The summer before eighth grade I traveled with a group of Girl Scouts to Mexico. As a rather self-conscious adolescent, this was somewhat mortifying — not mortifying enough, however, to pass on an opportunity to bond with a hundred thirteen-year-old girls in my last hurrah at summer camp.
We were housed in a hodge podge of cabañas near the city of Guadalajara. Peacocks roamed the premises. Arts and crafts abounded. We were taken on excursions to abandoned churches aflutter with bats, and to the local Barro negro pottery kilns.
And we were taken to the market. Our kind hosts tried their very best to turn us on to fried grasshoppers and other insect delicacies. (You can imagine the dramatic squeals of horror when this was presented to a bunch of squeamish pre-teens.) Horchata, on the other hand, that cinnamon-rich, super sweet agua fresca, was easy to say yes to.
Horchata arrived in Mexico by way of Spain, courtesy of the Moors. In Spain it is made with a little tuber called a chufa, or tigernut. In Mexico, chufas aren’t that easy to come by, so they’ve improvised with long grain rice to produce the horchata familiar to North Americans. It’s a cinch to make. You soak rice overnight in water (making rice milk, essentially). The following day you blend it, strain it, add sugar and cinnamon, and serve over ice. To turn this into an ice pop, I concentrated on the standout flavors — rice milk, sugar and cinnamon — and added a creamy element, which in this case is Greek-style strained yogurt.
Recipe for Horchata Pops
Yield: About 6 popsicles
2 cups long grain white rice
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Ice pop molds
Combine the rice and two cups water in a glass bowl. Let sit overnight. (It’s not necessary to refrigerate.)
The next day, blend the rice and water thoroughly in a blender. Strain the rice water through cheesecloth placed inside a fine colander or sieve. Use a spoon to coax the liquid through the mesh.
While the liquid is draining, make a quick simple syrup. Combine the sugar with the remaining three tablespoons of water. You can warm it quickly in the microwave or simmer until just dissolved in a small saucepan.
Once the rice water has drained, combine it with the simple syrup, ground cinnamon and Greek yogurt. You’ll want to blend this thoroughly, so that everything emulsifies nicely and the cinnamon and yogurt don’t separate while freezing. An electric mixer or immersion blender are quite helpful here, but a fork and some elbow grease will get the job done.
Pour the horchata mixture into your ice pop molds. Freeze for about six hours. Then park yourself in a grassy field and enjoy.
What’s your favorite summer treat?