viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

Crystalized Pumpkin

Northern Mexico is probably best known for its beef, but there's obviously a lot more to our food than that. Roughly 30% of Sonora's surface is desert, which means traditional dishes are simple and calorie-dense. So this being November, Mexican Cuisine Pride Month, I decided to try and make one of the most traditional sonoran desserts: Crystalized Pumpkin.


Pumpkins last for months without much need for special attention, and chances are you'll find them dirt-cheap just about anywhere around this date. It's the perfect occasion to step the fuck away from the canned shit and prove to yourself you have a moderate measure of usefulness.

Start with a large pumpkin. A good way to tell if the pumpkin was vine-ripened is taking a good look at its overall shape and state of the stem. Vine-ripened pumpkins are somewhat flatter, since they're left on the ground longer. The skin is thick and irregular, but has no blemishes or scraped spots. The stems are thorougly dry and tough, much tougher than the skin, and the whole thing feels heavy for its size.

This is a 16lb pumpkin I got from my grandfather. Clean the surface and split it open using a meat cleaver and a hammer.





Scrape all the shit from inside and throw it away, then rinse the pumpkin and cut it up into manageable sections.
Peel it with a knife, then chop it to evenly sized chunks, about 2 cubic inches each. You need them to be uniform so they'll cook evenly. We're left with rougly 14 lbs of flesh.



This is calcium hydroxide, otherwise known as lime. Yeap, the same shit you'll find in construction sites. Don't be a fucking pussy, it's perfectly safe. We're soaking the pumpkin in a very alkaline solution before cooking, a process akin to the nixtamalization of corn.


SHELDON MOMENT ALERT!

Plant cell walls are soluble in alkaline solutions, which changes their structure. The cells take up massive ammounts of calcium, which increases the pumpkin's nutritional value. The alkaline solution denaturizes most of the protein found in the pumpkin and breaks up its sugars, essentially starting a chemical caramelization process. This means the pumkpin will change its consistency and resist the long-ass cooking time without disintegrating into a paste, which is good.

If you're too much of a pussy to use lime, you could use red limestone from South Asian markets and pay dearly in both time and money; or you could use baking powder and risk a bitter taste... ooooor you could just grow a pair, it's up to you.

Place the pumpkin chunks in a very large pot and fill with enough water to cover it, then add 1 Tbsp lime for every pound of fruit. Give it a good stir and let it soak for 24 hours. BE FUCKING CAREFUL, don't fuck around, don't breathe it in, try not to get too much on your skin. If you do, rinse it off with vinegar or you'll be nixtamalizing your skin off.





The next day, take it outside and rinse it thoroughly with clean tap water a few times to get rid of the excess lime. Wash the pot and fill it with 2 cups of water for every pound of fruit. Add 1 lb of piloncillo for every 2 lbs of fruit, the peel from a few oranges, some cinamon sticks and a fistful of cloves to make a thin syrup.



Once the sugar dissolves, add the pumpkin, lower the flame to medium and just fucking forget about it until the syrup is thick and sticky. This being 16 fucking pounds, it took me 8 hours to cook the damn thing.


 As with all crystalized fruits, you can take it out of the syrup, roll it un sugar and let it dry over night. We keep it in the syrup and store it in air-tight jars. It will last up to 6 months in your fridge.

Serve warm with some strong coffee, or pour it over vanilla ice cream. Be fucking awesome.

Printer-friendly version:
Cubierto de Calabaza (Crystalized Pumpkin)
Yields a fucking lot, adjust quantities following proportion

14lbs of cubed raw pumpkin
14 Tbsps lime
Water

7 lbs piloncillo
3 Oz cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup whole cloves
Peel from 4 oranges.

  1. Once you've dealt with the pain in the ass that is prepping the pumpkin, soak it in a solution of water and lime for 24 hours. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Make a syrup using 2 cups of water and 1/2lb of piloncillo for every lb of pumpkin. Add cinnamon, cloves and orange peel (entirely up to you) and boil.
  3. As soon as the syrup boils, turn the heat down to medium, add the pumpkin and cook until the syrup is reduced by half.
  4. Be fucking awesome, mexican grampa style.
 

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