16 June 2008

Chongos Zamoranos

There is a city in the State of Michoacán named Zamora where they make a wonderful traditional desert dish called “chongos zamoranos”. The word “chongos” means “curds” and chongos zamoranos is a sort of sweet cottage cheese. It is made from milk and cinnamon and sugar and it is very well known in Mexico. It was supposedly invented by a nun in a convent who needed to salvage some milk that had gone sour and had begun to separate into curds and whey. I noticed that there are all kinds of recipes for chongos zamoranos on the Internet and most of them use rennet which is called “cuajo” (KWAA-hoh) in Spanish and comes from the fourth stomach of an unweaned calf (yuck!). Some of these recipes are quite complicated and can take hours and hours to prepare. My “suegra” (SWAY-gruh) or “mother-in-law” Carmelita makes a very tasty chongos zamoranos that is easy to prepare, and does not use rennet. I will share her recipe with you. She won’t mind. If you were here she would make some for you herself.

You start out with three liters of whole milk. You can use whole milk that you buy in cartons at the “sooper” (supermarket) or you can use “leche bronca de vaca” which is the fresh whole unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk that the man who removed it from the cow brings to your door before it even cools. That is what Carmelita uses and it makes the best chongos. Also, whether or not you are a nun you can use milk that has turned sour and has already begun to separate. If you use fresh milk you must add one quarter teaspoon of baking soda to the milk and you better not forget to do this. The next step is to heat the milk (fresh or sour) almost to boiling for about a half an hour while stirring constantly so that it doesn’t burn, and it will separate. After it has separated draw off about one half cup of the whey (called “suera” in Spanish) and discard. Add two sticks of cinnamon (“canela” in Spanish) and about a cup of natural sugar (partially refined sugar). Heat and stir for another half hour and add more sugar to taste…up to about a half cup. Keep on heating and moving the chongos around until the curds are nice and firm. It shouldn't take more than about fifteen minutes. By now the curds should be a nice beige color and the remaining whey should be a very light colored syrup. Turn off the heat, remove the spent cinnamon sticks, and let the chongos cool to room temperature. That is the best time to eat it when it will be at its flavorful best. That’s all there is to it. The stirring part is a little tiresome but believe me it is well worth the effort.

There are several brands of canned chongos. You can see some illustrations below. I have never tried them because I shudder to think about what Carmelita would do to me if she caught me eating canned chongos. I am not sure but I think it may be a cardinal sin. However, if you really want to know what chongos zamoranos is all about I think in all fairness I should direct you to the City of Zamora, Michoacán because after all…that is their claim to fame.

1 comment:

Jose said...

It's (SWEH-grah)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.