Last week my sisters asked me about a pumpkin dish our mother used to make. They recalled her making it this time of year when pumpkins are in season, even though they didn’t actually like or eat it. I smiled because once again I was reminded how much food plays a role in the memory of our mother. And how awesome is it my sisters look to me for her recipes?
The dish they were talking about it ayote en miel, or pumpkin in honey. is a sweet pumpkin dish cooked in a syrup and is served warm. Depending on the country, pumpkins are called ayotes or calabazas so this dish is also referred to as calabazas en miel. It is perfect to enjoy for halloween or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations.
I decided to make this recipe last minute and this presented me with a problem. One of the ingredients in this recipe is panela which is a round, solid that is made of cane sugar. Sugarcane is an El Salvador crop so panela is easily found there but in Winnipeg, not so much. I’m sure I could have found it at one of the local specialty food shops but I decided to make do with what I had at home and came up with an Canadian alternative.
At first I debated using agave syrup, but since it is a little less sweet, I opted for a combination of brown sugar and local honey instead. Taking a traditional latin recipe and putting my own local and/or North American twist is what I do best.
The Canadian prairies are a large producer of honey which is recognized for its quality around the world. According to Bee Maid Honey, “the sunny and long summers in western Canada provide the clover, alfalfa and canola crops for bees to forage and produce the mild, white Canadian honey prized for its taste.” My father-in-law farms near Dauphin and his canola fields provide the ideal habitat for bees to polinate. Canola flowers produce nectar with a light colour and mild flavour that we, as consumers enjoy. Pollination also benefits the crops (learn more about this mutually beneficial relationship at Bees Matter). In return for allowing the beekeeper’s bees to pollinate in his fields, my father-in-law receives some of the delicious honey in return and since he is so generous he shares with us, leaving me with plenty of honey to enjoy.
So back to the ayote recipe. I decided on a combination of brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla to substitute for the panela.
My other North American twist to this very traditional Latin American recipe is the use of the slow cooker. That is an appliance unheard of in most Latin American homes, but its convenience makes it the perfect addition to this recipe.
Bonus: the aroma of the cloves and cinnamon will make your house smell delicious all day!
Chop pumpkin (leave the skin on) into two inch pieces. My mom used to cut them up into funky shapes so I did the same.
Add to slow cooker with water, brown sugar, vanilla, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
Cook on low for five hours, or until tender.
Ayote en Miel
- One small pumpkin (2-3 lbs), washed on the outside, chopped (with skin on) on into 2 inch pieces (see note below)
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- Combine water, brown sugar and honey in slow cooker. Mix to combine.
- Add the vanilla, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
- Add the pieces of pumpkin so that water covers most of the pieces.
- Cook on low for 5 hours or until tender.
- Remove the cloves and cinnamon sticks and enjoy while hot!
Note: This recipe is made with the skin on the pumpkin. Therefore, it is a good idea to wash the pumpkin on the outside before chopping it up. Wash as you could any other fruit or vegetable and dry before chopping up.