Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Candy from San Vicente, El Salvador

The San Vicente Tower, built in 1930, in the capital of San Vicente is climbed every day by tourists

A large weaving wheel spun in front of me, as the soda-can spools were slowly being filled with thread, by a productive spinner lady who might have been a character in a German folktale. Might it turn into gold the following morning? Had I been transported into the past, before the Industrial Revolution? Maybe it had magical powers, like it did in Sleeping Beauty or Norse mythology.
    In the next room, a weaving machine hypnotically moved from left to right and back, then upwards and downwards. Gradually, a long piece of material decorated with colorful patterns appeared. It would soon be a tablecloth. I didn't wait to eat lunch on it, as it would take quite a bit longer for it to be finished...
     Instead, I journeyed to a nearby town, and stepped into a sugarcane field. Green blades of grass protruded from fingerlike sticks, much like feathers sprout from a bird's crest or tail. Many of the stalks had already been cut and thrust into a mill. In large vats, the resulting syrup was heated and classified into different qualities of syrup. Raw sugar was produced, as well as a thick, dark brown version that would be placed in wooden molds. Small barrel-shaped, solid blocks of candy emerged and were wrapped in corn husks by women, to be sold as "panela", that could be melted with different fruits to make other types of candy.
     After my visit to San Sebastian in San Vicente (where weavers worked with the same machines or similar machines to those they used 100 years ago or more), and to a sugarcane mill in Verapaz, San Vicente, I was ready to make some sweet potato candies.... So I warmed up by climbing the five-story white tower in San Vicente, the department's capital.

August 6th
A national holiday in El Salvador takes place on August 6th each year. In San Vicente, they always have sweet potato candy available for any fair or special event. In fact, the candy shops sell it year-round, too.

Sweet potato candy on a woven tablecloth from San Sebastian
1 1/4 pounds of boiled, then mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 pound of granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup of milk

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cook until the mixture thickens and sticks together into a ball. Let it cool for ten minutes. Next, shape it into small cones with your hands. Stick them into syrup (see recipe below) to coat them. Yields: 30 medium-sized cones.

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of lime juice
2 strips of lime peel
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons of water
Place all ingredients in a 2-quart pot and heat until it reaches the soft ball stage. You can test it by placing a drop in a glass of water. If the drop turns into a soft ball, it is ready.
Traditional weaving machine used to make tablecloths and hammocks, located in San Sebastian, San Vicente

Large spools filled by hand to place in the weaving machine

A more "modern" version of the weaving machine


No comments: