|Photo courtesy Come-se.|
When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil with cattle in the holds of their caravels, they also arrived with recipe books containing recipes for mão-de-vaca. Back in Portugual, mão-de-vaca was primarily used to create rich, gelatinous and flavorful soups called caldos. In Brazil, they continued to make caldo de mocotó just as they had done in the motherland. It was particularly popular in Rio de Janeiro, and in the 19th Century, many cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) didn't break their nightly fast with toast and jam or bacon and eggs. Rather they started the day with a healthy bowl of caldo de mocotó. Even today many of the small botecos and street-corner bars of Rio serve caldo de mocotó at breakfast time and it's common to see customers drinking it from mugs or small porcelains bowls in these establishments first thing in the morning.
The presence of cartilagenous tendons in the ankle joint mean that is very gelatinous - and in fact, commercial gelatin can be made from this joint. Gelatin is a translucent, colorless and flavorless protein derived from collagen in animal tendons, skins and bones and is used as a gelling agent in many types of food. In candies, jellies, aspics and marshmallows gelatin provides a rubbery, semi-solid consistency that can hold other ingredients in suspension.
Besides eating caldo de mocotó, Brazilians take advantage of the gelatinous property of mocotó to create sweetened, flavored jellies called geleia de mocotó. Less commonly eaten today than previously, geleia de mocotó was a favorite childhood food of many modern-day Brazilians. Flavored with strawberry, or grape, or peach, geleia de mocotó could be spread on crackers, toast or bread, or even cubed and served as dessert - kind of like a readymade Jell-o. For many in Brazil, geleia de mocotó is one of the comfort foods of their early years and even though they might not eat it today, they still have a nostalgic reverence for it. Geleia de mocotó is also available unsweetened and unflavored - a relative of jellied beef consommee.
Next post, we'll publish a Brazilian recipe for caldo de mocotó. If you can find calf's foot, and if you can get over any cultural prejudices about eating the same, you'll find it's a wonderfully delicious and nourishing soup - and a perfect warm-me-up in cold weather.