Corn - also known as elote - has graced Guatemalan culture for generations. According to Mayan mythology, God created man and woman from a seed of corn. To this day, Guatemalan people cherish this staple crop and prepare it creatively in many different forms with almost every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Corn is both cheap and nourishing. It is also nutritious – three corn tortillas satisfy the recommended daily intake of fibre! It provides protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper, potassium, niacin, and vitamins B5, B6 and B9. The perfect ingredient to create healthy snacks to sustain busy Mayan market vendors and craftspeople.
The first corn harvest in Guatemala occurs between late July and the end of September. As such, in the month of October, elote is abundantly available in many delightful forms all around the country. In its simplest form, whole corn ears can be grilled (asado) or boiled (cocido) and served with butter, salt and lime. However, pulverised corn kernels are often transformed into a multitude of delicious treats. Tamales de elote – corn dough stuffed with your filling of choice and then fried – are a favourite breakfast staple. A steaming plate of corn tortillas are served with almost every meal to mop up every last bit of juicy flavour from a plate. And then there is Atol de Elote, a sweet, creamy corn drink that can warm even the chilliest hands in the Guatemalan highlands.
Atol de Elote
In Guatemala, market vendors create the drink’s silky, rich consistency by pulverising corn kernels against a grinding stone. The pureed corn is then mixed with milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and heated in a giant pot. The warm concoction is then doled out for willing passers-by. This soothing, sweet beverage is the perfect remedy for the colder, wetter days often characteristic of this time of year.
Making a successful batch of delicious Atol depends on more than just the right combination of ingredients. It requires an adherence to Mayan superstitions! For example, Mayan folklore dictates that the drink will taste bad if more than one person stirs the pot; if a pregnant woman enters the room while a batch made from young corn is cooking; or if anyone in a bad mood touches it! Fortunately, making this novel and delicious drink is bound to put you in good spirits.
If you fancy some comfort in a cup with elote flavour (apologies for the corny pun!) for these crisp autumn evenings, try out our recipe below:
- 3 ears fresh corn (about 1 ¾ lbs)
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup raw cane sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, or more to taste
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and blend them to a pulp – in a blender or with a pestle and mortar.
- Put the corn puree in a large saucepan and add all the remaining ingredients.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly to avoid it sticking, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring regularly.
- Pour through a strainer if you want it to be extra smooth.
- Ladle the mixture into cups and serve warm, garnished with a sprinkle of cinnamon if you wish.