The pozole, one of the masterpieces of Mexican cuisine, plus two recipes

10/12/2020

The pozole recipe comes from pre-Hispanic times, so its current recipe is a mix of Mexican, European and Asian ingredients. In pre-Columbian times it was made from the meat of an animal that was raised by the indigenous people as a source of meat.

It is erroneously thought that this animal is a dog named Xoloitzcuintle. These typical dogs of the Mexica cuisine were called itzcuintli and, given the similarity with the word Xoloitzcuintli, it is believed that the latter was consumed. However, what was actually consumed was common tepezcuintle or pacas. It was also discovered that a new sauce called sulitl could be made from corn.

In the investigation, there have been collected recipes of the kitchen of human meat that the Spanish friars gathered during their evangelizing work after the conquest, which indicates that it was never taken roasted and that it was habitual to add it to the pozole.

"Fray Bernardino de Sahagún records the anthropophagic practice in his General History of the things of the New Spain, although he refers to a meaning according to his vision and perception, shaped by the uses and customs of his time and of his land. The horror that it produced to him and his own religious conceptions attributed to the fact a wild and anti-Christian meaning", explains doctor Alfonso de Jesús Jiménez Martínez in his text.

After the Conquest, the Spaniards substituted the human flesh of the pozole for pork, "which apparently has a similar taste," says the academic from the Universidad del Caribe.

There are at least 20 variants of pozole, the best known is the white pozole which is the most consumed in the central zone of Mexico; it is prepared with pork meat (mainly with head) and peanut corn broth. It is accompanied by lettuce, radishes and/or chopped onions, oregano, ground piquín bell pepper, and a few drops of lemon.

At the present time and depending on the taste or health of the companions at table exist variants with chicken, and even vegan but the original and classic one must take pork meat.

Another of the most famous pozoles is the Jalisco style, also consumed in the Bajio and Aguascalientes, which is red. It is prepared with dry ground chiles (in Aguascalientes they use the mirasol chiles and in Sinaloa, there is a variant of this dish that is prepared with guajillo chiles).

Another of the best-known pozoles is the Guerrero style. In this entity, the nights of pozole are those of Thursdays. Whether they are white or green of pipián-, to these pozoles they are added at the moment of eating them, the same as to the most usual ones of the center of the country, chopped onion, ground piquín bell pepper, oregano (grinding it between the palms of the hands) and some drops of lemon.

Unlike the pozoles of the Altiplano, they do not have radish or lettuce. On the other hand -and this is a big difference- they are also seasoned with a raw egg (which is put in the first place, in the boiling pozole just served in the deep dish, so that it can be cooked), pork crackling in pieces, avocado and canned sardines, in oil. Like most of the pozoles, it is accompanied by toast.

Also from Guerrero is another pozole with corn, black beans, and epazote. In Aguascalientes, there is a pozole of corn (fresh, before it is corn) and they have the pozolin, with corn and poblano bell pepper. In the northern zone of Mexico, a pozole type dish is prepared with beef belly and peanut corn grains; it is used, at least, in Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Nuevo Leon, although in this last entity they add, besides beef belly and corn, pork, and rice.

Human sacrifice by heart extraction. Codex Magliabechiano, fol. 70r.
Human sacrifice by heart extraction. Codex Magliabechiano, fol. 70r.

In the south of Puebla, there is a dish known as elopozole, and they add both pork and chicken, in addition to zucchini and epazote; it is red because they grind guajillo bell pepper. In Guerrero also prepare an elopozole but with fewer ingredients. In Sinaloa, there is another variant with corn that they call pozolillo and it has chile ancho.

In Colima, there is a dry pozole identical to the white one, but without a broth. In La Laguna, they make a pozole enchilada, which is a kind of unground corn cake, baked in the oven, with a dry chili sauce. In Nayarit, they prepare the shrimp pozole.

In Chihuahua, a corn pozole is cooked with pork rinds and cilantro. In Baja California Sur they have a pozole of pork spine with chile pasilla. In Sonora, they cook a deer bone pozole, another one of wheat, and another one of wheat and beans.

