Toritos de Cacahuate
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By Zarela Martinez, from the cookbook Zarela's Veracruz: Mexico's Simplest Cuisine
Photography by Stephen Klise
Food styling by Elle Simone Scott
How on earth to explain toritos to Yankees? They are often put on the table as apéritifs, but people in this country are bewildered if anything heavy and sweet is calle “apéritif.” I can only say that I have been offered toritos of various flavors in Veracruz and that most of the ones I’ve tasted have involved cane liquor –- aguardiente, a legacy of the long years when sugar was king –-combined with some central flavor-element.
Everywhere we went in the Sotavento region the flavor of choice seemed to be peanuts. But people also make toritos (with or without the milk base) from an array of tropical fruits including guava, soursop (guanábana), mango, and a local fruit called jobo or mombín. (At the Restaurant and Hotel Tlacotalpan in the town of that name, an informal symposium of local food enthusiasts debated the nature and merits of different toritos for our benefit. They reported that jobo –-Spondias lutea – has a sizable fan club of drinkers who love chewing on the large woody pit, which soaks up all the alcohol like a sponge.)
The overwhelmingly popular peanut torito will probably be the easiest to duplicate in this country. If possible look for Latin American liquor stores selling plain unflavored aguardiente. Otherwise, unflavored grain alcohol and vodka are good substitutes.
The peanut toritos I’ve tasted in Veracruz have been made with the same type of artificially stabilized commercial peanut butter found in all U.S. supermarkets. You can use the so-called “natural” (unhomogenized) peanut butter, but the texture will be a little gritty unless you strain the mixture after blending. The one thing you want to avoid is anything labeled “chunky.”
- Yield:2 1/2 quarts
Two 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
One 14-ounce can condensed milk
1/2 – 3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (1 cup) cane liquor, or 96-proof grain alcohol
Place all the ingredients in a blender and process to combine smoothly. Pour into bottles and store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to a month.
Variations: For Toritos de Mango (Mango Milk Punch) substitute 1 1/2 – 2 cups peeled cubed mango flesh for the peanut butter. (mangos vary a lot in size, but about 2 pounds of mango should be enough.) For Toritos de Guayaba (Guava Milk Punch), use the same amount of guava flesh. Blend and store as above, except that for the guava version you must press the blended mixture through a sieve to take out the seeds.)