My glorious and beloved Citizenry! Tremble before the moment-at-hand, for the High Priest of Pozole – YOUR TFD! – is prepared to dispense glad tidings to you all! Prepare yourselves to receive My benison, My benediction AND My blessing upon you – the Extreme Unction for your hunger is nigh, for I come bearing the soothing Balm of Culinary Gilead! Few things in life are as welcome after a cold, hard day as a comforting bowl of pozole, that Mexican corn stew traditionally made in the ‘red style’. However – today, I share with TFD Nation the ultimate bowl, the ultra-rare green version from the state of Guerrero!
As noted on history.com:
From the renowned beaches of Acapulco and Ixtapa to the silversmiths of Taxco, Guerrero is known as a mecca for ocean-loving tourists and sports fisherman. The main economic drivers in the state’s central valley region are agriculture and livestock breeding. The area’s main farm products are maize (corn), beans, sorghum, rice, sesame, tomato, melon, lemon, coffee, coconuts and bananas. In addition, Guerrero produces more than 3 percent of the beef consumed in Mexico.
Evidence of human presence in Guerrero dates back to 300 B.C. when the Olmeca people inhabited central and southern Mexico. Even though the Olmeca primarily occupied Tabasco and Veracruz, their influence extended into modern-day Guerrero. The caves of Juxtlahuaca, 30 miles south east of Chilpancingo, feature Olmeca wall paintings dating from around 300 B.C. to 400 A.D.
The Mezcala Indians established themselves in the region during the 7th century. While they don’t appear to have built any important structures in the area, they did introduce stone sculpture and ceramics, crafts traceable to the Teotihuacán culture.
In the 10th century, Teotihuacán groups built pyramids in Texmelincán and Teloloapan. Tepaneca Indians and other tribes lived along the Pacific coast until Náhuatl (Azteca) groups invaded the region in the 11th century. After conquering central Mexico, the Aztecs divided the region that constitutes modern-day Guerrero into seven entities. Tax collection mechanisms were introduced, and the centralized Azteca government exerted influence over the local natives.
One part of Guerrero, Acapulco, never came under the direct control of the Aztecs but instead remained subject to local caciques (chiefs). Acapulco’s culture was, however, influenced by Tarasca, Mixteca, Zapoteca and Azteca civilizations.
After conquering the Aztecs at Tenochtitlán in 1521, Spanish invaders quickly assumed power over other tribes in the region. In 1534, Spanish expeditions discovered silver in Taxco, Guerrero, which attracted even more Spanish settlers and radically altered indigenous life. The natural harbor at Acapulco enabled trade with Asia, and while the rough and dangerous road between Acapulco and Mexico City took 12 days to travel, the prospect of lucrative overseas trade made it one of the busiest colonial routes in Mexico.
Trade become common during this period between Acapulco and destinations such as Peru and Asia. For more than 250 years, the Santa Anna, a special trading ship known to the English as the Manila Galleon made one annual trip from Acapulco to Manila and the Orient.
Its return voyage was celebrated in Acapulco each year with an annual merchant fair, when traders bargained for the galleon’s cargo of silks, porcelain, ivory and lacquerware. In 1579, the English raider Francis Drake attacked but failed to capture the ship; nine years later, Thomas Cavendish seized the Santa Anna off Cabo San Lucas, stealing 1.2 million gold pesos and severely depressing the London bullion market.
Importing slaves from Africa and parts of Asia had long been a common Spanish practice, and during the 16th century Acapulco became a center for slave trade. Most slaves were put to work in the silver and gold mines. Those who managed to escape formed slave communities in the mountainous regions of the southern and western part of the state, which remained active until the mid-19th century. Modern-day descendants of African slaves still live along the southern Pacific coast.
During the Mexican War of Independence (1810-21), José Morelos was commissioned by Mexican priest and revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo to form an independence army in Guerrero. More than 3,000 soldiers joined Morelos, and they liberated Chilpancingo from Spanish control and declared it the nation’s capital in 1813.
Following Morelos’ death, the struggle for independence continued with Vicente Guerrero eventually emerging as the movement’s strongest leader. The movement succeeded in wresting Mexico from Spanish control, and in 1821 the Plan of Iguala was implemented. It mandated independence, a single national religion (Roman Catholicism) and social equality.
After Mexico gained its independence, Guerrero was appointed as chief of the southern region of Mexico, where he fiercely fought for the establishment of a federal republic. He eventually became president of Mexico in 1829 but was assassinated just nine months later.
Economic development in the 1980s and the consolidation of Acapulco, Ixtapa and Taxco as tourist attractions have benefited the state economy, which is mainly supported by tourism, farming, commerce and transportation.