Another very local modality is the green pozole. In Mexico City one was made with poblano bell pepper and tomatoes and in Michoacan, another one was made with epazote. In Guanajuato, they add ground coriander. In Morelos, they also make a chickpea pozole, with dried shrimp.

Red pozole recipe with pork (pozole rojo)

Nothing like a traditional pozole to celebrate this holiday. There won't be any left for reheating.

Servings: 4

Preparation Time: 90 Minutes

Recipe: Pork and Hominy Pozole with Avocado
Recipe: Pork and Hominy Pozole with Avocado
Photo by osiristhe on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Ingredients

1 kilo of pre-cooked pozolero corn (2.2 lbs)

1 head of garlic

1 kilo of diced pork (2.2 lbs)

1 large tomato 

100 grams of guajillo bell pepper (3.55 oz)

¼ teaspoon oregano

1 pinch of cumin

1 clove of garlic

To serve

1 chopped romaine lettuce

1 small onion, chopped

4 lemons in halves

Corn tostadas

Salt to taste

Method of preparation

Add the corn, garlic head, and salt to your liking in a large pot, cover with water and cook to medium heat for 2 hours. Then add the meat to the pot and cook for an hour or until the meat is soft. Remove the garlic head.

Pour water in a separate pot to boil the tomato and chilies until soft, remove the seeds and tail from the chilies and blend with the tomato, salt, oregano, cumin, and a clove of garlic. Strain and set aside.

Once the meat is soft, remove it from the pot, shred it and set it aside.

Pour the red sauce into the pot with the corn until it boils. Add the shredded meat to the pot, season to taste, and boil for a few minutes before serving.

Decorate with chopped lettuce, onion, and lemon juice. Serve with toast and cream, sprinkled with cheese.

Gastronomic tradition accompanied by mezcal

The tradition of the dish, they say, comes from the low mountain region of Guerrero. The white, green, or red pozole from Guerrero is a gastronomic and cultural tradition that is enjoyed on Thursdays, Saturdays, or any special event in the state of Guerrero and, to make a good pairing, it must be accompanied by tasty mezcal.

Gastronomic tradition: Pozole accompanied by mezcal
Gastronomic tradition: Pozole accompanied by mezcal
Photo by Eneas on Foter.com / CC BY

At the table, you can enjoy boiled corn or pozole with pork or chicken, served in clay pots, but according to the traditions of each community you can also eat it with seafood or vegetables, sardines or even an egg, it can be prepared to your liking.

The chef and state delegate of the Mexican Gastronomic Culture Conservatory, José Javier Reynada Castrejón, comments that the tradition of pozole comes from Chilapa, a region of the low mountain of the state.

Families would gather on holidays or Thursdays to eat white pozole and the party continued until Saturday, when this dish, after being boiled several times -what is known as ''reheated'-, takes on another flavor as it gets thicker.

Before, eating pozole was a family tradition because it was eaten in a relative's house and the party continued until Saturday, but now it has been devalued and pozole Thursdays and Saturdays have been established.

This tradition is transcending and advancing to other municipalities such as Tixtla, Chilpancingo, and Acapulco that, besides being a delight, this complete food has become a reason for distraction.

" In Chilpancingo and Acapulco it has already become a custom that Thursdays are called "pozoleros" and they are reasons to have fun in the restaurants, where people eat their pozole accompanied by mezcal or a beer", said the chef.

In private homes also the good cooks prepare with a homemade flavor this dish that takes its name from the Nahuatl ''potzolli'', which means ''foam'', because the corn type ''cacahuazintle'' that is used in its preparation, opens in the form of a rosette when boiled, similar to the foam.

The pozole from Guerrero is eaten with its traditional and abundant snack made up of chicken or pork tamales, cottage cheese tacos, chorizo or chicken, as well as chicken or pork tinga chalupas, and chicharrón. Also with cambray onions, pork legs, fried pork meat, radish, lettuce, chopped onion, chopped chili, prepared or plain tostadas, oregano, red chili powder, chili filled with cheese or picadillo, avocado, and a slice of cheese.

