Music To Play While Guests Are Being Seated At Wedding Mezcal De Pechuga From Oaxaca, Mexico: Historical Account of the Agave Distillate

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Mezcal De Pechuga From Oaxaca, Mexico: Historical Account of the Agave Distillate

Despite his vision and hearing loss, Isaac Jimenez’s memory remained sharp. One afternoon in 2012, at home in the self-proclaimed capital of the world, Santiago Matatlan, ninety-two-year-old Don Isaac rocked back and forth in his favorite old wooden chair. can’t get it,” he apologized, then continued; “That’s when Ramon Sanchez came to Matatlan with his family.”

Mezcal, of course, is an agave-based spirit distilled in many regions of Mexico. The largest producer is the southern state of Oaxaca. Traditionally, a ton or more of carbohydrate-rich plant heart or pina is sealed, baked over wood and stones in a deep oven, and then, hopefully, tastes like sugar. a wooden mallet, then a natural fermentation using environmental yeast, adding only water, before distilling in copper stills or in alembics or clay stills. There are countless production tools and tools of the trade, but the above summarizes the basic principles.

My quest to do a little research on the history of mezcal de pechuga and the catalog versions of its recipe led me to Don Isaac, whose grandfather came to Matatlan in 1870. Undoubtedly, there are several myths and legends about its origin. not least because Oaxacan mezcal was first infused with “worms”; larva known as gusano.

People who are under the impression that mezcal de pechuga only contains the essence of chicken breast know only part of the story when the steam from raw roasted agave hangs inside the jam. The characteristic ingredients of the recipe may be wild turkey breast (guajolot) or whole cleaned bird, rabbit leg, deer or iguana meat, or no protein, with or without fruits and/or herbs and spices. incorporated into the distillation process.

First appearance in Santiago Matatlan of Pechuga

“I was about 10 years old, so in 1930 a palenquero named Ramon Sánchez apparently came from Rio Seco and settled in town, or at least that’s what he told everyone,” Don Isaac recalled. At that time, Rio Seco would have been several days away from Matalan on foot or by mule or horse. It is located near the intersection of the present-day districts of Tlacolula, Ejutla, and Miahuatlán. Each of the three is known as an agave growing country. So the people of Rio Seco made mezcal.

“Then in 1938, a man named Chui Rasgado came to Matatlan,” continued Don Isaac. “One day he came to the local hacienda where I was playing with my band.”

As in other regions of Mexico, Oaxaca has a tradition of playing musical instruments, woodwinds, and percussion since childhood. Young Isaac learned to play the alto saxophone and eventually became a member of the band. He and his fellow musicians occasionally performed at a famous hacienda owned by a Spanish aristocratic family.

Rasgado had no tools in hand that day when he went to the hacienda. But he met with Isaac and his musicians and asked if he could contribute in some way. At the time, there was no clear indication of how he could help, so the band turned down the overture. Eventually, after a failed attempt to merge with the wider Matatlan, Rasgado disappeared.

One morning, Isaac and his mother, Felipa Arrazola, went to San Pablo Mitla to buy food. They encountered Rasgado. Isaac was now a recognized part of the music scene in the region, and since he had to travel a long distance to get there, he needed to spend at least one night in Mitla, so it was easy to find accommodation for him and his mother. . That first evening, Isaac and his mother happened to meet Rasgado drinking and playing music in a canteen; but not any music. He was playing the bottle; glass bottles with different sizes, shapes and neck holes, thus giving different colors. He used both breath and tempo drums to create different sounds. He was playing a tune reminiscent of the music of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, off the Pacific coast of Oaxaca.

At the end of the show, Isaac and his mother take the opportunity to speak with Rasgado, and Isaac is now humbled by someone who is revealed to be his true, multi-talented talent, which he and the rest of the band rejected a week ago. At that time, Isaac was learning to read music. As Rasgado talks to Isaac, he realizes that he is with a true maestro, a musician who plays more than a bottle. Isaac realized that he had an opportunity to improve his musical skills, and at the same time, there was a Matatlan in town, a person who could teach others. Rasgado accepted an invitation to return to Matatlan, where he began teaching and playing not only the glass, but also the guitar, trumpet, sax and several other traditional instruments.

Ramon Sánchez Chuy, also known as Rio Seco’s palenquero, quickly learned about the work he was doing in Rasgado and the Matatlan Musician Community. He decided to hold a reception. During the celebration, Sánchez presented Rasgado with a large bottle of mezcal de pechuga. Others at the event also ate pechuga, many for the first time. Before this incident, when Sánchez shared his pechuga with some people, no one noticed the peculiar taste, unless they asked about it. The cat was out of the bag and mezcal de pechuga was born, at least for public consumption and in this region. Perhaps most importantly, it was elevated to the status of a ghost on special occasions.

