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For many Chileans, the national beverage of their South American nation is called mote con huesillo. Translated from the continent's indigenous language, Quechan, the name literally means "grain with sun-dried peaches." The grain is wheat, cooked in an alkaline water in a process called nixtamalization, which is then blended with cooked dried peaches and a simple syrup flavored by cinnamon.
The wheat used for mote con huesillo must be stripped of its bran through nixtamalization. This ancient Amerindian process of boiling grain in lye-saturated water readies the grain for recipes, while leaving its nutritious niacin content high. It is still used throughout South and Central American to ready several types of grain and even legumes for the table. In some Chilean households, the process is known as kako.
Dried peaches must be slightly rehydrated before mote con huesillo can take shape. This means they must be submerged in water overnight. This liquid can then be simmered with the peaches over medium heat, and sugar and cinnamon can then be added to make a simple syrup. When thickened, many chefs leave the nectar in the pan and refrigerate it until cold. To thicken the syrup, a little flour might be added to the peaches just before service.
The mote is prepared by boiling the wheat in water until it is tender like cooked rice. After straining the water, the wheat is often massaged by hand to make sure all the husks have been removed. Then, a liberal scoop of the finished grain is added to to each glass of the cold peach nectar.
A local expression points to the popularity of this summer drink, served at parties and roadside stands throughout the country. Referring to patriotism, locals might say that something is "more Chilean than mote con huesillo." This is used in the same frequency as another expression used by neighbors to the far north, who can be heard saying that something is "more American than apple pie."
Mote con huesillo is not the only drink or food recipe to make use of nixtamalized wheat. From hominy grits and salsa to bread and risotto, mote has become a common ingredient in many native dishes. A popular twist on the peach nectar version of the national drink involves using another type of fruit like prunes. This is often done when dried peaches are not available. When mote is not in abundance, some will used pearled barley instead.
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