There are two aspects of the origin of pozole, which are not yet proven. One says that it is a pre-Hispanic dish and that after the ball game, whoever lost his head ended up as food to accompany the boiled corn. Another version is that when the harvest was lost, the corn was cooked with water and the little pork they had was added and served as a pozole.

There are different ways to cook pozole and there is the Camagua pozole, which is the seasoned grain, eaten during the rainy season, and is accompanied by black beans from Chilapa and the backbone of the pig. The traditional pozole, and the one most consumed by the people of Guerrero, is the green one cooked with pipian and white, which depending on each region is cooked differently.

In Chilapa, the white pozole only boils the corn with salt and the pork, while in others, as it is in Acapulco and part of Chilpancingo or municipalities of the small coast, it is cooked with water, onion, oregano, garlic, and its pork so that it has more flavor.

Pozole can also be eaten with chicken, but for the white or green pozole to have a better flavor, it is appropriate to boil the pork head with the corn grain. The pork head has collagen and it is the one that causes the pozole to taste thick during reheating.

"Eating pozole also evolves and we can't stagnate in time, everyone adapts it to the region where one is located. In Taxco, you eat with Jumil and here in Acapulco the seafood pozole was adapted," says the chef.

For a good pozole to have a better flavor, mezcal cannot be missing and if it is from Guerrero it is better to give it a taste to the pozole'', which is taken in a jar at the same time that the dish is eaten.

On its preparation, in the dawn or a day before, the corn is cooked with lime to be able to wash it and later to boil it with salt and the pork meat, without needing to add garlic or onion as it is prepared in other municipalities. In other variants add onion, garlic, pork meat, chicken seasoning, and ground corn.

The green pozole is prepared with pipian, epazote, and also seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano. Boil the corn with the head of the pig, accompanied with a snack of toasts, chicharrón, chile stuffed with cheese or pork meat, and legs to the vinaigrette.

Also, it can be accompanied by tacos, cheese, avocado, chicken or pork chalupas, chicken or pork tamales, radish, avocado, chopped onion, chopped green chili, chili powder, and oregano.

According to an expert cook, "The meat cut, the leg, and the head are important parts for the pozole and when it is made of chicken, the breasts are cooked", one of those that make sure that the pozole from Guerrero is ready to be served and enjoyed.

Healthy red pozole recipe with chicken

Photo of pozoleria
Photo of pozoleria

Ingredients:

1 /4 or quartile of pozole grain, pre-cooked and headless

1 head of garlic

1 bunch of herbs

2 whole onions

1 crate to give flavor, removing most of the skin, so that our broth is not greasy

1 kilo of skinless chicken breasts

Salt to taste

1 Romaine lettuce

1 bunch of radishes

Oregano

Ground chili bell pepper to taste

2 avocados

Liquid for disinfection

Materials:

1 pot for pozole and spoon to serve

table and knife to chop the onion

plates to serve the pozole

dishes to put oregano, onion, and chili

bowl to put the lettuce already split and disinfected.

Method of preparation:

First, wash the corn thoroughly and put it in a pot where our pozole is going to be ready, add the herbs, which should be wrapped in a cloth, (it can be in a cloth or fabric, so that they do not fall out in the pot), add the head of garlic and the whole onion.

In another pot wash the chicken breasts and add approximately 2 liters of water, salt, and a piece of onion and let them start cooking so that the chicken can be shredded.

Once the chicken breasts and the grains of the pozole are cooked, we can add the broth from the breasts already strained and season with a little salt if necessary, and add a few spoonfuls of seasoning of choice to make our pozole richer. Let it boil a little more and take the chicken breasts out to shred them and put them in a refractory.

Finally, serve the pozole in a clay dish and add lettuce, avocado, onion, oregano, and chili powder, and shredded chicken and enjoy.

