Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

It's been a busy holiday season once again at Hacienda Contreras. The weather has been beautiful - warm and sunny during the day but cooling down at night.
We went into town a few days ago for the children's fiesta, which of course was followed by the adults' fiesta. There were games for the kids, including sack races for both boys and girls.
The jardine, or town square, in Valle de Juarez is one of our favorite jardines in Mexico.  The Christmas tree was decorated, lights were strung, and people were out enjoying the festivities.
We had dinner that night with a nice group of friends at one of our favorite restaurants on the jardine that specializes in really good enchiladas suiaza. Then out to dinner again the following night at another favorite restaurant in the nearby town of Mazamitla. It was Barb and Sal's 40th wedding anniversary and a great celebration. Two of their five daughters and their son-in-law flew in for the occasion and all the campers were invited as well. It was a fun group!
Lots of good conversation, good food, and even mariachis to entertain us.
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Mexico is tamales, and we made them once again this year on Christmas Eve Day. Sal's sister Juana was up at the crack of dawn to have the corn ground for the masa, and she and Barb got everything ready for us to help assemble the tamales. Corn husks were soaked in water to make them soft and then coated on the inside with the masa. The filling, in this case shredded pork in a spicy sauce, was added and the corn husks were folded.
Even though Juana cut the proportions in half from last year, we still had a huge amount that were then steamed for several hours.
The tamales were served that night at our Christmas Eve Fiesta Dinner. In addition to the tamales, everyone brought a dish or two to share and it was quite a Christmas feast. Chris even got us a fresh turkey from a farm just up the road - can't get much fresher than that.
Christmas Day has been fairly quiet and it's been nice to have some time to sit down and get caught up. Tonight we'll get together again and try to demolish some of the leftovers, including some turkey soup.
I think it's time to plan some hikes and work some of this food off. 

More Mezcal Fun

We made our third visit to a very secluded mezcal still near Valle de Juarez. Mezcal is similar to tequila in some ways but different in others. Tequila is actually a type of mezcal and produced in a similar fashion. Real mezcal has more of a smoky flavor and we find we prefer it to tequila. This is fine sipping liquor and should not be used in mixed drinks or slugged down like some people enjoy doing with tequila. Some say the best mezcal comes from the state of Oaxaca but maybe those folks have not tasted this mezcal yet.

Each time we go we learn a bit more about the process, and it's fun to share the experience with our fellow campers. We blogged about it last year when we visited so I didn't take as many pictures since information and pictures can be found at this link.

During our visit this year we learned more and of course we purchased more mezcal. Last year we were told by Don Jesus, the patron of the operation, that he can tell if the mezcal is just right by looking at the bubbles. This year he demonstrated how that's done. Long evergreen needles found in the area are bent in a loop, similar to a whisk. A portion of the freshly distilled mezcal is poured into a small bowl that looks like a coconut shell and is whisked briskly. If there are no bubbles, the mezcal is ready. If there are many bubbles or small bubbles adjustments are made. As near as we could tell it mostly has to do with the temperature of the fermented mash being cooked.
The mash is cooked for about 12 hours and then another batch is started. All of this is constantly tended 24 hours a day, taking about two weeks from start to finish. Approximately 500 liters of mezcal are produced each time, beginning with cooking the pinas in a deep, rock-lined pit....

followed by mashing, fermenting, and then distilling. It's estimated that about 5,000 liters are produced each year.

Some of the above information is a bit different than our previous post in January 2012 as we have learned more and clarified a few things. There may be even more changes next time we visit.

There are some fellow RVers here at Hacienda Contreras that went to the still with us and have their own stories to tell about our visit. Unlike me, they blog on a regular basis and have some very impressive blogs with more to share about their travels in Mexico and other parts of the world.
Check them out at:





And some more links from Brian with info about mezcal and tequila-


Another beverage similar to mezcal and tequila is sotol, which is produced only in the state of Chihuahua from a wild plant

One of the websites with a simple basic explanation of mezcal was added to the following website by a guy who has a mezcal distillery in Oaxaca. He's an American who also has an RV park for small RVs, but you must make a reservation and stay a long time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's About Time.....

It's hard to believe we left Arizona almost three weeks ago and I have yet to sit down and post anything about our travels. I guess I'm more of an event blogger than daily blogger but it's still time to post.
We are now at Hacienda Contreras in Valle de Juarez, our destination for the holidays. The park is looking great and has quite a few rigs with more to come. We are seeing some old friends as well as making new friends, some of whom we have known via the internet but are just now meeting in person. Fun for us!
The weather since we arrived has been great - sunny and very warm, although it cools off at night. We're very happy to be settled in for a bit and are just enjoying being here with our favorite hosts, Barb and Sal.
After leaving Arizona we stopped and walked over the border at Palomas which is just south of Deming, New Mexico. We went to our dentist, Brian got new glasses and we completed our paperwork for the Columbia crossing (near Laredo, TX)  with the Bus and car. Getting the paperwork done in Palomas was very quick and easy. It was a good decision since it saved us a lot of time at Columbia when we crossed a few days later.
We made it to Matehuala the first night, then boondocked in San Miguel de Allende the second night. We'll be returning to San Miguel before heading back and will spend more time at that point.
Our next stop was Roca Azul Resort on Lake Chapala. Along the way we saw roadside stands selling fresh strawberries, and bought this basketful for less than $3. Great deal.
When we were about 3 miles from the RV park at Roca Azul we heard one of those sounds you really don't want to hear while traveling. A fitting on the hose to the right front airbag, part of the suspension, blew off. We were able to very, very slowly creep along until we got into the the park. A really bouncy ride but we made it. And of course the next question was, where in the heck are we going to get another part? Brian did a lot of research and after 2 days driving around Guadalajara we had what we needed. He spent several days replacing the fitting, taking the airbag out and having it welded where a bolt was bent and so on. I'm just grateful that he continues to be able to fix things and keep us going!
We were able to spend a little time with our friend Micky in Ajijic again this year. She cooked us a fabulous dinner one night and we went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants another day. Unfortunately much of our time was spent making repairs to the Bus, but we hope to visit with Micky again soon.
We are trying out a new feature for our blog with maps showing where we are and the routes we have taken. Hopefully it will help a bit with visualizing our travels. Click on any of the maps to enlarge them.
Overview of our route to Hacienda Contreras in Valle de Juarez

Laredo to Matehuala
Matehuala to San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende to Roca Azul (Jocotopec)
Roca Azul to Hacienda Contreras (Valle de Juarez)