When you think of fermented food and drink the first tastes that spring to mind are probably German Sauerkraut, Korean Kimchi, Japanese Miso and Eastern European Keffir. The idea of fermenting food and drink has existed for thousands of years as a way of preserving food and its nutrients, while also breaking down some foods into a more digestible form. Most cultures around the world have some form of fermented food and drink in their cuisine – including Mexico! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular fermented food and drink of Mexico.
Escabeche is the Spanish word for ‘pickle’. In Mexico, escabeche is a simple fermented vegetable pickle that is often served in Mexican restaurants and homes either as a starter alongside totopos and salsa or as a side dish to a meal. It’s usually a combination of carrot, cauliflower, jalapeños and onions in a pickling juice based on vinegar, sugar, pepper, and pickling spices. It’s refreshing and crunchy and a great way get the taste buds going before a meal or to complement a rich meal. This one is done with Habaneros from our garden.
Curtido is a fermented sauerkraut style condiment. It originated from El Salvador but is served throughout South America and Mexico. Curtido is usually made with cabbage, onions, carrots, oregano and lime juice in the same fashion as sauerkraut. It is traditionally served with ‘pupusas’ – stuffed corn tortillas – or you can serve it on tacos.
Pulque is an alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey (agave) plant which is native to Mexico. Once considered a sacred drink, pulque became secular after the Spanish conquest of Mexico which saw its consumption rise before only to be overtaken by beer. There is a saying that pulque is ‘only a bit shy of being meat’, referring to the nutritional value of the drink.
Tepache is a fermented drink made from the peel and the rind of pineapples. It is sweetened with sugar, seasoned with cinnamon and served cold. Though tepache is fermented for several days, the drink does not contain much alcohol. In Mexico, tepache is usually sold by street vendors. The fermentation process for making tepache is simple and quick, which makes tepache a drink that’s easy to make at home.