Jabuticaba

Also called “Brazilian Grape”, Jabuticaba is one of the most delicious native fruits to be found here and is surprisingly little well known outside of Brazil.
Perhaps this the case due to it being slightly difficult to eat without having to resort to spitting out the seeds!
I have four Jabuticaba trees in my garden. Two are of the pure native species that only fruit occasionally, and two of the cultivars which are smaller plants but fruit prolifically several times per year.

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It is mainly used to make a fruit juice as it does not have much pulp. It is also used to flavour pinga where it is steeped in the alcohol for six months or more, which produces a sweet fruity liqueur.
I just enjoy popping one after another into my mouth and sucking out the juice before ejecting the seed.

Delicious!!!

Pinga

Known more correctly as Cachaca or Aguardente de Cana-de-Acucar, this is Brazil`s national tipple, and many an ardent fan has been toppled by this potent brew.

Distilled from sugar cane juice, traditionally in a small pot still whereas it is known as “artesanal”, and sometimes sweetened, or aged in barrels, or steeped in a variety of fruits, it is much more than the main ingredient in Brazil’s National Cocktail;- Caiperinha.

To begin with I could not own up to the fact that I disliked the taste of Pinga.
It was just too much for my Brazilian drinking companions to take on board, as they obviously simply adored the stuff judging by the vast quantities that they were capable of consuming at all hours of the day. Not that all of them were alcoholics you know, but shall we say, aficionados.

Accustomed as I was to opening hours kept by Public Houses in Great Britain, I found it passé to say the least, that Pinga is consumed by many a Brazilian workman at breakfast time on cold winter mornings. It remains my opinion to this day that alcohol should not be consumed until the sun has passed the yard arm. The afternoon should be reserved for drinking tea, and not until 5-30pm should a glass of sherry be offered.

It is said that Campari, the Italian bitter tasting vermouth, has to be tried three times before you develop an appreciation of it. I found that it took much longer than that to appreciate Pinga, unless it’s strong fiery taste of raw sugar was heavily disguised with lime juice, refined sugar and diluted with plenty of ice.

It is in that fashion that it is easy to develop a liking for Pinga when it is contained within a Caiperinha, and although I prefer my own mix, which uses Sagitaba cachaca, sugar syrup instead of granulated, and lime juice, instead of mashed whole fruit, there are many varieties that I have tasted that are just as delicious, including the use of Caju ,(cashew), fruit instead of lime.

Undaunted by my earlier distaste, I continued to experiment with Pinga, purely in the interest of scientific and literary research you understand. I moved on from 51, (the most popular brand), to Sao Fransisco, and Ypioca. Both of these produce cachaca aged in barrels and it was this “sipping” Cachaca that I became fonder of, although I have to admit that it was rather more the effect that attracted me, rather than the taste, which was only slightly more palatable than the cheaper brands.

Curiosity and encouragement to experiment further, from friends and acquaintances, led me into what I would describe as a Pingeria or Cachaca emporium during a visit to Paraty. The place was literally wall to wall and floor to ceiling in the stuff! My enquiries brought further questions to be answered:- “How much did I want to spend?” “Do you want a recent bottling or something more than ten years old?”

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I was astonished! Here were bottles of Pinga that had price tags equivalent to those on rare bottlings of Scotch Single Malts! But would the taste be in the same league?

I wrestled with temptation to exceed the limit on my credit card and opted for a variety of miniatures, explaining my intent to the sales assistant and requesting his expertise in making a representative selection. After much haggling the price came down to R$100 for ten very small bottles. I could have stocked myself up with 51 for nearly a year!

Several days later in my kitchen at home I sat down with my son and daughter to a little experimentation.

Shot glasses were labelled, a list of subjects tallied, and we turned our backs as my son poured.

Our rules were simple;- each tasting was to be described and then given points out of ten. Once my daughter and I had sampled the first five, my son took his turn. Then we repeated the process with the final batch. Bottled water was on hand for rinsing of glasses and throats.

