January 8, 2013
My recipe for Zapallo en Almíbar is evolving! I think that’s how it starts with all family recipes that get passed down. Everyone makes their adaptations until it tastes just right for them, and then they write it in a tattered notebook where their prized family recipes are held. (Does your family have one of those?) I love those notebooks, so full of history and written in a way only the cook can understand.
In my last (and first) attempt, of making candied squash, I made it without cal viva, the hard-to-find quick lime used to soak the squash before cooking. It’s what gives it the crunchy outside texture (while the inside remains smooth and creamy) that makes this treat so unique. On a recent trip to a large Latin supermarket, I found some cal! I had to try again, this time with cal viva. The difference is the texture, thought the flavor is nearly identical; it’s just as delicious either way. If you find some, give making it with cal a try, too.
I’m still not convinced I’ve prefected my recipe for Zapallo en Almíbar. When we head to Argentina in March I’m going to beg Hilda (from the last post) for her recipe–it was perfectly crisp outside, and had a tangier flavor and darker color than this version. The last photo here is of the cal and another product I found at my usual supermarket that claims to be for giving the crunch needed in pickling without the mess of cal. I haven’t tried it yet, but I love experimenting and comparing the results.
The main issue with cal viva (aka quick lime, it’s used in construction) is that it can be caustic if it touches your eyes or skin. It heats the water to a scalding almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, as recommended by many, it would be irresponsible if I didn’t suggest using glasses or goggles and rubber gloves when in the cal part of the recipe. No burned eyeballs or skin allowed in the kitchen!
How does it compare? I’d love to get your thoughts–and how do you do things a bit differently?
Zapallo en Almíbar–Candied Squash
About 2 lbs. butternut (or other hard winter) squash (1 large)
2 lbs. sugar (same quantity per weight as the peeled and cubed squash)
50 grams Cal Viva (1/4 cup)
2 liters (8 cups) water