No one knows if the villagers of Rio Seco made mezcal de pechuga, if Sánchez was the only palenquero with this recipe, or if it was first prepared after his arrival in Matatlan. We know two things: since the day Rasgado was first given the honor of receiving mezcal de pechuga, pechuga has been served in special celebrations in many towns and villages of Oaxaca; and, there are several ingredients in the drink.

Epilogue by Chuy Rasgado and Ramon Sanchez

In 1940, General Lázaro Cárdenas traveled to Mitla. There was no paved road to or from the village, but General Cárdenas went there to open the electricity supply. It would take another 19 years to build the power line to Santiago Matatlan.

By then, Rasgado had become a well-known and respected musician in both Matatlan and Mitla (and eventually throughout the province and beyond). The mayor of Mitla invited him to play for General Cárdenas at a festive dinner. Rasgado was not dressed for a performance. He played a short first set. No one applauded. For the second set, he was part of a trio and received some praise at the end. In the third and final performance, Rasgado led the local philharmonic orchestra for four songs, dressed in the formal attire traditionally worn by bandleaders. General Cárdenas called him to the box where he and the other dignitaries were seated and congratulated him. The dress must have inspired a great prom. Rasgado threw back a few, so maybe a little drunkenness at the end of the night contributed to his best.

Three or four months later, Chui Rasgado disappeared again, this time never returning to the region. He is said to have died in the Mix district of Oaxaca.

Ramon Sánchez made small batches of mezcal, such as pechuga, for his own consumption and gave them to those who wanted them during the holidays. None of his descendants became palenqueros. At the time, there was a widespread perception that making mezcal was not as dignified a trade as leading a musician’s life. As for Don Isaac, he defied public opinion and continued to be successful in both professions.

Oaxacan Mezcal de Pechuga Today

According to Enrique Jimenez, son of Don Isaac, a palenquero and chemical engineer, real mezcal de pechuga is made by placing a certain amount of chopped seasonal fruit in a copper alembic (the only type Jimenez Jr. knows how to use). ) with previously distilled mezcal (thus preparing the third distillation), with a whole chicken or turkey breast hanging inside the apparatus. If the beer is used without fruit or other additions, it is properly considered mezcal de pechuga; If herbs and/or spices are added, with or without fruit, it’s considered the real deal. If protein is not used, the spirit is considered more correct than mezcal afrutado. Manuel Mendez, a palenquero from the nearby town of San Dionio Ocotepec, adds five fruits and sugar cane to the term. On the other hand, in San Baltazar Chichicapam, just down the highway from San Dionisio, Fortunato Hernández makes his own pineapple mezcal recipe called mezcal de pina. Rodolfo López Sosa in San Juan del Río runs a turkey breast called pechuga de guajolote.

At least one Oaxacan mezcal brand owner and exporter instructs his producers to use rabbit’s feet instead of bird’s breast. One palenquero in Michoacán uses chicken breast, venison, and spices, a recipe his wife guards closely. One incarnation calls for 200 liters of mezcal to be poured into a traditional 300-litre copper tank, along with 100 liters of sliced ​​fruit, suspended from the bell-top of a chicken or turkey breast. This will yield approximately 120 liters of mezcal de pechuga. If protein is left out of the composition, spices and / or fruit flavors will inevitably dominate, and the spirit lacks a certain nose created by meat, poultry or otherwise.

The second broad category of mezcal de pechuga is fruit and/or spices added during the first and second distillation, along with mezcal and/or tepache (fermented liquid) and/or bagazo (crushed, fermented fiber).

In both cases, mezcal de pechuga is clear because the final distillation takes place regardless of the ingredients that go to the bottom of the pot, copper or clay, resulting in a colorless spirit. These are two versions of pechuga and are often served at many ceremonies in rural Oaxaca, such as weddings, quince anos, and baptisms, a tradition that has continued since the 1940s. early.

A third category of mezcal de pechuga is simply mezcal blanco (clear, undistilled), which is either sugar cane or roasted agave, which changes its color to amber before being sealed in the glass. Another is mezcal blanco, infused with fruit and/or herbs and spices, then filtered before bottling. Whether chicken, turkey, or other meat was used in the distillation process is questionable regardless of representation. Spirits in this third category are not properly called mezcal de pechuga.

Unanswered Historical Questions About Mezcal De Pechuga

Questions that remain unanswered, at least in their entirety, are why, where, and when the first palenquero decided to use chicken or turkey breast in addition to roasted agave to make mezcal.

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