The subjects tasted, in order, were as follows:-

No.1 Minha Deusa Prata Betin MG 40%
No.2 Claudionor Prata Januaria MG 48%
No.3 Pedra Branca Ouro Paraty RJ 42%
No.4 Matodentro Ouro Paraitinga SP 42%
No.5 Engenho D`Ouro Prata Paraty RJ 45%
No.6 Rochina Prata Mansa RJ 46%
No.7 Seleta Prata Salinhas MG 42%
No.8 Reserva Do Gerente Prata Guarapari ES 42%
No.9 Vale Verde Ouro Betin MG 40%
No.10 Boazinha Ouro Salinas MG 42%

I heartily recommend spending an evening such as we had that night!
It was hilarious to say the least, and although we cannot claim to be experts in the finer points of Pinga, our conclusions were surprisingly similar, even if our descriptions were sometimes less than scientific!

The results were as follows:-

1st – 28 points Pedra Branca – “soft and creamy with tobacco notes”
2nd – 26 points Vale Verde – “suave with tobacco and vanilla notes”
3rd – 22 points Matodentro – “smooth with fruit and banana notes”
4th – 20 points Seleta – “smooth with vanilla and olive notes”
5th – 19 points Engenho D`Ouro – “smooth with salty notes”
6th – 18 points Reserva Do Gerente – “dry with smoky notes”
7th – 17 points Claudionor – “smooth with honey notes”
8th – 14 points Boazinha – “smoky”
9th – 13 points Minha Deusa – “smoky”
The wooden spoon
with only 4 points Rochina – “!”

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I have been kind enough to omit some of the more critical remarks such as;-
“metallic, paraffin, cream soda, nail varnish, plasticy, harsh and raw dung”!

What, might you ask, is my opinion now of the national drink of Brazil?

Well, I certainly have a much better appreciation of the range of quality on offer, and some of it is very good indeed.
However, although I would rather drink Pinga on a cold rainy day than Coca Cola,
in preference I would rather stick to Scotch, especially since I can safely say that I like it’s flavour, and I can pick up a litre of “Bells” for under R$40, compared to over R$200 for some of those in the list above!

We did however, sleep very well that night!

Alastair Kinghorn Copyright 2014

Paraíso na chuva

One of the bugbears of living in the countryside, wherever you might be, is that there are fewer things to do on a rainy day.

I was bored at home so on came the wet weather gear and umbrella in hand I walked the 1 km or so to Pousada Sitio Paraiso.
(www.sitioparaisolmc.com.br )
Here there is a wifi connection and opportunity to access the Internet.

(I don’t have a phone line at home. They promise me one for next year.)

The pousada is deserted today but at the weekend and during the holidays it does a good trade. Offering families and couples an economic way to enjoy a break in the countryside away from big city life.

I include a few photos to give you an idea of what its like.

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As Palavras

Words are sometimes not enough
To say the thoughts we have inside
To set free the feelings we wish to hide  

And even when our words are familiar
They seldom convey our emotions
They often cloud our devotions  

But when our words are foreign to us
We have to learn a new humility
We must understand our fragility  

The delicacy of our perception
The efficacy of our delivery
Hinge on our vocabulary      

© 2014 Alastair Kinghorn      

Reformas na Casa

I`m going to be away in the UK for most of November, so I thought that it would be a good homecoming for me to return to a spick and span house.

Built in the 1960` I think, it has suffered from a period of neglect and I am gradually improving, repairing and re-decorating.

Security is a major issue, since one of the property boundaries is a river, which is beautiful, but due to Brazilian laws that allow public access to areas of natural beauty, it attracts “visitors”.

Some of them are welcome, and others have little interest in “Natureza” but plenty of interest in burglary.

Everyone has dogs here, and many lead a poor life, tethered in order to provide a deterent and an early warning system. Part of my improvements involves a new enclosure at the rear of the house where it is next to the river and most vulnerable, since it is screened from the road by the house.

