Handmade rapadura process in a countrytown in Brazil…
On the 16th of January, a couple of friends and I rode a bike for a different reason, to visit a handmade mill of rapadura. I grew up in Monte Carmelo, a countrytown in the southwest of Brazil. Here, I could experience that my great grandmother's house has an old “engenho de cana-de-açúcar”. The word “engenho” literally means “machine” or “mill” which refers to a small production unit with rudimentary machines to extract the sugar cane. But, historically it could refer, as well as the house with large agricultural plantations with enslaved people in the colonization period. Different from this one, the engenho from my family is more recent in history. It was constructed in the middle of the 20th century and it was made just for the needs of themselves.
My ancestors come from a poor family of farmers and we don’t know too much about their origins. Unfortunately, this is common in Brazil. In general, only descendants of colonizers have access to the origins of their ancestors and their family names. In the case of my family, I suspect that they could be, in part, descendants of native people, who were obliged to be baptized with a christianism name. Undoubtedly, this could represent an upset part of the history of my family and most of brazilians.
With this in mind, let’s talk about the process of rapadura that is still made in the artesanal engenho of my family. The engenho was constructed around 1910 by my great-grandfather, João da Mata, and still works until today. Today, one brother of my grandmother, Antonio, who lives there with his wife and sons, sells rapaduras to contribute towards their small incomes.
To illustrate, rapadura is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane. First, they have to cut the cane and press them. In addition, they cook to evaporate off the water in a “tacho de cobre”, literally, a copper pot. Besides, they stirred the sugar cane with wood pads. Generally, it takes two or four hour cooking. Finally, the sugar cane starts to solidify. When it is done, it is necessary to knead dough with the wood pads until they start to take a brown color. Besides that, it is moved and formed into cakes. It is produced organically and does not contain chemicals.
I suggest, if you come to Minas Gerais, after the pandemic, to taste rapadura after lunch with a cup of coffee. I recommend, as well, to put a slide of fresh cheese. We put cheese on all of the plates here in Minas Gerais. If you don’t appreciate this food Minas Gerais couldn't be a favorite gastronomic place here to visit. Despite that, you will have a lot of nice views and waterfalls to visit.
To see more about this experiences follow me at my instagram account: @thalitagomesb
Thanks and let's ride!