“What is mote?” asks the European. Nothing more or less than wheat boiled with lye, which by its strength and the heat of the fire causes the grain to loose its husk, and then washed several times in water to rid it of the lie taste, although it is never completely removed. (Recaredo Tornero, Chile ilustrado 1872)
The woman of the household knows approximately how many manos - units of five ears each - of maize her family consumes each day and shells enough maize for two or three days. While the maize is being shelled, a bucket full of water is brought to a boil over the fire and a handful of lime (nesti) is added. When the water comes to rolling boil the maize is poured in and cooked for about l0 minutes, then is taken from the fire and allowed to soak until needed. After cooking, the maize kernels, now called nixtamal, are taken to the near by stream for washing. There the maize is rubbed between the hands until the tough outer skins loosen and come off. The maize is rinsed repeatedly until the skins all are washed away and the rinse water is clear, then it is returned to the house for grinding.
After the wheat is harvested you must obtain ashes for processing the wheat from a local bakery. The ashes need to be cleaned and passed through a sieve to make good wheat mote. The mote must be cooked at a suitable temperature for the best results, so it is done over a wood fire. It is a slow process, but gas is too expensive. Next the water is drained off, and the mote, husks now loosened by the ashes, is peeled. It is scrubbed by hand and this is also a sacrifice; it is tiring work and there is no one to help her. The process is finished when the mote is well washed and allowed to rest until she leaves to sell it early the next morning.
La Motera, the Mote vendor
I first used mote as an addition to whole wheat bread, but now make mote pilaf (right), and the middle eastern salad tabule, substituting mote for bulgur. Actually, mote can be substituted for other grains (wheat berries, brown rice, bulgur, pearled barley, etc.) in most recipes.
The cry of the motero [mote vendor] announces the coming of summer, the epoch when his sales begin. What does the motero do during the winter? No one knows; but it is in the hot season that one hears him in the streets calling “Huesillos” and ”Fresh mote,” for no one would sell mote alone. … The measure the motero uses is a large china cup at the reasonable price of one cuartillo (3 cents), including the same cup full of water which he always has in a clay pitcher.
And what about the huesillos? They are just cooked dried peaches, to which they usually add toasted flour.
But were they served together, as in today’s dish? Chilean blogger Criss Salazar thinks not, noting in his excellent blog Urbarorium on