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Calabaza (Pumpkin Pudding), 1965

October 15, 2010

Jan Aaron and Georgine Sachs Salom. The Art of Mexican Cooking. Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965.

The Art of Mexican Cooking is one of the many English language books in the Mexican Cookbook Collection. The authors expressed love for Mexican cooking and a desire to show Americans that it is not just tortillas and chili peppers, but “one of the most varied and exotic cuisines in the world.”

RECIPE (Pp. 237, 238)

Calabaza (Pumpkin Pudding)
Serves 8-10

The Mexicans really have the Cinderella touch when it comes to pumpkin. In this case, of course, the lowly vegetable is transformed into a delightful dessert.




  • 5-6 pound pumpkin
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 oranges, unpeeled and sliced thin
  • 3 cups dark molasses (or you can use brown sugar: 1 1/2 pounds, firmly packed, to every 2 pounds pumpkin)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 whole apples, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)


Cut pumpkin into chunks and remove seeds but leave the skin intact. Put the pumpkin pieces into a heavy pot with water to cover; add the cinnamon, orange slices, molasses, coriander, and cloves. Simmer, covered over a very low flame until almost tender. Add the apples and raisins and cook until apples are quite done but not too mushy. More water and molasses may be added during cooking, if necessary. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves while pudding cools to keep it from getting too “hot.” Cut apples into pieces when the dish is served. The dish is served cold with milk or cream in deep soup bowls.


1. Drill a hole in the pumpkin and pour into it as much rum or brandy as it will hold. Let it stand overnight. Cook the liquor-flavored pumpkin as in the previous recipe, using the liquor in place of the water. Some of the liquor will be absorbed as the pumpkin stands overnight, so you may have to add some water to cover, as in the preceding recipe.

2. Put pumpkin chunks in deep heavy kettle. Pack 4 cups of brown sugar solidly around it; cut up 3 oranges and put unpeeled orange slices here and there. In a little cheesecloth bag, put 1 cinnamon stick, 12 whole cloves, 1 teaspoon anise seeds, and 1 teaspoon coriander. Tie and place in the center of the kettle. Add 6 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of rum. Cover tightly and cook over very low flame until pumpkin is tender and glazed. Remove pumpkin and keep warm. Cook syrup over low flame until very heavy and poor over pumpkin. Serve warm or cold.

In honor of the season, I chose a pumpkin recipe for this week’s post. Like other vintage recipes we’ve tried, it does not give the kind of detailed instructions modern novice cooks are used to. Now that I’ve tried it, I think the idea is to simmer large, single-serving sized pieces of pumpkin in the molasses syrup until soft, and serve with apple pieces and cream. Then you could eat the pumpkin out of the skin with a spoon. Had I done that, I think the result would have been an unusual and pleasant dessert.

Without a description or cooking time, I cut the pumpkin into much smaller pieces and cooked it far too long (about 1 hour), expecting that it would eventually resemble a pudding. The pumpkin became pulpy, and you had to eat it from the syrup while trying to avoid chunks of pumpkin skin. Couple that with a powerful molasses flavor and some bitterness from the over-cooked orange rind and it was almost inedible. The worst part was that it smelled FANTASTIC. The combination of the pumpkin, fruit, spices and molasses should have worked, had it been executed better.

Unable to accept defeat, I drained off the remaining syrup, removed the skins, pulped the apple and pumpkin and made it into a pie. The result was unusual, but good.

If some adventurous chef would like to give it another try or attempt one of the “variations,” we’d love to hear about the results!

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