We already discussed what to do with the tiny little leftover Halloween pumpkins… but what to do with the big ones? That is, those that aren’t carved…? Here’s an idea for a dessert that I GUARANTEE will become a favorite!

The best (most fun) part of the recipe is that you get to smash the pumpkin. That’s right: go outside, stand on a chair or table, and just smash to your heart’s content! Then, it’s a relatively simple recipe; you just take the pumpkin chunks and cook them down in piloncillo (unrefined sugar cones, available online or at your Mexican market!) with cinnamon. Some people like adding orange peel or cloves… I just like simple cinnamon and piloncillo.

As for the traditional accompaniment, evaporated milk is the usual counterpoint to this very sweet dish, but I really, really like it with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream! It’s more about different temperatures… make sure the pumpkin is piping hot so the ice cream melts into that cinnamon-piloncillo syrup… HEAVEN!

Pumpkins in Piloncillo (Calabaza en Tacha)

(8 to 10 servings)

  • 1 medium-sized pumpkin (like those leftover from Halloween, white or orange)
  • 3 piloncillo cones
  • 3 4-inch long cinnamon sticks
  • Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream for serving

Go outside and smash the pumpkin into the ground. Enjoy the process. Once it cracks, go ahead and use a knife to cut it into large (5-inch) chunks. Rinse and pat completely dry. If you were able to save some of the seeds, save them for another use; alternately, rinse, dry, and toast in a dry pan as a crunchy garnish.

Stir 8 cups water, piloncillo and cinnamon sticks in a very large pot (tamale pot is perfect for this!) over high heat until piloncillo falls apart and dissolves. Add pumpkin pieces and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer until pumpkin pieces are very tender and a deep brown color, about 2 hours, turning the pumpkins occasionally so all pieces have a chance to cook in the bottom of the pan (and so the pumpkin skin also caramelizes). Using slotted spoon, transfer pumpkin pieces to a large serving bowl. Boil juices in pot until thickened; then, strain into bowl. Pour pot juices over pumpkin pieces and serve drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.