Here in Boston we are swimming through another heatwave and it made me think about our favorite Peruvian drink, Chicha morada!
Many people now know about Peru's food -- its national dish, ceviche, is quite well-known -- yet few know about some of our yummy beverages as well. There are many types of corn that grow in Peru and as with many indigenous peoples we have found myriad ways to use it: we eat it fresh, popped, toasted, ground into flours or starches, and, of course, to make drinks or liquids used as marinades. There are also different styles of chicha; it can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Chicha morada is non-alcoholic, which is why it's a favorite in our home! Not only do I love to drink this, but Kahlo LOVES to help make it on the regular. It makes our whole house smell absolutely delicious!
What gives Chicha morada its very distinctive color and taste is purple corn, aka culli, ckolli, or maiz morado. This corn can be found growing, for many generations now, in various parts
around the Andes. It has been consumed even before the Incas could be found slugging it back yet it was only first documented in writing in the 1870s by a Frenchman named Camille Pradier-Fodéré. Not only is this a tasty and refreshing beverage but it also gives you a nutritional punch! It is high in antioxidants, is colon cancer fighting (as found by a Japanese study), and reduces blood pressure and bad cholesterol, while also promoting healthy blood circulation. For the win!
While purple corn and pineapples (key ingredients) are indigenous to South America, other ingredients that are added today would have been brought by Europeans like cinnamon, cloves, lime and sugar. Pineapple adds a natural sweetness, the spices and lime introduce depth and brightness. We do not have lemons in Peru but you could certainly substitute if you're in a pinch. If you choose to add fresh fruit -- things like quince, pineapple, apples, mandarins, or peaches are sometimes used -- it adds even more flavor and texture, not unlike sangria. I tend to keep it simple and just add a bit of the crushed pineapple at the end, just before serving. Kahlo and I have been making batch after batch all summer. Looks like it's time for another one! Enjoy amig@s!
Kahlo's Chicha Morada -- serves 12-15
1 gallon water
5-6 ears of dried purple corn, remove kernels
1 pineapple, use just the skin and the core
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves, whole
6-8 limes, juiced
Simple syrup or brown sugar to taste (in Peru we use chancaca, aka panela, piloncillo or cane sugar)
(1 cup pineapple flesh, crushed if you want to add to drink!)
In a large stock pot, bring water, corn cobs, corn kernels, pineapple skins, pineapple core, cinnamon and cloves to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and leave for 40 minutes.
Strain juice into container or pitcher and discard other ingredients.
Add lime juice, simple syrup or sugar, and fruit (optional).
Let cool in refrigerator for at least an hour. Enjoy!