|Mango Gelato or Ice Cream (Helado de Mango)|
Photograph by Leticia Alaniz © 2015
India is the world’s leader in mango production and recently, México was reported to be the leading exporter in tropical America, with a volume surpassing 312.5 metric tons and reaching over 22 countries. These reports are confirmed by the branch of the government of Mexico: SAGARPA, (The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food). The mango tree is grown in 23 states in Mexico but there are ten states that produce over 98 percent of the mangos. The state of Guerrero is the principal producer followed by Nayarit and Sinaloa. But where did mangos come from?
The mango appears in many myths and legends: In indian Vedic literature it is spoken of as a transformation of the Lord of Creatures, Prajapati, who later became the Lord of Procreation. One of the most famous legends tells the story of the sun princess who was burned to death by an evil sorceress. When the ashes cooled, the wind sprinkled them on the earth and fertilized it. From there, grew a lush green tree that bore the fruit and flowers of the most fragrant perfume… The emperor was enchanted by the fragrance and fell in love with the flower and subsequently its fruit. When ripe mangoes fell to the ground, the beautiful, delicate sun princess emerged once again.
The Mughal ruler Akbar the Great (1556-1605) was entranced every time he ate a mango so he planted an orchard of mango tress at Darbhanga in the state of Bihar, called Lakh Bagh which literally meant that the number of tress was exactly one lack or 100,000. For many years the mango became an important high status pursuit and the cultivation of mango orchards was reserved for the kings or rajas and nawabs. They say the enlightened one, the great Buddha, meditated many hours of his days under a mango tree. It is well documented that the mango tree has been cultivated for over 4000 years and is known in early sanskrit writings as amra.
The mango is the tropical fruit of the mango tree belonging to the Anarcardiaceae family. It is native to eastern India and Burma. The Indian mango Mangifera indica, is the descendant of a wild tree still found in northeast India. Thru the passage of the silk road, it reached Persia where it was highly prized, cultivated, and traded in east Africa. With it’s high status symbol it became associated with wealth and was spread eastward to China. By the 15th century, when many explorers were traveling the seas in search for riches, word reached the Portuguese real fast and soon enough they traded mangos as a highly valuable commodity first in Brazil, then finally by the end of the 18th century, the delicious golden fruit worth its weight in gold was introduced into Mexico. It took long enough!
Mangos were adapted in Mexican cuisine right away in savory dishes as well as in sweet dishes. By the time they were introduced, the nuns of the famous convents were busy making hundreds of delicacies, especially right in the heart of Querétaro and Puebla. The convents in Mexico became very famous for its kitchens and in 1700, in Mexico city alone there were about 22 convents. The nuns dedicated their time to the culinary arts inventing all types of sweets, candies, custards, sweetmeats, fudges, cajeta (caramel), Rompope (a type of liquor made with egg custard) and cold fruit desserts. One of the most famous recipes that came out of a convent which is a favorite flavor that glows from the windows in a bright yellow to orange hue when you pass by the neverías or ice cream parlors is helado de mango, gelato in Italian, or simply ice cream. When it comes to helados and sorbetes or Mexican ice creams and other frozen delights, Mexico really shines. The main difference in helado (which literally translates to freezing cold) and ice cream is that ice cream is made with cream while helado and gelato are made with milk, fresh fruit, and in Mexico even chile!
Following is the rich, delicate recipe for Helado de Mango from the kitchens of las monjitas (the nuns) from the Convent Of Santa Clara in Puebla Mexico:
3/4 cup of sugar
4 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups of milk
1/2 cup of cream
2 - 3 large ripe mangos
1 tablespoon of lime juice
Peel and slice the mangos. Scrape the skins clean of all the mango (as much as possible). You don’t want to leave behind even one tiny delicious morsel. Pureé in a blender or food processor with the lime juice. Strain in a bowl to leave behind strands. You will have about one and a half cups of purée. In a dry bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until creamy and pale. Next, in a medium saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer. Turn off the heat and slowly whisk a little at a time half of the the simmered milk into the egg mixture bowl. Return everything to the saucepan over a very low heat and keep on stirring until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. At this point it is a creamy custard. Remove the mixture from the heat. You can strain it at this point into a larger bowl, but I don’t bother with that step. I don’t mind little bits. Let it cool for at least ten minutes then mix in the mango pureé. You can now taste the wonderful flavor. Let it cool completely preferably overnight in your refrigerator. But if you can’t wait, go ahead and at room temperature, process the mixture in your ice cream maker or churner (you can also churn by hand the traditional way). The recipe makes one quart and you can double for two quarts. Your family will go crazy over this!
La Tradicional Cocina Mexicana y Sus Mejores Recetas
(The traditional Mexican Cuisine)
by Adela Fernández
Panorama México Press
Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods
by Jennifer A Jordan
University of Chicago Press
SAGARPA - México