This year I prepared my hallacas in a total stress-free way. I made them kosher and organic of course, with help from dear friends and music. I prepared the chicken stew with olive oil, onion, garlic, leeks, scallions, sweet peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, capers, olives, mustard relish pickles, raisins, Worcestershire sauce, unrefined sugarcane, Tabasco and Marsala wine. The dough was made with corn flour, I added annatto oil for color and dissolved in chicken broth, wine, unrefined sugarcane, and salt. People usually place “ornaments” in them such as olives, onion rings, peppers, and almonds but I usually don’t. I don’t add beef or pork either.
In Venezuela it’s a typical dish prepared during the holiday season with all the family, where each member has their own designated job. It’s a festive event where everyone comes together and like an assembly line everyone begins the washing the leaves, chopping the ingredients, rolling the dough, pouring the stew, while others tie the hallacas. Of course everyone says that the best hallaca is the one made at their family home, “my mom’s is the best!”. Following suit, my mom’s hallacas are vegetarian, they are delicious, and of course they are the best.
Hallacas are a mixture of cultures that are integrated with each ingredient. It’s been said its origin are from the time of Spanish colonization. The slaves and indigenous people were the ones who would prepare hallacas using only leftover ingredients they had access to. Hence the crossbreeding of this dish that consists of dough filled with a mix of meat stews wrapped in plantain leaves.
Each region has its own ingredients it uses, and each family has its own signature flavor. A recipe that goes from generation to generation is dependent on the personal tastes of each family. A dish where all flavors are incorporated, sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. In Venezuela, the aroma of Christmas is the smell of an hallaca.