Indigenous People’s Day: Chicha Morada

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Today on October 12th, Canadians are celebrating Thanksgiving, American children are reciting Columbus Day poems that they learned in school, and American workers are taking advantage of the federal holiday by sleeping in (if you’re lucky, which I’m not). However in other parts of the world, Columbus Day has been traded in for a more inclusive holiday that celebrates indigenous culture, educates the public about the history of genocide in the Americas, and raises awareness about native issues. Some American cities have made Indigenous People’s Day and Native American Day an official holiday, and in parts of Latin America the holiday is known as Dia de La Raza.

Rather than celebrate such a controversial figure in history, we wanted to pay tribute to the millions of indigenous people who called the Americas home long before Europeans arrived. It was hard to choose one single recipe for this special day, considering the diversity of indigenous groups across North and South America. I decided to make chicha morada, a refreshing Peruvian drink made of purple corn.

Chicha can be found across Latin America from the Andes to Central America, and the word came to refer to any fermented beverage that was consumed by indigenous people (at least as far as the Spanish were concerned). Although it’s usually made from corn, chicha can also be made from apple, yuca, quinoa, or amaranth. Fermented chicha undergoes a process much like beer, where sugar and corn are boiled and left to ferment for weeks at a time. The more traditional method requires people to chew the corn and spit it out, using their saliva to aid in the fermentation process. If fermenting your own homemade beer intimidates you, don’t worry – making chicha morada is relatively simple and doesn’t require fermentation or your saliva!

Chicha morada is a type of unfermented chicha made from purple corn, pineapple, cloves, and cinnamon. It may sound exotic and ceremonial, but it’s actually a common drink in Peru that’s even sold as a powder or bottled like soda. I’m not trying to say that it isn’t special, because it definitely is – a few years ago, it was heralded as the next superfood because of the antioxidants found in purple corn. With this recipe in your arsenal, you won’t have to stoop to buying powdered chicha morada, nor do you have to wait for a special occasion to make it- you can make this healthy, simple, and refreshing beverage every day if you like.

Chicha Morada(Yield: 5 glasses)

Ingredients:
16 ounces dried purple corn
1 pineapple
1 apple
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 liters water (or 1/2 gallon)
½ cup brown sugar
2 lemons, juiced

Directions:

  1. Wash the dried corn, pineapple, and apple thoroughly.
  2. Peel both the apple and pineapple and remove the core. Discard the apple core, but keep the pineapple core and the fruit peels. Cut the remaining fruit into chunks and refrigerate (They’ll be used as a garnish later on).
  3. Bring the 2 liters of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the corn, fruit peels, pineapple core, cloves, and cinnamon. Cook on medium-high for 40 minutes.
  4. Strain the hot liquid into another larger pot, then add the sugar. Mix well, then chill in the refrigerator.

5. Just before serving, add the juice of the 2 lemons. Garnish with fruit chunks and enjoy.

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