Pumpkins from Mexico

Posted on 3 min read

The word ‘pumpkin’ is derived from the Ancient Greek word ‘pepon’ which means ‘melon’. This is actually the reason why today different species of winter and summer squashes have the scientific name Cucurbita pepo. But despite the European name, the roots of the fruit are far away from Europe, on the other side of the Atlantic. The oldest remains dated between 7000 and 5500 BC were found in Mexico. We can assume that modern people living there know a thing or two about cooking pumpkins.

And really, today we can find many recipes from that country. Some are quite common, like notorious braised pumpkin and soup, others have a local extravagant (from our perspective of course) touch to them, like calabaza en tacha or candied pumpkin. This is a special type of dessert that usually takes its rightful place on the table during Dia de Muertos. This is a very special holiday when people remember loved ones who are no longer here. But, as it is often the case, the most mournful occasions are sugared with the sweetest dishes, as a reminder that life goes on. 

The idea behind it

We are not going to share the authentic recipe, instead we’d like to share the idea behind this dish. You’ll need 1 kg of pumpkin slices (without seeds), 130 gr of brown sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, 3 whole allspice, 1 star anise, 1 pinch of ground cardamom, peel from one orange, 1 Tbsp of molasses, and a pinch of salt. Place everything in a pot and cover with 2 ½ cups of water. Simmer until the pumpkin is tender then gently remove it and allow to cool in a separate plate.

Continue simmering the remaining liquid until it reaches a thick syrupy consistency. Strain it to get rid of all the spices and reserve. When ready to indulge, warm a little a couple of pieces of pumpkin, pour the syrup and condensed milk over it. You may also want to serve it with vanilla ice cream if desired. And surely you do. 

Kiveve

Another recipe that starts like the candied pumpkin but takes it further down the simmering process is called kiveve. This is a Paraguayan specialty, a sweet creamy pumpkin dish that is something between a soup and a puree in consistency.

Basically all you need to do is to cut and peel 1 kg of pumpkin, put it in 3 cups of water with 2 Tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of salt and simmer until very tender. To that, add 50 gr of butter and 1 cup of milk. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a pot, then add the main ingredient – the maize flour or fine cornmeal. You’ll need 1-1.5 cups of it.

Add in batches, stir continuously to prevent lumping while holding the mixture on a low heat. You want the kiveve to thicken like a porridge. When this part is done, add 100 gr / 3.5 oz of fresh cheese right in the pot, mix everything well and serve hot. But cold is also a nice variant. Especially on a hot day, cool kiveve is considered a dessert. But only you decide after all. 

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