An ayote relaxing on a bench, not even beginning to suspect what’s about to happen to it.
Good evening! It’s nearly Halloween, or it may even already be Halloween where you are, and you know what that means: you’re probably going to have a lot of pumpkin left over on November 1st! That’s why I decided to write this post, since an ayote is a gourd that’s pretty similar to a pumpkin. I understand that I probably should have written this post a week or two ago when people were carving pumpkins, but then again, it’s not like they’re actually going to eat the pumpkins they carved. So, here’s the deal: if you go to the supermarket on November 1st in the US or somewhere else that has pumpkins and they’re on sale, get one and try to make this recipe. Unlike other stuff like flor de itabo, you should probably be able to make this outside of Costa Rica.
I originally wrote about this on my personal blog about 5 years ago, and you can see that post here if you want. I used the same pictures since although I’ve enjoyed miel de ayote since then, I guess I’ve not taken any pictures of it in the meantime. Except this one:
This is my father-in-law holding an enormous ayote he and my mother-in-law grew at their house. So as you can see, the definition of an ayote is a bit fluid.
First, you need your ayote. Like I said, it’s pretty similar to a pumpkin, but it’s got thicker skin. It’s hard out there for an ayote, so you need to have thick skin if you want to survive. If you can’t get an ayote, just go for a pumpkin or a squash and you’ll probably be OK. You’ll also need tapa de dulce. I actually heard from my mom that this is sold in Colorado at some stores, but if you can’t find it, you can probably also just use brown sugar. And finally, you’ll need a pot and a stove. If you have a wood-burning stove you’ll add ambiance and you’ll be a true Costa Rican badass, but it’ll probably be OK if you just use a normal stove, too. From there, just follow the pictures and enjoy after an hour or so!
Wood-burning stove: optional, but only optional if you don’t mind doing it the wrong way.
Step 1: Use a machete (or a big knife…again, if you want to do it the wrong way) to hack your gourd into big chunks.
Step 2: Cut your tapa de dulce into chunks also (poser variation: use a bunch of brown sugar). Many thanks to our tapa de dulce model and my sister-in-law Toni, who cooked up this particular delicious ayote about 5 years ago and would probably be surprised to see these pictures again.
Step 3: Wash the ayote. If the tapa gets wet, no problem. Put ’em in a pot.
Step 4: Make sure the fire is going strong in your stove. If it doesn’t look at least a bit dangerous, add more kindling until it does.
Step 5: Add a cup of water or so. Or maybe a half cup. Either way, just probably keep an eye on it. I’d like to be able to give you more precise amounts, but Costa Ricans like to play it a bit fast and loose with kitchen measurements.
Step 6: After an hour or so, it should start looking like this: like a chunky gremlin stew. Just remember that it should be post-transformation gremlins. Remember the saying: “If it looks like a mogwai, it’s probably a raw guy. If it looks fed after midnight, it’ll probably taste alright.”
Step 7: Serve it up! You can eat it plain or with milk or cream. There will also be some syrupy stuff, which of course is where the recipe’s name comes from (“miel” means “honey” or “syrup” around here…did I forget to mention that?). Anyhow, you can also put some of that syrup on the ayote, and/or the syrup tastes awesome on ice cream. Enjoy!
What about you? If you’re Costa Rican, how did I do? Did I capture the allure of miel de ayote, without giving away too much about the secret to making it? And if you’re not in Costa Rica, have you ever tried it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Thanks for reading!