These past couple of weeks I was in Venezuela visiting family and friends and making sure I tried many local dishes and ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere. One of those authentic Venezuelan ingredients is papelón, which is used in many dishes and is also the main ingredient for a refreshing drink called papelón con limón. This blocks of delicious sweetness, called panela in Venezuela, is made from concentrated sugar cane juice. It has different names and a wide variety of presentations depending on which country of Latin America you are in; here is what it looks like in Venezuela:
1 panela de papelón (approximately 500 grams)
4 to 5 limes
1.5 to 2 litres of water
Plenty of ice to serve
Grate the panela. This is a slow and fastidious process, but it yields the best results, so do as I did and enroll some help!
Place the water in a large jar, add the grated papelón and the juice of the limes, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate well. Give it a try to make sure there is a good balance between the sweetness of the papelón and the tartness of the lime juice, keeping in mind this is a concentrated version of the drink, which in the end will be diluted with the ice when served. Chill well in the fridge. Serve in tall glasses with plenty of ice.