Thursday, March 29, 2007

Brazilian Treasure

There is nothing more romantic than artisan food. The care and love put into making the food; the skills and recipes passed down from generation to generation, turning basic ingredients into mouth-watering treats. Goiabada Cascao is one of them. Goiabada is a marmelada made of guava - a fruit widely available in Brazil. There is really nothing special about guava fruit. There are guava trees everywhere in Brazil. But when a concoction of sugar, water, and guava is cooked outdoors, being stirred for hours until it reaches the perfect consistency, something magical happens.

I remember traveling to Minas Gerais (southeast Brazil) several years ago to take a tour of small towns where the main attraction was food. Restaurants and small shops had local food, fresh, made from scratch all day. I remember going to an artisan store specialized in jams, jellies, and preserves and watching a cook making goiabada. The artisan way uses a large and heavy copper pan called "tacho" over a fire ring. The cook stirs it constantly with a long wooden spoon. It's almost as a theatrical show. It's an art for sure. The smell and steam coming out of the tacho is incomparable. When it's done the marmelada is spread on a large form and after it cools off and reaches a solid consistency it is cut into squares. The one I brought from Brazil is sold on a rustic wooden box with a label that says "Founded in 1919".

There are many ways to eat goiabada, plain or with a slice of Minas Cheese - this combination is called "Romeo and Juliet". Melted goiabada is also delicious as cake or pastry filling. For cakes filling it can be melted with some water on low heat. For pastries, it melts when baked.

Goiabada is also sold canned, highly processed, full of preservatives. Needless to say, the canned goiabada tastes like pure sugar with no flavor. The real thing is called Goiabada Cascao -never out of a can, nothing added besides sugar and water.


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