I just don’t know why I made this. I hadn’t had sugar all month (Halloween included!) and now I’m WholeWhateverNumberofDaysUntilThanksgiving-ing (I started after making this, don’t you worry). Someone please remove it from my house. I didn’t even do a single thing for El Día de los Muertos, which is the holiday that made me decide to make this candied pumpkin, so I have no reason to have made it. Yeah, candied, sugary, syrupy pumpkin. Starring the world’s driest (and most absorbent?!) pumpkin that was prob sitting in some storehouse all winter and summer just waiting for some sucker like me to purchase it. I knew it felt a little light for its size… and the other one I bought feels even lighter. Fine, all the better to absorb any (clarified) butter I put on it after I roast it. Because, no I’m not going to make pumpkin pie with shortbread crust with it, like I really, really, realllllyyyyy want to. Except I’d use rice flour because it makes the shortbread all kinda grainy and I LOVE it. Okay, I’m done. No more sweets.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, the other week, I got the new Bon Appétit and it was the Thanksgiving issue and I wanted to cry. I’m not ready. I’m just.not.ready. I know it’s all cliché to gripe about “where did the time go?!” and “whoa, can you believe it’s blah blah blah already?” Shut up, it’s different for me. It’s a strange new climate here and I don’t understand it and all my holiday weather clues are all sorts of messed up and non-existent and wrong and I feel like I’m three months behind and it’s weird and confusing and I can’t get excited about anything. WAHHHHH.
This pumpkin dish did somehow manage to sway my feelings a little. Just a little. It fills the house with spicy, sugary, pumpkiny smells and hey, by some miracle it was colder here in morning than it was in Denver. Not that I check Denver weather obsessively. I swear. It’s just that it seemed remarkably cold here and I wanted to see how out of whack my calibration was. Really, truly it’s the truth. But yes, the factors were in place to help me out a little. I went for a long walk in the evening in omg 3/4 length gym tights and omg a long sleeved shirt and I did not get hot. Then I came home and stuffed my face for a second and FINAL time full of spiced syrupy pumpkin. I suppose I can start to consider other fall-esque foods. But I don’t know what to decorate with. Dried chile peppers, I suppose. Gourds. I dunno. Indian corn. That’s all doable, I guess. BUCK UP.
I saw some Facebook post of an old high school acquaintance linking to some opinion piece by a “Chicana” about how ignorant it is when ignorant white people ignorantly appropriate el Día de los Muertos. I can’t even tell you how much that stuff irritates me, and when white people whole-heartedly back it up with this self-satisfied acknowledgment of white people’s ignorance. Except theirs, of course. Because they would never appropriate any bit of culture that wasn’t natively theirs. And you know, it’s absolutely okay for any other culture or race to appropriate any other facet of the ignorant white man’s culture because we’re the oppressors and the colonizers and we don’t count. UGH WOW this is getting me riled up. But you know what, I like other cultures and I’m going to keep trying to make their foods and I hope I piss off some Chicana who decided that it’s real freakin’ cool to be offended by everything that breathes, and is white. Ugh, I hate everyone.
If you can’t find piloncillo, which even here isn’t located in the baking aisle but in like the tortilla and jarred nopales aisle, you can substitute about cup of brown sugar plus a big spoonful of molasses for each 8oz cone. You also don’t have to use a sugar pumpkin, you could use acorn squash or another winter squash. Sweet potatoes. Ew, I just thought about someone using regular potatoes and kinda gagged. You can change up the spices, too – star anise, no allspice, more cloves, no orange juice or zest (add a little bonus water if no juice), etc. It’s your time to shine bright.
I wanted to put the syrup in that pitcher but couldn’t think of how to get it in without a real royalty of a mess. Okay, I’m gonna try writing in a somewhat olde tymey receipt style. This is an easy one to test it out on. Basically I give more details instructions instead of having the ingredients list be more instructive. We’ll see.
calabaza en tacha
2 cups of water
2 8 oz. cones of piloncillo
2 true cinnamon sticks
2 allspice berries
1 medium orange
1 sugar pumpkin or other similar sized winter squash would be fine
1. In a large pot, combine water, piloncillo, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice. Zest 1/2 of the orange into the pot and then squeeze its juice into the pot as well. Heat over medium low until the sugar is all dissolved, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, scrub the pumpkin and slice in half widthwise. Remove the seeds and strings (save the seeds for roasting!) and cut into 1 – 2″ chunks.
3. Arrange the pumpkin chunks in the pot. I saw lots of people agree on layering them with the first layer skin side up, then the second layer skin side down. Then I also saw the reverse. And also no mention of layering tactics. Whatever, I don’t think it really makes a difference because the sugar water is going to be bubbling all around anyway.
4. Cover the pot and let simmer for about an hour, until the pumpkin is very tender. Remove pumpkin and spices with a slotted spoon. You can discard the spices or do something fancy with them if you’re presenting this.
5. Turn the heat up to medium and boil the remaining sugar water until it’s reduced and nicely coats a spoon.
Drizzle the syrup over the pumpkin chunks. Done. Eat. Feel sick. Enjoy misappropriating a culture.