In Mexico we also use pumpkin in fall desserts, but in a totally different way compare to a pumpkin pie or to pumpkin muffins. In Mexican desserts, pumpkin remains in chunks, not as a puree, and we cook it in a piloncillo (brown sugar) syrup. This Mexican Sweet Pumpkin is very traditional; it’s part of the Day of the Dead foods and usually plays a role in the Altares de Muertos (Dead Offerings).
I think it’s important to mention that the most common pumpkin in Mexico, and the one we use to make this dessert, is called “Calabaza de Castilla” (Cucurbita moschata) which is very different to the ones usually used in other parts of the world for cooking. It’s big, with a hard shell and a light orange flesh. I took a photo in the supermarket for you to see how this type of pumpkin looks, I think an image could exemplifies it better.
I love when I start seeing this pumpkins in the supermarkets! Generally you can ask the person in charge of the fruit/vegetable department to cut it into small chunks, this really helps because you only purchases the required amount and you save a lot of trouble trying to cut it in your kitchen.
In my house we really like this dessert, and in pumpkin season we prepare it around 3-4 times (We need to take advantage of pumpkin season! Hahaha). It is a recipe with few ingredients and it is very easy to prepare.
- 1 ½ kilogram (3.3 lb) calabaza de Castilla, coarsely chopped
- 500 gr (17.6 oz) chopped piloncillo (Brown sugar)
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¾ cup water
- Wash the calabaza de Castilla.
- In a large saucepan, place the piloncillo (brown sugar), anise, cinnamon and water. Let it boil over high heat until the piloncillo (brown sugar) dissolves completely and forms a syrup. This specific type of pumpkin loses a lot of liquid when cooking, so if at this stage, you see a very thick syrup I recommend that you don’t add extra water.
- Add the pumpkin chunks into the saucepan, with the pulp facing down. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let it simmer until the pumpkin is tender (about an hour). You can try the tenderness using a fork.
- Remove from heat. Remove anise and cinnamon.
- It is better to let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a day, to take more flavor.
- It can be served hot or cold.
- Serve with milk, so it balances the sweetness of the syrup.