, and Naima is excited about being able to eat it for breakfast, I told her in the same was she would eat oatmeal. It'll probably be more like grits in consistency, but there are oats in there too. And b/c of the cinnamon and milk, all I have to do it heat it up, and voila! Desayuno!