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also: if you have a kitchen in Alamos | on the highway down | in town
Look for these numbers (6) to find the locations on our Alamos sketch map.
Figure 1: Cajeta for sale from a home in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.
Wheat flour tortillas are a specialty of northern Mexico. The tortillas are patted out by hand and briefly cooked on big sheets of metal. Good ones are paper thin and up to 18 inches (1/2 meter) in diameter or more.
They are used to make cheese crisps, burros and chimichangas on both sides of the border, but in Alamos, they are served mostly on the side like bread. Tear off small pieces and use them to scoop up your carne seca (dried beef) or chorizo con huevos (sausage with eggs).
Women make and sell them at the Sunday Tianguis Market (6) and in small storefronts around the Alameda (2) and the Mercado (3). The tortilla factories in the Mercado (3) sell them in plastic bags. Their corn tortillas are sold by the kilo, fresh off the big tortilla presses. They also sell bags of fried tortillas to use as chips with salsa.
Seasonal sweets in the markets include candy made from strips of winter squash and big, juicy dates from farther south.
Tamales are found all over Mexico. Masa, a thick cornmeal mush made from ground nixtamal (hominy), is spooned onto a cornhusk, topped with cooked shredded beef or pork plus maybe an olive (usually with the pit) or potatoes. Then the husk is folded up to make a little packet, tied with narrow strips of cornhusk and steamed.
Sweet tamales have sugar in the masa and are filled with fruit or preserves. It's unusual to find them. I've had different ones filled with raisins, apples with spices and some with fresh pineapple.
Elote (green corn) tamales are a regional favorite in Sonora and Arizona. Young sweet green field corn is grated to make fresh masa. In Alamos, the masa is sweeter and finer than in Tucson. The women across from the Cathedral (1) on Sunday evenings sell them from late summer through early fall.
Cajeta in Alamos is made from fruit, usually from local guayaba (guava fruit) or from membrillo (quince or mountain apples), occasionally with límon or durazno (peach). In the fall, truck loads of membrillo come down from the Sierras. Big kettles of the fruit and sugar are boiled over open wood fires in the patios. The thick syrup is poured into fancy gelatin molds. It sets up solid at room temperature and is sliced to serve. It tastes a bit like apple butter. Houses that sell it (8), usually by weight, have signs in front, "Se vende cajeta." Just knock on the door to buy.
Other items for sale from homes include miel (honey), canned or spiced fruit and a thick jam made from guayaba or membrillo. (Our barrío neighbors told us not to refrigerate this jam as it makes it too thick to spread.) We like the límon dulce, bright green lime rinds preserved in a sweet, spicy syrup.
If you have a kitchen in Alamos:
Except for government subsidized items, food in Mexico is not cheap and the quality is uneven. Bring items you don't want to do without from the States if you are driving down for a week or two. There is a Walmart in Hermosillo and supermarkets in all the cities on the way down including the Rey at the corner in Navojoa where you turn inland to Alamos. The Seven Day Adventist school and store near Huatabampo has soy products. If you are visiting someone, good wine, cheese, crackers and chips or chocolates make nice gifts.
Water: On the north side of the highway is Las Dolisa Motel which sells and delivers bottled drinking water. There is also a bottled water outlet off the Plaza, south of the Portales Hotel on the west side of the street. We bring our own drinking water down from Tucson in 5 gallon containers. Town water is usually shut off every night and often during large parts of the day to allow the big cistern on top of the hill to refill. Most homes and businesses have recently added water tanks (tinacos) to store water for use during the day.
Electrical power may go off. Have at least one flashlight. Use a surge protector with your computer. Often there are no properly grounded outlets.
There is a depot for bottled gas refills on the north side of the highway coming into town. They allow partial refills and it is worth taking your bottle in to refill it. If you rely on the truck that comes around, they may give you an old rusted bottle in exchange for your empty one.
If you want to bring food items back into the United States, ask at US Customs at the border for the list of what is allowed in. They may inspect and confiscate fresh food items on return, including ones from the States.
Shopping on the highway down: (See our Highway driving guide to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico from Tucson, AZ, USA)
Shopping in town:
Small shops in the Mercado (3) and the vendors at the Sunday Tianguis Market (6) have assorted cooking utensils and staples, but you may have to go to all of them to find most of what you want.
The Mercado and Calle Madero butcher shops sell pork and beef, but you may want to bring your own American style cuts if you are only staying a short time.
Alamos eggs have big orange yolks. The frozen chickens at the grocery stores are raised in large commercial sheds and are tender. The local fresh ones in the Tianguis Sunday Market are tough birds that make good chicken stock.
Soft white cheese is produced locally. It's sold by the kilo in the Mercado. It is usually crumbly and salty, sprinkle it on top of tostadas. Just be sure to cook it well. It's unpasteurized and sometimes carries serious diseases like brucellosis. Commercial pasteurized cheeses are available. Many of these are produced by the Mennonite communities on the east side of the Sierra Madres.
Carne Seca (dried beef), the Alamos version is really dried. It looks like shredded moss. It takes a lot of liquid to reconstitute for use. Machaca is similar, but larger pieces.
Chorizo (bulk sausage) made with pork or beef, vinegar and red chili powder plus spices like garlic and oregano, is sold in small packages. In Tucson, it's very greasy, but the Alamos version isn't. Sometimes I even have to add oil to the skillet. Very good sautéed and scrambled with eggs, served with tortillas.
Salvador comes by our house on Wednesdays and Saturdays with a big red ice chest of seafood. He sells for his Mayo Indian fishing cooperative. The cabrillo and cabritto are excellent fish if he has them. Camarónes (shrimp) are not cheap. Good ones depend on the season which is from September to March. Look for him or his brother in town; they will come to your house.
The fish taco vendors at the Tianguis Market often have fish fillets or whole fish for sale. Also look for vendors with ice chests offering seasonal fish and shrimp.
The tiny, green limes are like Key Limes and good in many recipes and in drinks. You can make your own ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice and spices). Don't eat ceviche in food stalls; it is too risky.
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