Mechanics & Inner Workings
ChuñochinapampasChuñochinapampas are flat areas where the potatoes can be laid out after the freeze-drying process. "The place where the chuño is made" is where whole families stomped on small spuds and tubers by foot to squeeze the little water still remaining within the potatoes.
Five-Day ProcessAfter fall harvest, small potatoes are separated from the the rest for their ease of freeze-drying. They are spread closely across flat ground, allowed to freeze at low night temperatures and dehydrate in the daytime for about three nights. Small piles of potatoes are pushed together with their feet and then "danced" on to speed removal of the skins and better enable the subsequent freezing and drying. They remain as they are for over a week, depending on weather conditions. From this point, two processes diverge: the White and the Black.
- White chuño is obtained by washing frozen potatoes. The washing may take various forms and typically takes about a week:
- Potatoes are spread on blankets or straw and constantly sprayed with water to moisten.
- Frozen potatoes are transported to cold rivers, and deposited in pools and streams.
- The final step is drying in the sun
Black ChuñoBlack chuño is obtained directly by following the original freezing, trampling, and refreezing process:
- Expose bitter and frost-resistant varieties of potatoes to the very low night temperatures at high elevation to freeze them, and subsequently expose to intense daylight
- The product is not washed or exposed to water again
- After freezing and trampling, they are simply sun-dried
ConsumptionChuño is filling and can be stored and eaten decades after it was made. This is useful as an emergency source of sustenance during periodic droughts or times, otherwise, without food. However, it can be an acquired taste.
As I understand, so as to not be wasteful, the less appetizing of a year's yield are sorted to be smashed underfoot. But because they want to dry them out as much as possible, the dirt are left on the skin and further dried by being crushed onto the dusty ground. All around, it leaves it tasting like chalk and smelling like socks.Chuño can be ground into flour to thicken soups and stews and mixed with chili, meat and vegetables and eaten with a variety of sauces. Alternatively, chuño can be rehydrated for desserts that are sour and acidic.
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