A tribute to tuba juice
Ah, tuba juice, when freshly extracted from a young, healthy coconut tree and chilled, is absolutely delicious.
Once fermented, you have the best vinegar for salads, other recipes requiring a bit of tartness and the multi-use finadene sauce.
I recall the times my grandfather, Jose Desa de Ortiz Camacho, brought home gallons of sweet tuba from his farm. Of course, during those years there were quite a few trees he worked aside from planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables and raising pigs, chickens and cows.
I must say he was someone I admired for being hardworking and taking care of the immediate family, extended families and neighbors. As far as farming tuba, he had patience and determination. We all enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
When you look at a young coconut tree, there is a flower protected by a sheath. The opened flowers serve as a haven for bees to collect honey. The unopened flowers are bound and bent, bruising the tip.
In my grandfather’s day, he made bamboo containers to catch the delicious sap as it dripped. In the most recent years, gallon-sized water jugs are strategically tied to the bark below the flowers to catch the sap as it drips. One tree can give a gallon by the end of the day, or if placed the night before, the gallon is filled by morning time.
My mom took this sweet liquid and boiled it until became a light brown crystallized syrup - similar to maple sugar. She used this liquid to make coconut candy.
When this liquid is fermented for almost a month, it becomes potent liquor, called aguayente. In those early days, during gatherings, the men were often taking sips, and before you know it, singing and laughter could be heard. Then, if too much was taken, the men would just go to bed. The women and children cleaned up before bedtime.
There was always a sense of peace and happiness; there were never uncontrollable situations.
One of Chamorro desserts is the Potu. One of the main ingredients for Potu is semisweet tuba juice. Potu’s main ingredients are rice flour and tuba.
In more recent years, when tuba is not available, yeast is used and some have experimented in using beer. There may be other substitutes for tuba, but there is nothing like the original recipe.
Once the complete ingredients are mixed together, it’s poured into cupcake pans and allowed to rise. Once this is done, it is placed in a steamer for about 30 minutes.
I plan to interview one of our well-known bakers for Potu, and see if I can get the complete recipe for anyone interested. I enjoy Potu for breakfast or as a dessert-you may also like it.
Moreover, I enjoy a glass of cold, sweet tuba juice.