Celebrate Día de los Muertos with Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin.
You’ll love this seasonal pumpkin dessert. It’s perfect as a Day of The Dead altar offering or to enjoy all winter long.
What is Calabaza en Tacha
Calabaza en tacha, or Mexican candied pumpkin, is a seasonal sweet that forms part of the traditional foods of Día de Muertos.
Day of the Dead is celebrated from the 30th of October to the 2nd of November every year. It’s a very special holiday and among the most important cultural heritages of Mexico.
Día De Muertos is a day meant for honoring, celebrating and remembering loved ones no longer on this Earth.
Read more about it here.
Pumpkin or Calabazas as Part of Day of The Dead Altars
Traditional Dia de los Muertos altars are decorated with photographs, candies such as sugar skulls, flowers, personal mementos, drinks, breads, sweetened pumpkins, and a special meal cooked just for the departed.
These items all have special significance and are called ofrendas, literally, offerings.
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Pumpkins (along with corn, beans and chilies) were highly prized staples of the indigenous diet. They were always included in ceremonies and festivities.
Needless to say, calabazas are still included in the altars even today.
How to Make Calabaza en Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin
Before the arrival of the Spanish pumpkins were sweetened with maguey sap before being placed on the altar. After the arrival of the Spanish the technique for sweetening the pumpkin changed.
The pumpkin was cooked in the same caldrons, or tachas, that were used for processing the sugar from the harvested sugarcane.
The pumpkins were then simmered alongside other fruits and spices. This would become the calabaza en tacha we still know and love today.
Modern day calabaza en tacha recipes vary from family to family and across the many regions of Mexico. We could say that each family adapts the recipe to their liking, and that is exactly what I have done, adapted it to my liking.
Traditional Calabaza en Tacha Recipes
My recipe is unconventional due to the addition of some non-traditional Mexican spices. We live in a modern age where international flavors and ingredients influence the different cuisines of the world.
My recipe is Mexican at it’s roots and, much like the traditional Aztec recipe evolved to incorporate foreign flavors, so too has my own.
Calabaza En Tacha or Mexican Candied Pumpkin Recipe
- 2.2 lbs or 1 kilo of raw pumpkin slices seeded only *
- 2 whole Mexican cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 pinch large pinch ground cardamom or 3 cardamom pods bruised
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 whole allspice
- orange peel from one small orange
- 1 pinch of salt optional
- 1 cone of piloncillo or 2/3 cup brown sugar + 1 heaping tablespoon molasses
- 2 cups water or 500 ml
- 1 can unsweetened evaporated milk (use a vegan milk or regular evaporated milk)
- Pour the water into to the pot, then add all the spices, piloncillo or sugar and molasses. Bring to a soft boil. Gently place the pumpkin slices in the pot, the first layer flesh face down the top layer flesh up.
- Turn heat to medium low and allow to simmer until the pumpkin is tender, you should carefully flip the pumpkin so that both the top and bottom layers cook and absorb the flavour of the spices and piloncillo. Gently remove the pumpkin from the pan and allow to cool on a separate large plate. Alternatively it can be placed in the refrigerator to eat the following day. The remaining liquid from the pot will be reduced done even more.
- Over medium heat and stirring often reduce the liquid to half of what it was and until it reaches a thicker consistency almost like syrup. Turn heat off, allow to cool and if not using right away store in the refrigerator. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve before using.
- Once ready to eat the pumpkin you can either eat it cool or slightly warm. Pour some evaporated milk and syrup over it or alternatively serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
You will find that the spices permeate the calabaza slices perfectly to create an aromatic and soothing touch to your senses.
While silky creaminess added by the evaporated milk is the perfect compliment to the sweet and tender calabaza.
Then, to finish it off with an extra pop of sweet aromatic flavors, comes the drizzling of the syrup over the slices.
Truly a wonderful treat to not only honor the spirits of our loved ones, but to also enjoy the best of this quintessential fruit of autumn.
¡Buen provecho amigos!