I enclose some photos of work in progress.

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Flower beds get overgrown quickly in a tropical climate that encourages everything to grow at incredible rates.
I now have a neighbour who is helping me to keep control. Again a few photos prior to planting.

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Inside I have re-decorated almost all of the house now, but the central hall was left, mainly because it was such a difficult job and involved taking out lots ofpictures and furniture.

I finally bit the bullit and did a very plain scheme in white and gold in order to show off the furniture and artifacts.

Again I have a few photos to give you an idea of my work and the environment that I live in.

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Alastair

InterNations

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Having internet sites feature your blog is a great honour and accordingly I am delighted to have been accepted by Internations as one of their featured blogs…..THANK YOU!!!

Alco and “bebidas” in Brazil

There are Pubs in Sao Paulo, or so they tell me, because I have never been inside one since coming to live here seven years ago.
Here we have bars, and every little “Mercado”, no matter how tatty or remote seems to have at least one white plastic table and chairs where you can squeeze in between the racks of crisps and snacks on sale and sit and drink while the world goes by. These places are a far cry from the social watering holes of my miss-spent youth. They are not laid out with conviviality in mind or littered with imbiber’s souvenirs of 101 lagers that can be brought back from the far flung corners of the globe. They do not possess a row of ancient tankards hung from polished brass hooks, or a mahogany bar to lean on. They are simply a place where you can down a quick “cachaca” to set you up for a day’s hard labour or where an ice cold can of beer is available. Nothing even remotely tempting or attractive to beckon you inside, except for the poster of the young girl with a cleavage the size of the Grand Canyon, but they appear to be successful for all that, and they mark the clear division between social drinking and regular drinking that sets men apart in Brazil.
I say men, because women seldom appear to drink alcohol, or when they do it tends to be either a discreet glass of beer, or a tooth dissolving concoction of condensed milk and some sort of sweet liquor, called a “batida”. Not that you would expect to find a lady drinking “batidas” in a bar, she might either be offered one at someone’s “festa” or go with her “namorado” to a “clube” for a night on the tiles, and then sneak back to mum and dad’s house in the breaking dawn to be a nice girl again for the rest of the week. This is because the social classes also mark the division between those who ‘bebe socialmente’ and those who “bebe regularmente”. To be one of the first group marks you as one whose attitude towards alcohol is somewhat of the dilettante who prefers to drink Chivas Regal rather than Old Eight. Who would rather have their “caiperinha” made with Socatoba and who certainly wouldn’t be seen dead tossing back a 51 on the way to the office in the morning. To be one of the second group is to fall into the abyss, where hardened fellows will grab a can of beer while inside the bus waiting for a queue of people to board and gulp down the ice-cold foam before you can say Brahma.
Like so many aspects of Brazilian life, polarisation is clearly evident when it comes to alcohol and nowhere is it more clearly marked than in the prices charged. A few kilometeres from where I am writing can be found a little factory where the proud owner will happily fill up your empty 1 litre bottle of “cachaca artenesal” for the princely sum of $R1.50. That is 50p in real money. Now we are not talking about hooch that is watered down just to fill the bottle. This is 40% alcohol distilled in a pot still as long ago as yesterday. Enjoying this potent liquid is perhaps the wrong word to choose. To the aspiring “pinga” addict, it is the effect that is the attraction rather than the taste, and to those who suffer from insomnia, this is a sure fire certain cure, albeit with a sting in the tail similar to a kick from an entire football team.
On the other side of the tracks, I know a “botega” in a nearby town, where the proprietor will lovingly cradle a bottle of Vive Cliquot vintage champagne in one arm and an authentic Napoleon Cognac in the other and enquire if “patron” would like to part with 2000 reais for the pair. Not the kind of stuff to be found on one of those little white plastic tables.

© 2014 Alastair Kinghorn