Let’s get something straight from the get-go: store-bought guacamole is a crime against well-deserving taste buds. So repeat after me: “This Cinco de Mayo, I will buy fresh avocados and make my own guacamole.” That wasn’t so hard, was it?
The Aztecs are credited with creating guacamole; the word translates from their native Nahuatl language as “avocado sauce.” It’s become one of the most popular dips in the United States. Seriously, close your eyes and imagine Super Bowl Sunday or Cinco de Mayo without guacamole. Am I not right?
Growing up, I hated avocados. We had a tree in the garden just outside our kitchen. It would inevitably fall to me to peel the fruit for my dad’s guacamole. I really disliked the feel of the naked fruit in my hand. Sadly, by the time I was old enough to appreciate avocados’ heart-healthy, creamy goodness, Dad had long since gotten tired of the falling fruit hitting the hood of his new car and had chopped the tree down.
Fast-forward to the adult me, and now I hardly go two days without avocado in one form or another. My favorite is as guacamole, which makes me laugh, considering how much I disliked it as a child. I make it the way our family has always made it: avocados, cilantro, serrano or jalapeño chilies, onion, tomato and a squeeze of lemon or lime. I spread it on toast, top omelets with it, use it in a green salad as my dressing and put it on sandwiches.
I like to make enough guacamole to last more than one meal. I know what you’re thinking: How do I keep it from turning into that unappetizing, brown mess? Some people swear by the “keep the pit in the bowl” method. However, when you look at why the flesh turns brown, this doesn’t make sense.
Avocados, like bananas, apples, pears and potatoes contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which reacts to oxygen, turning the fruit brown. Of course, the fruit is still edible, but because we eat with our eyes first, it’s not very appetizing. The best way I have found to slow down the “rusting” process is a combination of limiting the amount of oxygen the fruit comes into contact with and the introduction of an acid like lemon or lime juice, which retards the oxidation process.
After I make the guacamole, I squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over the top of the dip. If I’m not going to eat it right away, I put the guacamole in an airtight container. Then I cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover the guacamole and come up the sides of the container. Next, I press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole, making sure the entire surface of the dip is making contact with the plastic wrap, and work out any air bubbles. Then I put a tightfitting lid on the container and immediately place it in the refrigerator. Each time I serve myself some of the guacamole, I repeat this process. Typically, I can keep the guacamole for two to three days before it turns brown.
This Cinco de Mayo, ditch the muddy-tasting store-bought guacamole and try your hand at the fresh stuff. You and your amigos will be happy you did.
AUTHENTIC HOMESTYLE GUACAMOLE
4 large, ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/2 cup finely chopped red or Spanish onion (about 1 small onion)
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup (about half a bunch) of chopped cilantro, leaves only
2 jalapeño chilies or to taste; stems and seeds removed, then finely minced
2 serrano chilies or to taste; stems and seeds removed, then finely minced
Juice of 1 or 2 limes, depending on the size of the lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon Knorr’s powdered chicken stock
1 teaspoon California chile powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
Using a large spoon, remove the flesh from the avocados and place in a bowl. Use a fork to gently mash the avocados just enough to break up the bigger pieces (you want it a bit chunky so it has some texture). Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix gently to combine, taking care not to over mix.
From the kitchen of Anita L. Arambula
How to tell if an avocado is ripe
Some years ago, I was at a local farmers market and a vendor explained to me how to pick avocados. I’ve been using this method ever since.
Using your index finger, gently press down on your forehead. If the avocado feels like your forehead, it’s too hard. Move on.
Now, press the hollow of your cheek. If the avocado feels similar, it’s too soft. Move on, it’s past its prime.
Gently press down on the tip of your nose. Now touch the avocado. If they feel similar, this avocado is just right.
Finally, remove the nubby portion of the stem. Is the flesh revealed under that nub brown-spotted? If so, move on; the fruit has already started to brown inside. If however, it’s green when you remove it, then it’s perfect.
Anita L. Arambula is the author of the website www.confessionsofafoodie.me