San Ignacio, where “Piloncillo” emerges from the sugar cane grinding

In the rural community of Guasimilla, piloncillo is produced with a 100% artisanal procedure.

San Ignacio: Culmina la molienda de la caña(EL DEBATE)
San Ignacio: Culmina la molienda de la caña | EL DEBATE

San Ignacio, Sinaloa.- March 1st was the last day of the sugar-cane grinding in the mountain community of Guasimillas, located two hours from the municipal capital.

The road to that small town is long and winding and can only be done along the banks of the stream. In the journey you can find obstacles such as large rocks or fallen trees.

Every year, between the months of February and March, the Arana family is dedicated to the production of Piloncillo (a sort of Mexican brown sugar).

It is an ancestral activity that has been inherited from generation to generation, with traditional, rustic processes. That is what gives the product its great value.

The Arana family is the only one that survived the boom of the mills that was lived in the middle of the last century in the Sierra de San Ignacio.

Piloncillo production process (Archive)

A forsaken town in the middle of the Sierra Madre

Despite being a small town, with nothing but a few inhabitants, Guasimillas is a fruitful place. The rest of the year, its inhabitants are engaged in livestock and agriculture.

Its houses, built of adobe and tile, frame this town, which looks clean and colorful thanks to the thick mountain that surrounds it.

Don José Arana, who is part of the generations that has produced the handmade piloncillo, recalls thename of several communities of the high sierras, that used to be dedicated to this ancestral trade: El Verano, La Quebrada, La Tauna, El Rincón, El Zapotito, El Amarillo, Guillapa , La Caña, Vanilla, Los Hornitos, El Sauz, Santiaguillo, El Potrero, Las Piedras Prietas, The Precipice, El Candelero, Casa de Tejas, Rincon de Guayabitos and Rincón del Chilar.

But the habit of producing Piloncillo disappeared, and with it most of the aforementioned towns.

Francisco, Mario, Apolonio and Sabino Arana carry out the grinding process. The work looks easy, but it is not. It has to be done between two people, who take turns shoveling. The process for the honey to thicken is slow and not everyone does it, because it takes strength and expertise to achieve it.

Piloncillo production process (Archive)

Ancestral process

Production takes just over two weeks. The sugar cane takes one year to be ready; meanwhile, it must be watered, treated, fertilized and cleaned.

Activities in Guasimillas begin at 04:30 AM, with the cutting of the cane. Then it has to be peeled and taken it to the mill, which works pulled by a couple of mules.

The cane juice runs through a tube, and then it is poured into a large saucepan to collect 120 liters. This bucket, says Don José, was acquired in San Marcos, La Noria union, 30 years ago, and belonged to a person who dedicated himself to this activity for many years.

Piloncillo production process (Archive)

Patience

Before grinding, the ovens are ignited with dry wood, so that the juice of the two saucepans begins to heat and be consumed. Meanwhile, helped with metal sieves, excess garbage from the cane is removed, and the juice is drained, so that it does not thicken and begin to stick.

This process lasts at least three hours and it’s exhausting, because there is no stopping until it thickens.
The saucepan is removed from the fire and stirr for one hour, until it cools off, and the mixture on the side of the container forms a large bubble.

When this happens, the piloncillo is ready to be poured into the molds made with tepehuaje wood, which previously were wet, so that they moisten and the mixture does not stick.

After filling the molds you have to wait an hour to take out the piloncillo from the mold, and place it in cardboars boxes for sale.

Each piece weighs about half a kilo, and in one day the Aranas produce 120 pieces, which they sell in the businesses of the state capital, or to people who go to the town to buy piloncillo.

Guasimillas receives hundreds of visitors every year, who come not only to observe the process, but also to taste and buy the piloncillo.

The Mazatlan Post