{recipe} Calabaza en Tacha (Candied Pumpkin)

Editor’s Note: Swapper Becky H wowed us with her piece on The Simplicity of Coconut Butter and now she’s back as a regular monthly contributor! I’m excited to have Becky join the team because she will bring something new, as a native of The Rio Grande Valley,  she will be featuring recipes & stories influenced by the area, its culture and its residence. First up, Candied Pumpkin, a traditional treat made for Dia de los Muerto. -Christina

Credit: Claudia Becerra

Prepare the food. That death may see

That this love of life we offer as a gift

so that she may better understand what

the mystery has bequeathed.

 Source: Excerpt and Translated , Julie Sopetran Mexico City, Mixquic, and Morelos – Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico

I grew up in The Valley. Our Valley is very flat and dry, not a true geological valley,  but The Rio Grande Valley, in Mcallen, TX.  It’s impossible to grow up as a minority in a different culture than your own without being impacted by the food and ways of the predominant culture.  Mexico being only 30 minutes away has a severe influence on everything Valley, including a very different way of celebrating the days surrounding Halloween.

In many countries around the world, the American holiday we know as Halloween is a minor, insignificant day. The real holiday, in historically Catholic cultures, is the two days after, Nov 1st – All Saints Day and Nov 2nd – All Souls Day. In Mexico and many other Latin cultures the holiday is known an Dia de los Muertos, in Spanish, or Dia de los Finados, in Portugese – Day of the Dead.

Gran calavera eléctrica (“Grand electric skull”) by José Guadalupe Posada, 1900–1913. Source: Library of Congress

The Day of the Dead celebrations known today in Mexico is a hybrid of ancient Aztec rituals that embraced the duality of death as a continuation of life combined with more recent Catholic influence. Nov 1stAll Saints Day are for Los Angelitos, little angles, or deceased children and Nov 2ndAll Souls Day is for the  adults who have passed on. This celebration is not for remembrance per se, the dead are considered to be present  among their living relatives on this day, and how better to entice the spirit world for a visit than with food?

Source: Claudia Becerra

Along with processions and dance, food is an integral part of Dia de los Muertos. Favorite food is placed at the private home alter as offertas or offerings, along with pictures, candles, and objects once owned. The gravesite is then visited with favorite foods and drinks.  In Northern Mexico examples would be tamales, mole,  tequila and Coke. The celebrations and food change slightly depending on what region one is in but some food is standard throughout.

Pan de Muerto. Source: Wikipedia (copywrite holder released image to public domain)

{Day of the Dead Recipe Link Love}


RECIPE: Calabaza en Tacha
{Candied Pumpkin or Sugared Cooked Pumpkin}

Nota: Calabaza en Tacha  is a tasty seasonal treat that can be made whenever fresh pumpkins are available. You must use a fresh pumpkin as the hard flesh of the pumpkin is required, soft pureed canned or already cooked pumpkin will not work.

Los ingredientes

1 4-5 lb pumpkin
8 cinnamon sticks
Juice of one orange or 1/4 C orange juice
4 C water
2 lbs brown sugar


Large sauce pan

A Cocinar

  • Cut the pumpkin into wedges, triangles, or smaller squares – leave the rind on!
  • Remove seeds and strings (save your seeds to make pepitas or toasted pumpkin seeds! )

  • With a sharp knife, make diamond designs in the pulp (so the pumpkin is able to absorb the sugar mixture more effectively)

  • Combine brown sugar, water, orange juice and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil.
  • Add pumpkin pieces.
  • Cover and simmer for approximately 1-2 hours.

  • When pumpkin is ready it should be fork tender and golden brown with the pieces looking glazed.

  • Let cool and serve. This is traditionally eaten with drizzled evaporated milk or cream. Or if you are dairy free, like me, how about some coconut butter, which is pictured below:

Delicioso! Buen Provecho!


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