Mexican Food Lovers

Discussions of Mexican dishes, ingredients and recipes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mexican Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead is celebrated each year on November 2nd.

For those of us used to the celebration of Halloween complete with funny ghosts and ghouls, the Day of the Dead may sound rather macabre. In fact, unlike Halloween when we all set out to scare one another with morbid decorations and scary masks, the Mexican Day of the Dead is a much more spiritual, emotional and festive occasion. Indigenous people believed in the cycle of life/death/rebirth and so view death as a part of the cycle of life.

The Mexican tradition is that, on November 2nd, the Day of the Dead, loved ones lost to death return to their homes and families for a single day. Often, a great feast, the Fiesta de Muertos, is prepared and shared with friends and family.

Families may attend the cemetery and the graves of loves ones past and this is where the fiesta will take place. Sumptuous traditional foods are prepared and festivities are held at the graves sides with the spirits or souls of dead loved ones all around.

Traditionally, the fiesta will consist of spicy meat dishes, sweet desserts and the bread of the dead, "pan de muertos", which is a special egg batter bread.

Here's a simple recipe for a traditional sweet dish for the Fiesta de Muertos.

Calabaza en Tacha - Candied Pumpkin

1 small pumpkin (about 5 lbs)
6 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of orange juice
4 cups water
5 cups dark brown sugar

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks (about 2 inches square). No need to peel it but you can if you like.

Remove the seeds and strings from the pumpkin cubes. With a sharp knife make diamond designs over the pulp of the pumpkin to allow the sugar syrup to penetrate.

Put the sugar in a pan with the cinnamon sticks, orange juice, and water. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Place the first layer of pumpkin pieces in the pan with the sugar syrup, pulp side down so they absorb as much juice as possible. The second layer should be with the pulp turned upwards.

Cover and simmer until the tops of the pumpkin pieces look somewhat glazed, and the pumpkin is soft and golden brown.

Let cool at least 2 hours.


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