On September 27, 1821, the Ejército Trigarante, or “de las Tres Garantías” (Army of the Three Guarantees) led by Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero, triumphantly arrived in Mexico City, ending a long war for independence, which began eleven years earlier, on September 16, 1810. Although Spain did not recognize Mexico’s independence until much later, September 27 is the day remembered as the moment when Mexico became an independent nation. In addition, the Three Guarantees Army’s flag was the first to adopt Mexico’s national colours, initially representing: Green – Independence, White – Religion, and Red – Unity.
However, this date is much less celebrated than the onset of the fight for Independence. This is probably because, unlike the war itself, the political and social turmoil did not end on that happy day. Over the next years, the young country would go through inevitable conflict in its eager pursuit of a national identity. After a short-lived monarchy in which Iturbide became ruler of the First Mexican Empire, broken alliances with Guerrero sent Iturbide into exile and eventual execution; after Guadalupe Victoria served as the first president of the new republic, the election of his successor was dimmed fraudulent, and Guerrero became Mexico’s second president through a coup, just to be deposed, captured and also executed, amid great discontent. The two leading figures of the triumphant Trigarante army were now gone, and the country had to turn to the onset of the battle, September 16, as the date to be remembered as its symbol of independence. In November 1853, president Antonio López de Santa Anna announced a competition to adopt a national anthem, seeking to evoke patriotism and love for the homeland. Francisco González Bocanegra composed the winning lyrics, and a few months later, Jaime Nunó’s music composition was chosen for the lyrics. These consisted of ten stanzas and a chorus, calling Mexicans to respond to the cry of war, “¡al sonoro rugir del cañón!” (“to the sonorous roar of the cannon!”) The lyrics and music were officially adopted and performed for the first time as the Mexican National Anthem on September 16, 1854.
Furthermore, the Mexican government became secular in the 1860s, and in the 20th Century, war veterans received more recognition; these changes have consolidated September 16 as Independence Day, and reflect the current re-interpretation of the original Trigarante colours: Green – Hope in the future, White – Purity of ideals, and Red – Blood of the heroes.
Pozole is another true Mexican dish, either for a meal at home, or at big gatherings and parties, especially when feeling patriotic. White corn kernels, known in English as hominy, are the main ingredient, and from there, this soup has many variations in different states around the country: in Michoacán, fried pork rind (chicharrón) is sometimes added as a topping; in Colima, fresh cheese (such as panela) would be frequently used; along the coast, sardines or shrimp may be the base for the broth. There are also versions corresponding to the national colours: pozole verde (green), from the addition of tomatillo, fresh chile and pumpkin seeds, is famous in the state of Guerrero (named after Vicente Guerrero); pozole rojo (red), with dried red peppers (such as pasilla), is popular in Jalisco, and the pozole blanco (“white” or clear), which is the most popular in Mexico City, is traditionally prepared with pork, particularly head and skin (cuerito). Chicken, seafood, a mix of meats, or even vegetarian versions, are also popular nowadays. White pozole with pork is the one I prefer, although I have to use bone-in shoulder and I am forced to skip the hirsute parts, since they are hard to find in my area; Mexico’s national colours are still represented in this recipe, by the fresh vegetables used as toppings: lettuce, onions and radishes.
White Hominy Soup – Pozole Blanco
Ingredients (serves four)
1 lb (454 g) pork shoulder
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 can 25 oz (709 g) cooked hominy corn, drained
8 cups water, or as needed
Tostadas (crispy flat corn tortillas), or corn chips
Shredded lettuce, finely chopped onions, thinly sliced radishes
Chili powder (Mexican, Cayenne pepper, etc.)
Dry oregano (Preferably Mexican, or use Marjoram)
In a large pot, cook pork with the onion, adding enough water to cover the meat. Let cool down; I usually prepare the meat the night before, let it cool and then place the pot with lid in the fridge overnight. The next day, I skim the solidified fat with a spoon, but this is optional. Remove onion and meat; discard onion, debone and shred pork, and reserve:
Bring broth to a boil over high heat, then add the drained hominy (see note, at the end of the post). Bring back to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until hominy is soft, and a few kernels have started to burst (sometimes called blooming). Add shredded meat and more water, as needed; bring to boil once again, then reduce heat and cook for another ten minutes. Adjust seasoning with more salt, to taste. Serve with tostadas (or corn chips), toppings and seasonings on the side.
I arranged lettuce, onion and radishes into stripes on top of my pozole, added a sprinkle of dry oregano and chili powder, and a good squeeze of lime juice:
The tostadas were great to dip in the broth, and to scoop some meat and vegetables onto my spoon. Mmm, a nice bowl of hot pozole is pure comfort (and patriotic) food!
Note: Traditionally, dry white corn kernels were soaked overnight in a solution of lye or calcium hydroxide, rinsed and cooked in water for hours until soft; then, the germ end of each kernel was removed with a knife before adding the resulting hominy to the broth. Currently, many people buy canned hominy, and after draining, it may be added directly to the broth.
That is what I usually do, but this time, something strange happened. I had a can of Juanita’s™ (photo, left) and when I opened it, I noticed that most of the kernels were not de-germed! I thought it was strange because I have used this brand before, no problem. Now, the corn was cooked and perfectly edible, but the tips were very hard, so I removed them from the hominy kernels, the old-fashioned way, with a paring knife. The hominy out of the can is shown at the bottom of the photo on the right, and the process is illustrated by the cleaned kernels at the top, and the removed tips to the right side:
It took some time, but I think it was absolutely worthwhile doing. Even though this was the first time I had trouble with this brand, I might try a different one next time.
I am joining Fiesta Friday #243 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Catherine @ Kunstkitchen’s Blog (an eclectic blog with art, food, recipes and more; I just learned how to use all the different parts of my ginger harvest, thank you, Catherine!) and Becky @ Bubbly Bee (her motto “don’t wait to celebrate!” is reflected in her posts about good bubbly and food pairings; one of her recent posts reviews the history of Freixenet, one of my favourite sparkling wines!)