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Sertodo Copper on Modern Pioneering with Georgia Pellegrini

 

This episode of "Modern Pioneering" by Georgia Pellegrini explores traditional craftsmanship, culinary arts, and the joy of hands-on work. It features Jonathan Beall and his partnership with copper artisans in Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico, where they create artisan copperware using techniques from the past 500 years. The episode highlights the human connection in craftsmanship, emphasizing the cyclical nature of learning and creating with one's hands.

Georgia visits Jonathan's workshop, learning about the process of copper crafting and its significance. The segment also includes a demonstration of making Mexican hot chocolate using traditional copper pots, showcasing the blend of culture and cuisine.

In the cooking segment, Georgia prepares a chocolate adobo sauce with pork chops and roasted apples. She highlights the importance of using quality ingredients and traditional methods in cooking. Inspired by the copper cookware, she also makes a Mexican-chocolate milkshake.

Georgia visits chocolatier Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolatier in Austin, Texas, where they make truffles with unique flavor combinations like cardamom and orange zest. Nicole emphasizes the art of handcrafted chocolate and the sustainable sourcing of ingredients.

The episode concludes with a reflection on the value of pursuing meaningful, hands-on work in a world increasingly driven by convenience. Georgia celebrates the modern pioneers who chase after meaning instead of convenience, finding joy in the process and the connections it fosters. 

 

Transcript

"Modern Pioneering" is made possible by generous donors. A full list is available at GeorgiaPellegrini.com.

Welcome to Total Wine. Doing okay? My buddy says, "Rosé all day." My personal fave is this new French rosé. Find wine, beer, and spirits from around the world at Total Wine & More.

At Muir Glen, we believe that organic farming benefits consumers, farmers, and ecosystems.

Something that's really interesting about working with these guys in Mexico and the mentality they have -- it's not that we are teaching something. You are remembering something. I love that cyclical idea of these talents being innate or latent, and we just give them the space to come back out.

I did come from a technological background, but there's a really fundamental human connection with materials and making things, whether it's farming or dicing vegetables. Yeah, you can buy diced vegetables at the grocery store, but somewhere in there, humans have to interact with that.

Humans have been colliding with metal and fire for millennia, molding it through sheer strength and perseverance. Today still, there's something primal about what happens to us when handed a hammer and fire, as if we are in control of our destiny. That is the thing about creating with your hands. It makes you come alive with the sense that you are shaping your own story.

In Santa Clara del Cobre in Michoacán, Mexico, copper artisans are hard at work, hand-forming copper pots the same way they have been made for 500 years. Jonathan Beall drives his truck between Austin, Texas, and this workshop, helping bring artisan copperware to the U.S.

During the year 2000, I basically just uprooted my entire life from Austin and moved everything down to Mexico, to this village, Santa Clara del Cobre. I did an apprenticeship with Don Chema, and then my other maestro, Don Maximo Velazquez, who is probably the greatest living copper artisan today.

It's been almost 25 years since Jonathan formed a partnership with copper artisans in Mexico and began Sertodo Copper. What began as an experiment selling copperwares out of his truck has become his business and passion.

I bought an old truck, "The Macho," and filled it up with 2,000 pounds worth of copper stuff. Then I just started driving around the Southwest, showing up and calling caterers from phone books. I talked with so many different people. We're all so similar in so many ways, and this was a medium for me to connect with people.

We've talked about the original spark and motivation. One thing that occurred to me through doing this is that the work is nice, but it's really just a medium for me to live how I'd like and do the things I enjoy. This quickly became a vehicle for me to do all those things and opened doors of interest for me.

I'm visiting Jonathan to learn more about copper and why it's his passion.

Georgia, what we have here is a mix of tools for our production. This is a giant ingot of solid copper. We cut it into pieces and clean up the material.

Wow, it's so heavy.

This piece of copper will be made and then run through a rolling mill, and from the mills, we get sheet copper.

Ah! These are the disks.

I also brought the very first pan that I made. There are so many mistakes in this pan, which is amazing because making mistakes is how we figure out where to go from there. You can see a little bit of surface variation, which helps with the release of food and work hardens the material. It beats a shine into it that comes out easier.

You're seeing the handwork of the craftsman.

Would you like a demonstration?

I would love to, yeah.

Okay. This is the kind of stake we work a lot of things over.

Shall I be your assistant? I'll hand you the tools?

Sure. One thing we're looking for is the sound. There's that sound. See that little line appearing there?

Yeah. And to get that perfect pattern is really like the memory of your hands. It's a rhythm you get into.

It is, yeah. If you'd like, I can turn the forge on and get something red-hot.

Let's do it.

Copper is a relatively soft material until you work it repeatedly. As you work it, the crystalline structure compacts and hardens until it gets to a point where it can't be worked anymore. From there, it is reheated to about 1,000 degrees, until it is red-hot and the crystalline structure rearranges itself to become soft again.

Red-hot.

Go ahead.

Am I going straight down?

Yep. Nice.

This is fun.

