I’ve noticed lately that a lot of Hispanic traditions and celebrations are going mainstream. Such is the case for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The National Honey Board has even recreated traditional Dia de los Muertos recipes made with honey, a customary ingredient that according to legend, gives a unique sweetness to the journey from life on earth to life after death.
Día de los Muertos, celebrated on November 1 and 2, is originally an Azteca custom honoring their dead during the ninth month of the Solar Calendar. Although the original festivities have changed through time, their essence is intact. And, even though the authentic human skulls have been replaced by candy imitations, these representations along with paintings, costumes and art forms symbolize death as the birth of a new life.
This year, Dia de los Muertos falls on a Sunday; a great opportunity to extend celebrations with family and friends at the end of the weekend and enjoy delicious dishes made with honey.
Calabaza en Tacha (candied pumpkin)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 cups pure honey
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
3 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves of allspice
2 quarts of water (8 cups)
1 medium pumpkin, seeded and cut into large pieces (8 to 10 pieces)
In a medium stockpot combine brown sugar, molasses, pure honey, orange zest, juice of one orange, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and water. Bring to a boil.
Add pumpkin pieces to stockpot and simmer for approximately one hour until sauce has reduced by almost half and has become a thick syrup. The pumpkin should be fork tender, but not falling apart. Allow to cool and serve.
Atole (traditional Hispanic hot drink)
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup masa flour*
4 1/2 cups warm milk, divided
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup pure honey
Dissolve masa flour with 1/2 cup hot milk until smooth.
Pour remaining hot milk into a saucepan, add masa flour mixture, cinnamon stick, vanilla extract and honey. Stir constantly over medium heat until fully combined and mixture has thickened. Serve warm in mugs.
*Masa flour is available in large grocery stores or Hispanic grocery stores.
Makes 50 small skulls!
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. pure honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups granulated sugar
Combine egg whites, honey and vanilla extract; mix well. Pour honey mixture over sugar. With your hands, thoroughly combine sugar and honey until you have a consistency similar to wet sand. (Mixture should form a ball when squeezed in your hand.)
Tightly pack the sugar mix into the skull molds and wipe off excess. Invert onto a flat surface and allow to dry for 24 hours.
Decorate skulls using royal icing*, sequins and/or edible paint.
*Royal Icing: 1 egg white for every 3 cups of powdered sugar. Add food coloring of your choice. Mix ingredients until completely blended.
Honey-Drizzled Buñuelos (fried tortillas)
Makes 12 to 15
3 cups vegetable oil
1 package (8 to 10) fresh, unbaked flour tortillas
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
pure honey, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry unbaked tortillas in hot oil until golden brown and place over paper towel to drain excess oil.
Mix cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle over fried buñuelos. Drizzle honey over buñuelos to taste and serve.
Photo and Recipes courtesy the National Honey Board.