Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade Horchata

Horchata de chufa (authentic Spanish horchata,
made with tigernuts), served with fartones
My husband absolutely LOVES horchata. For some odd reason, though, he prefers the Kern's Horchata that you can buy in some supermarkets (which includes cow milk), which is a far cry from the original, authentic horchata that originated in Spain. Horchata de chufa is a regional beverage that can be found in Spain, most prevalently in Valencia. It is made of tigernuts (found only in Valencia), water, and sugar.

Originally from Valencia (a city where I lived for a brief time), the idea of making horchata from tigernuts comes from the period of Muslim presence in Valencia (from the 8th to 13th century). It has a regulating council to ensure the quality of the product and the villages where it can come from, with the Denomination of Origin (Wikipedia, 2011). The village of Alboraia, a little north of the city of Valencia, is well known for the quality of its horchata. When I lived in Spain from 96-98, I remember my friends and I visiting the Horchater√≠as in Alboraia to enjoy an ice cold, refreshing summer drink, accompanied by fartones (a slightly sweet bread sprinkled with powdered sugar) for dipping.

Horchata in Latin America is different, and a lot less regulated. It is made from rice, and then the flavor varies from country to country. Since tigernuts are pretty scarce around the United States, making homemade Latin American horchata, most usually Mexican horchata, is easier.

This recipe uses only approximations. My husband liked a sweeter drink, so we added considerably more agave nectar than recommended below. You can also use any other kind of sweetener that you desire, even sugar. The important thing is to blend it well and then taste it, and then add vanilla, cinnamon and sweetener to taste. I suggest starting low and building up; after all, you can't change it if you've already added too much of something.

Many horchata recipes that I have found on the net suggest using uncooked rice, blending it, and then filtering it through a nut milk bag. However, I found that because of the power of the Vitamix, I had no need to go through that process. I cooked the brown rice (I did not even bother soaking it) in a pressure cooker, following the cooker's instructions, and it was ready in about 20 minutes. A pressure cooker is great because it doesn't boil food (which greatly reduces nutrients in food).

Because my rice was still hot when I was done with it, the horchata was warm, too. It was surprisingly good (I, myself, found that I preferred it warm) and it would make a delicious, healthy, holiday drink. Usually horchata is served ice cold, though. After mixing, simply put it in the refrigerator until it is cold and then enjoy!
As always, I certainly invite you to try this recipe in your own blenders or other machines -- just follow the directions as your instructional manual suggests.

Homemade Horchata
(Vita-Mix Recipe) 
3 c. water
3/4 c. sweet brown rice, cooked
1/2 -1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (or to taste)
2-3 tbsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
2-3 tbsp. agave nectar (or to taste)
  1. Place all ingredients into Vita-Mix in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Variable 1.
  3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
  4. Blend for 2-3 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. 
  5. Store in refrigerator, and shake well before using.

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