Around the world there are many squashes and only one of them is the pumpkin. Known mostly because of Halloween, nevertheless the pumpkin has other uses in Cuzco, including making a traditional dessert.
The pumpkin belongs to the family of the cucurbitaceas, which come in many sizes and colors at the same time they grow in different climates and soils. In Peru, a number of varieties of squash grow, such as our famous zapallo (like a hubbard squash), and the pumpkin.
Though the pumpkin has various names, we call it calabaza. It like other squashes has a whole variety of uses. Besides being cut up for Halloween, pumpkin finds its way into cooking where it is used to make soups, main dishes, deserts and even beverages.
Pumpkin has a lot of nutritional and medicinal properties such as the following. They are considered digestible laxatives that stimulate good intestinal functioning. They also have good calories and proteins but with no cholesterol.
You can store pumpkins for up to a year, because of their hard outer shell. They are generally harvested for market when they are still green. But you can leave them in the fields to ripen thoroughly, as is often done in our countryside. They leave them until they have completely finished gathering the corn and other crops.
When it is time to burn the fields to consume all the weeds and left over vegetation as part of preparing the land for the next season’s planting, farmers will often still have some pumpkins in the field and they flame them along with the fields. In this way the ripe inside cooks. Then all you have to do is make a hole in the outer shell and some sugar, if you wish. The pumpkin pulp is soft and delicious. In this traditional way alone it make a wonderful dessert.
Or if you wish something less rustic, you can prepare what we call dulce de calabaza or pumpkin dessert.
Dulce de Calabaza
– 1 ripe pumpkin that weighs about 2 kilos
– One cone of chancaca
– ½ cup sugar
– 1 liter water
– 50 grams raisins
– Cinnamon sticks and cloves as you wish
– Powdered cinnamon as you wish
- Make a fire to cook your pumpkin or do so in the oven for some 10 minutes.
- Remove the almost cooked pulp to a bowl.
- Bring to a boil 1 liter of water with your cinnamon sticks and cloves, piece of chancaca, and sugar.
- One boiling, you add the pumpkin pulp along with the raisins. Diminish the flame and stir constantly until the mixture thickens.
- Then you serve it up and enjoy this delicious dessert. You can also sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon if you wish.
Translator’s note: Chancaca is a ball of molasses sugar. You can substitute Mexican piloncillo, a raw sugar, or dark brown sugar for it if you wish.