Super-easy, super-delicious: the Mexican recipe of “calabaza en tacha” is a sweet pumpkin dessert that kids will love.
Pumpkin has been cultivated in Mexico for thousands of years. Archeologists have found pumpkin seeds in tombs in Mexico dating back to 7000 BC, and evidence has been found that indigenous farmers cultivated the pumpkin from 6000-5000 BC in Oaxaca and Tehuacán in Central Mexico (which coincidentally is also where the first maize was ever cultivated). The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican indigenous groups used the pumpkin shell as a recipient and cup, pumpkin seeds in sauces, and cooked the pumpkin pulp in clay pots during their fall festival commemorating the dead. Today people all over Mexico typically buy calabaza en tacha in markets and ferias (fall festivals) to celebrate Día de los Muertos, or they might make it at home. Here is a simple recipe that you can enjoy for a dessert that tastes good, and is even nutritious.
1-2 pumpkins that will fit in the pot you are using
piloncillo (dark, unrefined cane sugar)
the juice from 1 orange
optional: butter, cloves, anise seeds, sweetened condensed milk;
Piloncillo is normally sold in Mexico in conical shapes. I ran out of the piloncillo I had brought home from Mexico, but fortunately found that Goya makes and distributes it in this packaging in the US at local supermarkets. If you cannot find it, you can use brown sugar and molasses (in the US), or golden syrup (in the UK, Australia, New Zealand).
Cut the pumpkin into chunks, leaving the seeds and pulp intact. I did need to take out some of the seeds this time to roast for my son’s preschool class “homework.” Put in the piloncillo, the cinnamon sticks, squeeze the juice out of an orange, and add a couple of inches of water. Sometimes cooks in Mexico add in anise seeds and or cloves to the water, and some cooks also put in a couple of pats of butter. Cover and simmer until the pumpkin is very tender, spooning the juices over the pumpkin and stirring the slices so they all get down in the syrup. Serve warm with the juicy syrup, and if you have some on hand, sweetened condensed milk.¡Aprovecho!