It's a lot of fun. My hope for the future of Sertodo Copper is that it continues to be this bridge between cultures and people and friends and family from Mexico that work with us, but also a bridge for opportunity for different people. The immediate work is making this something transparent and understood.

Jonathan brings back delicacies on his road trips between Mexico and Texas -- figs cured in lye, amaranth balls, and raw cocoa made by the same family since 1898. In this wonderland of glimmering copper pots, we use some of his copper to make Mexican hot chocolate.

Grab a couple of those chocolate biscuits.

I've never seen chocolate in this form before.

Oh, yeah. These are nice, fat ones.

It smells so good.

I've got some water boiling. I'm going to put in probably about three. And then we’re going to use this traditional way of making Mexican chocolate. Put it in there, and as the chocolate softens, this will go in and...

Wow!

I also brought back some of my favorite treats -- amaranth balls. Amaranth is a traditional grain grown in that region, toasted and rolled up with honey.

I'm going to wait for my hot chocolate and eat all of this at once. This sounds so good.

See that frothiness? That wonderful froth happening in there? I brought back some beans.

That smells chocolaty. I think I'm going to eat one. Do you take off this outer shell?

Take the outer shell off, yep. For me, it feels cool in the mouth because of the oil.

It does feel cool.

Alright, let me just work it back and forth. You can see...

It's getting creamy-looking.

And smelling delicious.

Moment of truth.

Cheers.

Cheers. Thanks for coming down.

It's going to be hot.

Thanks for having me.

Mm-hmm. No sugar.

I love that.

It's strong. Here, have it with your --

Oh, yeah.

That might sweeten it up.

Mmm! That's the sweetness you need to balance it out. Got your amaranth and your savory chocolate. Wow. That's a combo.

I'm inspired to cook with copper and explore the savory possibilities for chocolate. We're going to start with a delicious chocolate adobo sauce, followed by pork chops with sage, roasted apples, and thyme. Then we'll finish with a Mexican-chocolate milkshake.

To start, I'm taking about 2 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate. The key is unsweetened because you'll add flavors yourself. Add that to my copper pot. Then add Worcestershire sauce for earthiness, about 4 teaspoons. Add adobo sauce for smokiness and richness. Mix that in. Add a little brown sugar, about 2 1/2 tablespoons. Lastly, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt for brightness. Add a touch of water to make sure it steams out. Put the lid on, let it slowly melt, stirring occasionally on low heat.

While that cooks, let's move on to our pork chops. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a healthy tablespoon of butter to the copper pan. Add the pork chops and some fresh sage to the butter. Add a little bit of apple, cut into 1/2-inch slices, around the pork chops. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Add thyme and more butter. Transfer to the oven for about 15 minutes. We want it tender inside. After baking, let it rest for five to 10 minutes.

Serve the pork with the buttery, herby sauce and apples. Drizzle with chocolate adobo sauce as a dipping sauce.

It smells so good. The chocolate and adobo smell rich and smoky. The herb butter with sage is fantastic. Let's give it a taste. Mmm! I love a thick-cut pork chop. Got to have some apple with it. Mmm! And the chocolate sauce to finish it off. That little spice adds so much. Mmm! The combination of salty, sweet, herby, and spicy chocolate is perfect.

Time for the milkshake. First, visit a local chocolatier, Nicole Patel of Delysia Chocolatier. She crafts chocolates by hand, including unique flavors like fried-chicken chocolate and jalapeño-tequila truffles. Nicole teaches me to make truffles with simple ingredients.

To start, measure chocolate and melt it. Add warm heavy cream to the melted chocolate and mix until silky smooth. This is the ganache for the truffles. Separate into bowls and add spices. I chose cardamom with orange zest. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Once set, scoop into little balls and roll them into perfect shapes. Coat in cocoa powder, sprinkles, powdered sugar, or pecans. Nicole explains how to savor chocolate by letting it melt in your mouth instead of chewing.

Inspired by Nicole, I'm making a Mexican-chocolate milkshake. Scoop 3 cups of chocolate ice cream, add 2/3 cup of milk, cinnamon, chili powder, and chocolate sauce. Blend and serve with whipped cream and a bit of smoky pepper.

Moment of truth. Oh, look, someone's here to help with the seasoning. Hi. Wanna try? Mmm! You like it? Want to try the pork chop?

Apple.

Savory apple with butter. Mmm!

As I reflect on the modern pioneers I've met this season, I've realized that convenience can rob us of the hidden connectors that give life meaning. Pursuing something that takes time and patience brings joy and celebration of those who chase after meaning instead of convenience. Celebrating those who haven't taken the easy road reminds me that the texture and meaning in life often reward bravery and that simple pleasures and discoveries are meaningful.

To learn more about the topics featured on this episode, log on to GeorgiaPellegrini.com or follow along on Georgia's Facebook and Instagram pages for weekly modern-pioneering adventures, tips, and recipes. Go to Sertodo.com for copper goods or see the block below. 

"Modern Pioneering" is made possible by generous donors. A full list is available at GeorgiaPellegrini.com.

 

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