Monday, February 11, 2008

Making Masato- The Jungle Beer

Ben loves manioc.
Ben says "How long do I have to chew this?"

Christian helped too...
Ben digs in...

This was really fun, a little weird but fun!



Ben and I spent some time learning some really cool customs while we were on the Tahuayo. One of the important aspects of village life is making masato for gatherings or personal use. Here is an outline of what you can make it out of, what it is and how to do it (plus some fun pictures of us helping!).



Making "Masato": The Jungle Beer



In order to make the “masato” and actually to do some other cooking there is an object called a “batan”. It looks a little like a very small canoe. This is where you put the raw materials for making masato to grind or pulverize before macerating. Beside the “Batan” you will also need a “Maso” or paddle used to mix and grind the manioc. This is made from the same materials as many of the canoe paddles, the “Paddle Tree”(Brosimum rubescens).

There are three things that people usually make masato from: yuca root (manioc), peach palm, and breadfruit. The yuca masato takes about 1 day to make, particularly because you have to go to your farm to harvest, prior to making. Most of the villagers have a small farm plot on higher ground, not in the flooded forests around their homes. This means they need to “commute” to work via the canoe and harvest their goods and paddle back home to the village. In Wilson and Victoria’s house, Wilson goes to harvest the yucca and Victoria will prepare it. This seems to be the common way, the women will prepare and macerate the masato.

In the case of the yucca, you need to boil it for about 10 minutes, get rid of the water and peel the yucca. Then you would transfer it to the batan where you would mash it. Then taking small clumps you macerate the masato mixing saliva with the root or fruit (depending on what kind you are making) and put it into a bucket. (Incidentally, the yuca masato making process is interesting. Ben and I took part in the macerating, you put a big spoonful of what looks like mashed potatoes in your mouth and chew while trying to fight the reflex to swallow! It doesn’t really have any taste, except that it has a strange grainy texture that isn’t very appealing. You are supposed to continue maceration for about 30 minutes before spitting it into the bucket, the whole time continuing to stir the yuca already in the batan.) It should stay in the bucket about 4 days, after 4 days, it should be ready for drinking. You add water to it to create the drink.

Masato can be prepared without fermentation and mixed with sugar cane juice or honey for children to drink (this can be drunk immediately) or if after fermenting the masato you want to make it stronger you can add sugar cane rum.

To make Masato Peach Palm, it is a similar process. But you pick the fruits which are dry and dense and grow in clusters, boil them without peeling, then the next day, grind and mash them. You can prepare the same way otherwise, macerate, let ferment, add rum if you like or without fermentation for children.

Wilson noted that he preferred the Peach Palm Masato because it was tastier.

The problem with making breadfruit “masato” is that it is sometimes difficult to know when to harvest the fruit. Sometimes when they are ripe they do not drop from the tree and often they rot while still on the tree. Also you have to compete for the fruit with the capuchins and macaws because they also enjoy the fruits. The preparation of the breadfruit is also similar in that you have to boil the fruit, seed rind and pulp all together and mash it all together. This is the most powerful and potent of all the masato!

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