Sugar Cane Artisan Grinding mill at San Vicente
“Dulce de Atado” is a traditional candy that it is used on a large variety of dishes with an authentic local taste.
This delight comes from the honey extracted from sugar cane and is processed in sugar cane mills located throughout El Salvador, especially at the province of San Vicente.
If you are on the way to eastern El Salvador, at some parts of the Pan American highway you will find these mills that are dedicated to the extraction of sugar and the famous “dulce de atado” or “sweet bundle”. Best time of the year for the processing is November through March.
This activity is a colonial legacy that with the passing of the years, has become less popular due to the large-scale industrialization process.
In the past this mills were of wood, and later replaced with metal ones. Originally, they were moved by ox, now some of them use electrical motors.
Some mills still survive today retaining their old infrastructure such as the picturesque tile roof housing, the use of big boilers, molds, the large wooden spoons and the classical operating personnel of various ages.
The milling process
To harvest the sugar cane first one must wait a year, the best time is after the summer season, when the sugar cane achieves the ideal condition to get a better juice.
Workers cut the vines and transport them to the mills in large numbers and crush them in order to extract the concentrate.
This process involves working long hours and the use of rustic instruments and rigorous steps to ensure a unique flavor of the finished product.
As you get to the liquid state, the next step is boiling the extract for four to six hours in large pots in order to crystallize the sucrose.
Meanwhile, workers accumulate the sugarcane leftovers in order to use it as burning fuel. At the same time, other workers use a large wooden paddle to remove the excess foam. During this process the liquid goes thru five points known as:
1. Table honey
2. Sugar Syrup
3. Finger Honey (or molasses)
4. Shake Honey (candy)
5. Dulce de panela (or tied)
The mixture is poured into wooden molds so it becomes solid. Then the candy is separated form the molds using a sledgehammer and then is wrapped using cornhusk leaves and it is tied with natural fiber rope.
Mills mass produce and export this product for Salvadorans living abroad.
In El Salvador this product is very economical and can be bought for US$ 1.00 a piece.
How to get there
Address: Km 51, Canton The Virgin, Tepetitán, San Vicente.
Northwest Park Mill is located near the road, which leads to the municipalities of Guadalupe and Verapaz province of San Vicente.
Drive from San Salvador east towards San Miguel using the Pan American Highway (CA-1). Or take the coastal highway (Coastal Highway) you should see the signs diverting to the city of San Vicente at both roads. It is 90 minutes drive.
Bus: from Terminal East (East Terminal), San Salvador to San Vicente: Route 116 from US$ 0.90 (regularl bus) to US$ 1.60 (special bus).
- Reference: Grinding Northwest Park, located at kilometer 51 of the Pan American Highway (CA-1) to San Miguel, San Vicente.
- Phone: (503) 2367-6835
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