AGUA FRESCA: LIMÓN CON CHIA

Lime & chia seed cor­dial

Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Easy Trips -

Aguas fres­cas are cold, non­al­co­holic drinks con­sist­ing of wa­ter fla­vored with fruits, flow­ers, grains and sugar. While these col­or­ful re­fresh­ments are served all over Mex­ico, they are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar in Oax­aca, due to the sea­sonal heat and preva­lence of fruits. Of the many fla­vors, one of the most re­fresh­ing is limón con chia (lime with chia seeds) and Señora Irinea Valera’s stall, Aguas Fres­cas Casilda, sells gal­lons of it weekly.

Valera’s fam­ily has been run­ning the stall since 1926, after her grand­mother, Casilda, started it as a 16-year-old. “Be­cause there was no ice, they used to keep the aguas [wa­ter] cool in ol­las [large clay jugs] that were im­mersed into damp sand in a wooden pan. They started with three fla­vors only, one was limón con chia. My aunt and grand­mother added fla­vors: ja­maica [hi­bis­cus flower], tamarindo [tamarind], sandía [wa­ter­melon], ciru­ela [plum] and za­pote [fruit na­tive to Mex­ico],” she says. To­day, Aguas Fres­cas Casilda serves around 20 fla­vors, or 30 to 35 with com­bi­na­tions.

Some be­lieve fla­vored wa­ter orig­i­nated with the Aztecs, who used a wa­ter and mashed fruit com­bi­na­tion to sus­tain them­selves on long jour­neys. Valera says that for years fruit drinks have been im­por­tant to re­li­gious oc­ca­sions, par­tic­u­larly Easter. “It’s a tra­di­tion here dur­ing Se­m­ana Santa [Easter Holy Week] to gift the church with wa­ter.” This is based on the Bib­li­cal story of a young woman who tried to give Je­sus a drink of wa­ter on the way to the cross.

“But peo­ple also drink aguas fres­cas at any time be­cause they like it. It’s very pop­u­lar in the af­ter­noons when they’re in the mar­ket to eat. And of course, in the hot weather – March, April, May. And Satur­day is busy with the peo­ple who come from the pueb­los [sur­round­ing vil­lages],” Valera says. The limón con chia may not be as col­or­ful as the other aguas fres­cas fla­vors, but it’s guar­an­teed to quench a thirst.

Serves 10

Prepa­ra­tion and cook­ing time: 30 min­utes (not in­clud­ing three-hour soak­ing of limes)

15 limes

4 cups wa­ter, for soak­ing limes 2 quarts wa­ter, for the drink

3½ oz. chia seeds

½ cup wa­ter, for soak­ing chia seeds sugar, to taste ice, to serve

1. Wash the limes, put in a large dish and cover them in wa­ter. Leave to soak for around three hours (this makes it eas­ier to grate them). Dis­card this wa­ter.

2. Grate the limes over a bowl, en­sur­ing you don’t get too much of the pith, and cap­ture the small amount of juice that might es­cape as you do this. (In Mex­ico this is done in a chir­mol­era – a spe­cial pot­tery grind­ing bowl – but a nor­mal grater is fine.) Put the zested whole limes aside.

3. Strain the lime zest through a muslin cloth. (You may have to squeeze it a lit­tle at this point to ex­tract juice.) Dis­card the lime zest and keep the small amount of juice.

4. Pour 2 quarts wa­ter into a jug. Add the small amount of lime juice and sugar to taste.

5. Pre­pare the chia seeds by soak­ing them for about five min­utes in a lit­tle wa­ter to soften them. 6. Drain the chia seeds and stir them into the lime and wa­ter mix­ture.

7. Add ice as de­sired, and serve.

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