1. Ingredients In Depth 4:

    Maguey (Agave americana)

    Miel de maguey (sweet maguey sap):

    Production begins with la raspa, the scraping of the center of the plant to begin the flow of liquid, which is then sucked out into an acocote or gourd. Nowadays, plastic containers are used in place of squash gourds, but the process is essentially the same. The aguamiel is deposited in buckets and brought to la pala, where it is boiled down to syrup. La pala gets its name from the Spanish word for paddle, since a wooden paddle is used to stir the aguamiel constantly until it reaches the desired consistency. This is hard work, requiring constant movement in a room that fills with white smoke as the aguamiel is boiled. More >

    Pulque (fermented maquey sap):

    Generally speaking, producing pulque is a little like caring for a sourdough starter. It is a process of natural fermentation that must be kept in balance by consistent care of the stock. The tlachiquero — the person who harvests aguamiel (sap) — must collect the sap aguamiel from his maguey plant two times a day, and three times in the hot season. Aguamiel is thin and tastes sweet with a hint of that bitter flavor that aloe vera juice has.

    Don Joaquin told us that there are a number of maguey species and that each one produces a pulque of a different flavor and consistency. The names of maguey varieties appear to vary from region to region, and he calls the three varieties that he prefers, Chalmeca, Malinalqueño, and Verde. More >

    Mixiotes (meat steamed in maguey leaves):

    The word mixiotes refers to one of the most delectable dishes within the wide spectrum of Mexican cooking, as well as the wrapping used to contain these steamed individual meat stews.

    This wrapping, also known as a mixiote, is the outermost layer of a maguey leaf, called a penca. This thin outer leaf layer is similiar to parchment paper in thickness and consistency. More >