Pozole of human flesh? This would be the origin of the Mexican dish: The cannibal pozole of the warriors

Mexicans love pozole. There are some regions of the country that give the recipe a special flavor that colors it: green, white, red... depending on the seasoning. And the type of meat used for each recipe is also part of its name: pork pozole, chicken pozole, fish pozole, cachete pozole, head pozole, maciza pozole... And in the middle of its ingredients and the ways to prepare it, there is an ancient history that refers us to the Mexica and warrior way of preparing it and that included human meat as an essential part of the recipe.

The ritual preparation was as follows: a warrior would capture an enemy of his own rank on the battlefield. That moment was like going to the market to get good ingredients. And of course, there were predilections among the Mexicas and their gods, because among the options "none were as pleasant as those of Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco and Cholula and Atlixco and Tecoac and Tliliuhtepec, which six cities chose for their service and food".

The warrior returned victorious to Mexico City Tenochtitlan and the captive was treated with all honors, because it was a way of impregnating him with the tonalli of his captor who thus fulfilled his duty to his gods, his ruler, and his guild. The day of the ritual sacrifice of the captive on the sacrifice stone of the house of the gods would come, and with the spilling of his blood and his death, the sun and its multiple divine manifestations would be fed.

The corpse was rolled down the steps of the temple and the captive warrior had to recover it to take it home. There it would be cooked in the following manner: "They cooked the meat with the corn, and gave each one a piece of that meat in a bowl or caxete, with its broth and cooked corn".

This was a banquet that the warrior shared with his large calpulli family. Although there were occasions when this cannibalistic delight could be exchanged for cotton blankets. The preparation included neither salt nor spices, and the captor warrior could not eat his victim. This warrior pozole was called "tlacatlaolli".

Man growing corn, Florentine Codex, 16th century. Image: Wikimedia commons
Man growing corn, Florentine Codex, 16th century. Image: Wikimedia commons

It is worth mentioning that of the whole body, before going into the pot, the meat of the thigh was reserved to be sent to the palace of the tlatoani, where it was cooked inside the menus of thirty different stews presented in 300 dishes with which they entertained the ruler every day.

Surely this unique culinary specialty of the warriors caused the whimsy of other powerful groups in Mexican society, among them the pochtecas or merchants, who kept the complex economic fabric active and vigorous. That's why they saw the way to access this powerful and prestigious food by buying slaves that would serve as the main ingredient of pozole, following the sacrificial procedure, but with some variations, since they cooked the meat and corn in different pots and with a little bit of salt.

The slaves were also cooked in the festivities to the deities of the water, the tlaloque, where to their meat cooked in the pot was added pumpkin flowers.

This human pot recipe belongs to the sphere of the Mesoamerican corn, of the agricultural societies that survive thanks to the cultivation of the corn. It differs from the grilled cuisine of the Chichimeca groups or people from the north, who are used to hunting and roasting the meat of their prey. A custom that survived among the Mexicas who made the pilgrimage from Aztlan to the valley of Mexico. And they would use this effective cooking for specific parts of the human body, like the heart that the priests ate.

Another ancestral method of cooking is the earth oven, where the meats are cooked with the controlled heat of the ember inside a hole in the ground, maintaining the humidity and retaining the broths that the ingredients exude when cooked slowly, like the delicious barbecue of our days. On the expedition to the Hibueras, there was an occasion when their indigenous allies, very hungry, made captives in the war and "on the way they killed them and roasted them in ovens that they made for this purpose under the earth, and with stones, as they used to do in their time in Mexico, and ate them".

How was the thigh meat cooked in the tlatoani palace? We don't know precisely, but the threat that the Mexicas made to the Spaniards during the confusing days of Motecuhzoma's captivity is worth quoting: "if you don't release Moteczumacin and leave later, you will soon be dead healthy, cooked with chilmolli and eaten by gross animals, since you are not good for men's stomachs;" which leads us to think that meat in chili and tomato sauce or tomatoes was also part of the anthropophagic Mexica recipe book.