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Calabaza en Tacha

in Diana's Recipe Book

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Servings: Makes about 30 pieces
In Mexico, candied pumpkins are often used on the family altars during Los dias de los muertos (Day of the Dead). And after Halloween, all of the leftover pumpkins go on sale and it is the perfect time to enjoy the fall harvest.

There are many regional Mexican recipes for pumpkins cooked with raw sugar, either piloncillo in the form of cones, or panela, in thick rounds — the darker the color the richer the flavor. This recipe comes from the eastern part of Michoacán, where it is eaten preferably for breakfast with a glass of cold milk.


This unrefined brown sugar is known worldwide as panela, but its Mexican version, piloncillo (pee-lon-SEE-yoh), is very tasty. Piloncillo gets its name from its cone shape and comes in light or dark brown. The taste of piloncillo is richer, and its consistency is harder, than the brown sugar. Piloncillo is made from pure sugar cane juice from cane that has been hand cut, crushed mechanically and then heated to reduce its water content. The resulting thick syrup is poured into cone-shaped molds to dry. Purists appreciate its unadulterated aspects: it's molasses-free, chemical-free.

You can chop your piloncillo or panocha, grate or get out a molcajete to grind just the amount you need from a cone, which should be kept dry and tightly wrapped.

In some South American countries piloncillos is also called panela. Panela is a pure, wholesome, traditional, unrefined, non-centrifugal whole sugar. It contains the natural goodness of minerals and vitamins inherently present in sugarcane juice. Panela is known by many names such as turbinado sugar, Jaggery, Gur, Raspadura, Piloncillo, Panocha or Penuche.

Piloncillo can be purchased online at Mexgrocer.com.

1 medium pumpkin, about 5 pounds
8 cups water
1 1/2 pounds piloncillo or panela, broken into small pieces, just under 4 cups *(see Tips below)
4 (2-inch/5cm) cinnamon sticks
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange

Garnish: (optional)
Pumpkin seeds
Confectioners' sugar

Rinse pumpkin with water and dry well. Cut stem off of the pumpkin.

Pierce the shell-like outer rind of the pumpkin in several places to enable the syrup to penetrate the flesh and cut into pieces about 3 inches square, leaving the fibrous flesh and seeds inside.

In a wide, heavy saucepan put enough water to completely cover the pumpkin. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange juice and zest and bring to a boil. Add the pieces of pumpkin and cook over fairly high heat, moving the pieces around from time to time to avoid sticking. Cover the pan and cook for about 15 minutes, then remove the lid and continue cooking until the syrup has reduced and the flesh of the pumpkin is a rich brown. Serve warm with syrup, and if desired garnish with pumpkin seeds and confectioners' sugar.

1. If you don't have piloncillo, substitute 1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses.
2. You may leave the skin on the pumpkin.
3. Save some pumpkin seeds for garnish.

Makes about 30 pieces.

Some of the information above under "Comments" (second paragraph) is from the book "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" by Diana Kennedy. The recipe is also adapted from her book.

Date: November 12, 2006


Reviewer: maria del carmen solis de tercero

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