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Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-01-12 17:03:10 | San Agustin, Huila, Colombia
Keywords: funny, sweet, traditional
It's a recipe that originates in Medellin, but I also seen it all over Southern Colombia, down to San Agustin and even Pasto. I first saw it stretched against a pole attached to a tree while visiting the Festival de Luces in Medellin, but I had no idea what it was. I talked to the vendor, but she was too occupied to give me a clear explanation. It looked (and somewhat tasted) like fresh marshmallow and that's what I told some friends it was. But boy, was I far from the truth!

It's a sweet like you never encountered.  It's sweet and it's highly nutritive  because it has lots of proteins in it.  The complete name of this is “gelatina de pata de res” (usually just “gelatina de pata”), which translates as “Gelatin from (beef's) leg”.  So, no, it's not a vegetarian sweet.

To make it you begin by boiling for 10 to 12 hours a leg of beef.  Then you let it cool down and rest at least one night before you extract the collagen (floating on top of water or sticking to the skin) and place it in a large container.   You then add some panela (solid sugar made of sugarcane juice, think your old pack of stiff brown sugar).  You then use some corn starch to ease the handling and begin the stretching.  To do the stretching, you usually use a stick attached to a tree or a wall.  It's very labour intensive.

Filling the serving cup.

When you start the mixture is very dark and it has the consistency of hard caramel.  As you begin to stretch it, you let air in and the colour changes.  In the South of Colombia, they eat it when it's a light coffee colour, with a texture similar to maple toffee.  In Central Colombia, they keep stretching it (or beating it when it becomes more 'liquid') until it becomes white and has the texture of a fluffy marshmallow spread (hence my confusion the first time I saw it).  These are the ways you can find it on the streets.  For a serving of about 125 ml in a small plastic cup, you'll pay as low as US$0.25 or up to US$1, depending on the city.  It's a very sweet taste that is really unique, and since it's good for you (with all the proteins), don't feel bad for enjoying a serving or two now and then (although it's very rare you'll eat two).

It can also be found in other forms including small bars or a jelly, and then either in dark or white versions.  For the small bars, they do the same stretching as described above, but stop when it's about the consistency of soft taffy.  The gelatin is then rolled (using corn starch to prevent it from sticking) into a tube about 2-3 cm of diameter and cut into pieces.  For the white variety, they mix in white sugar instead of half of the panela.  For the jelly, they use a slightly different recipe after adding the panela.

This cup in San Agustin cost me US$0.25

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