Whether it be a sweet bread, beer, ice cream, or even a latte, I’m 100% sure that if there’s pumpkin in it, I’ll eat it. There has to be about a million ways to incorporate the wonderful flavor of this gourd into any kind of meal, drink, or dessert. So, I thought why not give you just one more idea on how to enjoy that pumpkin you just picked up from the store? Today I am sharing with you my recipe for Calabza de tacha, or as others may call it, candied pumpkin. This is a very popular dessert that is commonly prepared for Día de los Muertos, and one that I grew up enjoying each fall with my family.
This dessert is filled with flavors of cinnamon, anise, orange, and brown sugar. The main idea behind this dish is poaching pumpkin slices to perfection in a sugar and water mixture. Once the pumpkin is cooked, you reduce the remaining liquid until you are left with a flavorful syrup to drizzle over your tender pumpkin. Traditionally, this dessert is made with piloncillo, which is an unrefined Mexican sugar that has been pressed into a cone-like shape. Piloncillo isn’t always the easiest to source, which (thankfully) wasn’t a problem for me because I had a big ol’ bag of Zulka’s brown sugar on hand. What’s great is that Zulka’s sugar doesn’t undergo a conventional refining process, so that means you are left with a product that tastes as close to fresh sugar cane as possible. And for this recipe, that’s exactly what you want.
Once your syrup is ready, you have a few different choices on how to enjoy your candied pumpkin. You can simply drizzle the syrup over the top, and enjoy your pumpkin slices as is, but my personal opinion is that this dish tastes best when a little warmed milk is added into the mix. In the recipe you’ll see that I also suggest using coconut milk as an alternative, and honestly that just isn’t for those who can’t have dairy. I really like the added flavor that the coconut milk brings to this dish. It might not be tåhe most traditional suggestion, but it tastes darn delicious, so I say do it!
With Día de los Muretos celebrations beginning this Saturday, now is the time to start thinking of what delicious treats you’ll want to make to celebrate the lives of your loved ones. If you need a bit more inspiration be sure to check out my recipe for a classic Atole de Vainilla, or if your craving something flaky and buttery, be sure to check out these Pumpkin & Cream Cheese Empanadas.
CALABAZA EN TACHA
1, 2.5 -3 lbPumpkin, peeled or unpeeled
3 1/2 Cups (690 ml) Water
Peel and Juice of Half an Orange
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Star of Anise
1 Vanilla Bean Pod
1 Cup (225 g) Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-1 1/2 Cups (235-355 ml) Coconut Milk, or Evaporated Milk
Equipment: Large pot, spoon, knife
Cut pumpkin in half from top to bottom, using a spoon to scrape out all of the seeds. Cut each half into wedges that are about 2” (5 cm) thick, then cut each of wedge into 3 pieces.
In a large pot, add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add the pumpkin and let mixture come back up to a boil for a few seconds, then immediately reduce heat until just simmering.
Simmer the pumpkin pieces, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender. Once soft, remove the pumpkin pieces with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate bowl. Be sure to discard any pieces of pumpkin skin that may have fallen off during cooking process.
Bring remaining liquid to a boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a syrup that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20-30 minutes.
Gather 4-5 shallow bowls, and fill with desired amount of milk, or coconut milk. Divide the pumpkin pieces amongst each bowl and drizzle each with a bit of warm syrup.