Guerrero is rich in natural resources, and manufacturing, mining and energy production are growing industries. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)–a trade agreement among Mexico, the United States and Canada — took effect in 1994, many new maquiladoras (assembly plants) were established, which generated additional income for the state.
Guerrero is currently plagued by violence and lawlessness perpetrated by politically motivated guerrillas and drug cartels. The state’s location along the Pacific coast as well as its dense rainforests and mountains makes law enforcement in the area difficult.
Pozole originated with the Aztecs, as did so many classic Mexican dishes and other indigenous tribes in Mesoamerica. 😱 Interesting factoid here – historical texts confirm that the original pozole of the Natives was made with sacrificed human flesh!
After the Spanish arrived and cannibalism was banned, the human flesh was replaced with pork. There is some speculation that the Aztecs opted to use pork because it tastes like human meat, a fact confirmed by the name New Guinea cannibals gave to their human meals of shipwrecked sailors – ‘long pig’.
Today, pozole is still a very common food for Mexicans to eat on special occasions, at events such as weddings, quinceañeras (special celebrations for girls’ 15th birthdays), birthdays, baptisms, and holidays.
There are different variations of pozole associated with different regions of Mexico. These are the three major types of pozole: pozole rojo (red pozole), pozole verde (green pozole), and pozole blanco (white pozole) – the colors of the Mexican flag. Red pozoles seem to be the most common, but green pozole is considered the finest (and the rarest).
Primarily, the difference in color derives from the salsas used in each recipe – from the red chiles in pozole rojo to the green tomatillos in pozole verde. Also, instead of pork, you can (if you wish) make a pozole with chicken or goat. In Mexico, pozole is traditionally made with pig’s head, but because it’s a little harder to find pig’s head to purchase in the US, most stick with pork shoulder or pork butt. We will stick with the classic pork pozole verde, as best made at Café Moctezuma in Mexico City (and devoured every Thursday in Guerrero state!).
I first learned about this incredible recipe while watching an episode of my favorite Mexican cooking show, hosted by renowned Chef and author Rick Bayless. Watch as he explains the unique history and preparation of this dish-of-dishes below!
Café Moctezuma was also profiled in a fascinating article in L.A. Taco – I quote excerpts from it here:
Pozole’s true central ingredient — like Mexico itself — is corn, a large-kernel variety called cacahuazintle, or “grano” or “pozol,” which is soaked until it becomes large and soft. Its signature night is Fiestas Patrias, celebrated overnight between September 15 and September 16. The dish shines in homes as families gather to celebrate “El Grito,” to drink and eat. Big oversized pots of leftover pozole really, really come in handy the morning or afternoon of September 16 (and/or September 17), depending on how severe the pertinent hangover might be.
At Pozole de Moctezuma, however, the style is more like the “secretary’s pozole,” or Pozole Thursdays — that is, the celebratory, heavily garnished version of the green pozole as made in towns and cities across Guerrero: doses of diced onion, oregano, ground chile, crumbled chicharrón, and chunks of spoon-scooped avocado. The servers prepare the dish tableside: an egg cracked into the broth, and then, as a final surprise, a couple tablespoons of Guerrero mezcal.
Sardines come on the side.
“My great-grandmother passed it to my grandparents, but to the daughter-in-law, my grandmother. And my grandparents left the business to their daughter-in-law, my mother, and here we are,” Alvarez tells us.
“I am the fourth generation,” he adds, laughing. “And I hope they don’t leave it to my wife.”
Now – to make this properly, you’ll need a few specific ingredients – as usual, I provide sources and my favorite brands of choice! For the all-important pozole corn itself, you will want to make this from soaked dried corn of the cacahuazintle variety for full authenticity – thankfully, you can easily buy it here. For the salsa verde – you will need some of the rare Hoja Santa plant, used in indigenous Mexican recipes (and which has the taste of root beer!). You can buy fresh leaves inexpensively here. You will also want epazote, an herb used again in many Mexican dishes. If you can find it fresh, use it – if not, this dried product is just fine.
The classic recipe calls for Bay leaves, but I actually prefer to use a combination of Bay and Cinnamon leaves – the cinnamon leaf is optional but recommended, you can buy them here. Lastly – the highly unusual garnish beloved at Café Moctezuma – sardines! Fear not, the end result does NOT taste fishy, just filled with umami (and the garnish is optional for each person) – my only preferred brand is King Oscar, you can buy them here.
Citizens – this is truly a precious and rare recipe that will be welcomed by your family during the cold, long Winter months of the COVID-19 pandemic – please do try it at your earliest opportunity, perhaps paired with a delicious taco al pastor!
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