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Sayulita paletas

One time someone was interviewing me and they asked me what I would like to do if I wasn’t a writer. I can’t remember what I told them…maybe be a bricklayer? But I have the answer now: I’d be a paletero. Which is a guy who makes paletas. Which are like Mexican ice pops.

But a paleta is very different from a popsicle. For one thing, they’re usually handmade. For another, the flavors are more imaginative. Popsicles usually come in orange, cherry, or grape (rootbeer or lemon-lime pops are considered “out there” flavors). Paletas come in flavors like tamarindo, jamaica (hibiscus flower), and mango con chile.

Señor Paleta, which is what I call the paletero in Sayulita next door to Burrito Revolution, makes 25 to 30 different flavors of paletas from arrayán (a type of Mexican guava) to uva (seedless grapes).

photos by David Lansing

photos by David Lansing

Like most paleteros, Señor Paleta makes two different types of paletas: de aguas and de leche. Paletas de aguas are basically frozen fruit juice. Fresh fruit juice, with bits and pieces of the watermelon or pineapple showing through in the translucent frozen pop. Paletas de leche are creamier and, to my mind, more substantial tasting.

I’ve tried Señor Paleta’s jamaica d’agua and it’s yummy, particularly on a really hot day, and the mango con chile is excellent as well, but I have to say that nothing is quite as good as his nuez d’leche. Generally speaking, nuez, which means nut, refers to walnuts. But the secret ingredient in Señor Paleta’s nuez d’leche is, I’m quite sure, pecans. So it tastes a bit like a frozen pecan pie. Which just opens up a whole new range of flavor possibilities as far as I’m concerned.

If I were to open a paletería in Sayulita, I could imagine making paletas that tasted of almond rocca or hula pie or even pumpkin. And then who do you think people in Sayulita would call Señor Paleta

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Strawberry Basil Paletas

It’s the long Fourth of July weekend. So let’s do something fun. Like make paletas. Paletas are like Mexican popsicles. Only better. Because they’re usually made with fresh fruit, a little sugar, and either water or milk. If you get a cherry paleta in Mexico, it’s actually made with cherries—not cherry flavoring.

I’ve written before about my favorite paleta stand in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. They make all kinds of paletas, from tamarindo to pistachio, which is my favorite. If you want to know how good a paletero is, get their pistachio paleta. If they make them.

The other cool thing about paletas is that often times they come in unique flavors. Like avocado and chili or cucumber and tequila.

This year for the Fourth I’m making two kinds of paletas: lime pie and strawberry basil. And they’re so simple to make! I use a Norpro Ice Pop Maker that I got from Amazon for less that $20 and get most of my recipes from Fany Gerson’s Paletas recipe book ($14). But you can also make up your own recipes, it’s that easy. Here’s how to make Strawberry Basil Paletas:

2 pounds fresh strawberries

3/4 cup of raw sugar

10 large fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Juice of 1/2 large lime

Hull and wash the strawberries and place in blender. Add all the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Pour into molds, add sticks, and freeze until solid, 4-6 hours. Makes 10-12 paletas.

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