October 13, 2013
Panela is the brick-hard result of evaporating the water from sugar cane juice.
And a brick it is.
Pieces of panela are broken off from the main brick to be used in a fashion similar to raw sugar. Kitchens that see a lot of panela use contain actual stones (piedras de la panela) to break the panela block.
And actually, raw sugar is simply granulated panela. In Colombia, panela is used to combat the bitter tastes of the coffee consumed domestically. It may also be added to other hot beverages for sweetness: namely teas or fruit-containing aromáticos.
Panela can also make a drink by itself. A portion of panela block is dissolved in hot water before the mixture is allowed to cool. When cooled, lime juice is added to produce aguapanela–or panela water. Think of it as a naturally occurring Gatorade with vitamin C.
Canelazo is the combination of agaupanela and aguardiente.
Panela differs markedly from table sugar in that it contains minerals and trace amounts of vitamins. The wide consumption observed in Colombian homes contributes some nutritive value rather than solely empty calories.
*Panela is called piloncillo in Mexico, where the word “panela” is used for a type of cheese.
This chip off the panela block came from Tienda Ceci in the Normandia barrio of Bogotá.
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