Dulce De Calabaza – Pumpkin Candy
You can honestly call this famous Mexican candy iconic.
Pumpkins are native to Mexico, and the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds were discovered by archaeologists in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico and dated to over 7,500 years ago. Sweetened and served either syrupy or crystalized, dulce de calabaza is everywhere: Mexican restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries. If you’ve not cooked this candy before, you may want to start a tradition and make your own dulce de calabaza for holidays or special celebrations.
Recipe for Dulce De Calabaza – Pumpkin Candy
This recipe is adapted from the cookbook, Don’t Count The Tortillas: The Art of Mexican Cooking
Ingredients (number of candies varies with size of pumpkin)
3 1⁄2 pounds pumpkin (kabocha, castilla or other hard-rind winter squash)
4 tablespoons food-grade calcium hydroxide (slaked lime)
1 1⁄2 pounds granulated sugar
2 whole star anise
1 gallon water
6 cups water
1. To soften the tough skin of the squash, heat it in the microwave for 3 minutes. Let it cool and touch it to see if the skin has softened a little. If not, microwave it another minute. You can also roast it in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, but be careful that you don’t cook the inside. Crack open the winter squash in half with a long, sharp knife or a cleaver. Winter squashes have very hard rinds that are difficult to pierce or cut open. Be very careful that the knife does not slip because you can cut yourself badly if it does. If this is your first time, I recommend you invest in a pair of cut-resistant gloves, available online.
Remove the seeds and meaty strings from each half. (Rinse the seeds and save them to roast later as a snack ).
2. Carefully and safely, cut the two halves into 1-inch thick slices. Lay each slice flat on a cutting board and cut away the rind, a small piece at a time. After they are peeled, cut each slice diagonally so that you have diamond shapes.
3. In a large pot, dissolve 4 tablespoons food- grade calcium hydroxide in 1 gallon of water. Add the squash pieces and let them soak 8 hours or overnight. This process hardens the squash so that it will retain its shape while cooking.
4. Drain the squash, discarding the calcium hydroxide solution. Rinse the squash twice in clean water.
5. In a Dutch oven, add 6 cups of water, sugar, and star anise. Bring to a boil, to let the sugar dissolve completely, and then add the squash. Lower heat to simmer gently for 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours, until the insides of the squash diamonds are soft when pierced with a fork or toothpick. The outer surface will remain firm.
6. Remove the squash and place on a rack to cool, reserving the syrup to drizzle on each cooled diamond shape.
To Dry the Dulce De Calabaza:
7. If you prefer the candies crystalized, dried and not syrupy, you can dry them with a kitchen-grade dehydrator. As an alternate method, I sometimes place them in a 140 ̊ to 170 ̊F oven for 4 to 6 hours until the exterior dries and becomes a bit crispy. If possible and safe in your kitchen, keep the oven door slightly ajar.
Dulce De Calabaza makes a unique dessert, whether arranged on a platter for the buffet table or served at a sit-down dinner. The dried version is a dessert you can eat with your fingers, totally traditional.