Aguamiel is the sweet juice or sap from an agave plant.
It is procured from many different varieties of agave plant, though not all yield a juice that is worth getting.
Aguamiel can be obtained in two ways:
- by harvesting the centre cone (“piña”) of the plant, and then baking, in order to increase the yield of juice that will be obtained. They are then mashed or pressed to extract the juice;
- by “wounding” the cone in such a way that it continually yields juice. This method produces far more juice overall.
Usually Aguamiel means the juice collected continually from the live plants. In a way, it is like tapping a maple tree for its sap.
An agave plant will produce what looks like a large pineapple or cone in the middle of it. After about 7 or 8 years of growth, the top of the cone will produce a swelling, from which will grow the plant’s flower stalk. At this point, the plant will have stored up lots of juice to provide energy to grow the stalk. Some agaves can grow up to 20 feet (6 metres) tall.
When the swelling at the top of the cone is punctured to kill the embryonic flower stalk it is referred to as “castration.” Several months are allowed to elapse and during this time, the swelling around the dead embryo will increase, though no stalk is actually born. Then the swelling is punctured again several times, so that this time the swelling area will rot. Within a week or two, the rotted swelling is dug out, leaving behind a cavity at the top of the cone. The cavity ends up 1 to 1 1/2 feet (30 to 45 cm) wide.
The stored sap will now start seeping into this cavity. Usually it needs to be harvested twice a day. Each time it’s drained, the sides of the cavity are scraped so that they won’t seal up. The scrapings can be fed to barnyard animals. Traditionally, harvesters used a long, dried, hollowed-out calabash gourd in which they put a hole in a both ends. They called this an “acocote.” They put one end into the sap, and sucked on the other end to draw the sap up into the gourd, then emptied the gourd into a bucket. The sap can also be scooped out.
Some agaves can produce between 2 to 4 quarts (2 to 4 litres) of Aguamiel a day. Some people collect once a day, some three times a day. If it is not harvested frequently enough, it can start to ferment right in the plant’s cavity, get a lot of dust and dead bugs in it, and be raided by animals such as possums.The flow of sap will last 4 to 6 months, and generally produce over 1,000 litres of sap.
Like all unpasteurized plant juices, Aguamiel will start to ferment at a certain point. It can be allowed to ferment to make alcoholic drinks such as pulque, or to make vinegar.
Aguamiel is also the name for a cocktail. It is made from cream, rum, Creme de Cacao and honey, with chocolate powder sprinkled on top.
90% fructose, plus some glucose. Trace amount of iron.
Aguamiel means “water honey.”
The Aztecs called it “chalchihuatl” (meaning “precious liquid”); the Náhuatl Indians called it “necutli.”