Pumpkin Squash in Syrup (Calabaza en Dulce)
Oaxaca dessert is made on El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead),
when Mexican families honor their departed loved ones by creating altars
adorned with flowers, photos and food. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are
simmered in a sweet syrup of piloncillo (raw brown sugar) to preserve
them, then given to family members after church services have ended.
en dulce is traditionally made with the native tamala squash,
Susana says that pumpkin can be used as well. We made ours with a Seminole
winter squash, a buff-colored heirloom variety with sweet orange flesh.
When done, the squash is very soft and nearly translucent, with an appealing
fruity taste underscored by Ceylon cinnamon. Be sure to use true cinnamon,
or canela as it is known in Mexico; cassia is too strong for this
The squash is
delicious drizzled with the piloncillo syrup, but you can also dress it up
by layering it with rum-flavored whipped cream in individual glass
To serve 6 to 12,
depending on the size of the dish or compote
piloncillo, or 2/12 cups dark brown sugar (see note)
3 pounds pumpkin, or other sweet squash, cut into 12 two-inch wedges,
seeded and peeled (see note)
1 stick Ceylon cinnamon, 3 inches long
1 cup whipping
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 teaspoon dark rum
Method for the
1. Place the
piloncillo or brown sugar in 3 cups of water in a 2-quart saucepan
or clay pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat for 10
minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Add the pumpkin wedges and cinnamon stick, cover the pot, and cook
over medium heat for 50 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for
another 30 minutes to reduce the liquid to a syrup. Let cool to room
3. If desired, whip cream to soft peaks. Add sugar and whip to
incorporate, then add rum and whip again. To serve, spoon a layer of
squash into the bottom of a glass compote and top with one to two
tablespoons of whipped cream. Continue layering until the compote is
full and top with whipped cream.
1. Piloncillo is unrefined brown sugar sold
in hard cones. It can be found at Hispanic markets and often in the
international foods section of large supermarkets. Or order it from
www.mexgrocer.com. Ordinary dark brown sugar
is an acceptable substitute.
2. Heirloom pumpkins and squash can be found at farmers markets
during the fall and at Whole Foods stores. Look for Seminole, or any
sweet-fleshed variety suitable for cooking.
to Spice Kitchen]