Baking in conical oven (sealed)
The second step in the production of mezcal is obtaining sugars from the agave. Possibly this is the most important part in the process, historically speaking, because it was our ancestors thousands of years ago who discovered these important properties in the agaves. It is said that because a lightning bolt from the sky was responsible for burning a maguey in the field and that's when they realized the valuable food that it could provide.
For obtaining the sugars from the agave you must raise its temperature by using ovens, typically conical stone underground (see photo) thick wood-heated from the same area. For example, in Oaxaca mesquite or oak wood is commonly used.
Los Maestros Mezcaleros generalmente son los encargados de saber cuánto hay que esperar antes de que la temperatura este en su punto para colocar las piñas dentro. Ellos saben que hay que esperar a que la leña esté totalmente consumida y que las piedras estén al rojo vivo, de lo contrario al meter las piñas con todavía madera quemándose, recogerán ese olor y por lo tanto el mezcal también. Las piñas que son de tamaño grande se cortan en dos o cuatro partes, para optimizar su cocción.
Cuando el horno está listo se procede a colocar las piñas de manera ordenada y compacta sobre las piedras calientes, formando una especie de pirámide.
The mezcalero Teachers generally are responsible for knowing how long to wait before the temperature is ripe for placing the agaves inside. They know they have to wait until the wood is completely consumed and the stones are red hot, otherwise if you insert the agave hearts with burning wood, it will collect the smell and therefore the mezcal will as well. The large agaves are cut into two or four parts, to optimize cooking.
When the oven is ready we proceed to place the cones in a neat and compact way on the hot rocks, forming a pyramid.
Once all the cones are placed on the fire, proceed to seal the oven using bagasse from previous productions, blankets (sacks, plastic sheeting, etc.), earth and logs to completely seal the oven.
When the oven is completely sealed with soil and logs it’s left there for a minimum of 72 hours for cooking.
As you can realize the process of making mezcal is a process that requires time and patience. The same needs to be done to drink it and enjoy it.
Usually palenques are also the residence of mezcal producers so they live daily with the whole elaboration process. For generations mezcal producers transmit their knowledge from parents to children about everything related to mezcal, which is an important part of the culture, crafts, tradition and history of Mexico.