Costa Rican Food: Miel de Ayote

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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. So as you can see, the definition of an ayote is a bit fluid.

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!

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Wood-burning stove: optional, but only optional if you don’t mind doing it the wrong way.

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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.

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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.

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Step 3: Wash the ayote. If the tapa gets wet, no problem. Put ’em in a pot.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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Sitzman

Just One Monkey On One Of Infinite Typewriters at Costa Rica Outsider
Hello, and welcome to Costa Rica Outsider! My name is Ryan Sitzman. and I'm the proverbial "man behind the curtain" for this site. I hope you like it, and I'd love to hear any comments or feedback you may have. I also have a language learning blog at sitzmanabc.com, or you can check out my personal site at sitzblog.com. Thanks for stopping by!

4 thoughts on “Costa Rican Food: Miel de Ayote

  1. Interesting that you both cook and serve it skin-on. I guess that shows just how much harder an ayote’s rind is than a pumpkin’s! You can definitely eat the same pumpkin you carve (we do), you just have to be patient about the carving. If you’re going to cook your Jack while it’s still mold-free, it can’t be carved more than a day before Halloween. And of course you also have to figure out how to keep bugs out once it’s cut. I keep our Jacks in the oven (turned off) after they’re carved but before they’re lit. And I never put a carved Jack outside or mean kids smash them. We open the blinds and let them glow through a window after dark, safely inside.

    OK, I guess I cede that point. Maybe eating a Jack pumpkin is a little more work than cooking a separate one.

    Funny thing about pumpkins. We had three really small Jacks this year–so small that we had to just draw the faces with a Sharpie instead of carving them. I didn’t have a knife small enough! But once they were cooked, we still had enough pulp for 10 pies plus a little extra–the same as I got from three really big pumpkins last year. The amount of seeds was about the same, too. All that extra size is empty space inside! So I’m wondering, is ayote hollow inside like a pumpkin, or does the flesh fill the whole inside like a zucchini-type squash does? Do you get more sugary goodness from a big one than a small one?

    • Hey Annie!

      Thanks for your comment and the question. I think generally ayotes are probably pretty close to pumpkins, in that if they’re bigger, they also have more air. I don’t have too much experience with them, actually, although I did buy a halved one recently for my baby. It had about the same amount of flesh as in the pictures, but then some space inside.

      How do you actually get the pulp for pies from pumpkins? Is there a good technique, or is it better or easier to just buy canned pumpkin? I really love pumpkin pie, but it’s a bit pricey, especially here in Costa Rica, to buy canned pumpkin.

      Thanks again!
      Ryan

      • Hey!

        There are several ways to cook them. I’ve used a slow cooker in the past, but that takes more steps (peeling it first is a real pain) and produces more liquid to drain off (which makes an excellent soup base, by the way. Alas, it’s a lot more work if you’re just after pie). Same with cooking them in a stock pot on the stove.

        So the past couple years, I just whack the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds, and bake the halves cut-side down on a cookie sheet with a little water in it. 375 or 400 degrees–technically roasting I guess. It takes about an hour and a half to finish. You know it’s done when you can flip the half over and scoop the flesh out of the rind with the lightest pressure on your spoon.

        Once you have all the flesh out of the rind, you can mash it smooth with a hand mixer, but since my mixer broke I’ve found a few lashes with a fork will do the job just as well. One pumpkin will give you enough pulp for 2-4 pies or batches of bread. It freezes perfectly, so you don’t have to worry about canning. I freeze my pulp in quart-size zipper bags, 2 cups per bag (same as a store-bought can of it here), and have “fresh” pumpkin all year.

        If you have odd extra spoonfuls after all the 2-cup measures, leftover pumpkin is really good in pancakes, too, or you can bake a half-batch of the pie recipe, without the crust, and eat it like custard.

        I’m looking at that final ayote picture again. *drool* *gurgle* Gonna have to look for one of those!

        • Hi Annie,

          Thanks again for the comment and the clarification/explanation! I took a note of your instructions and I’ll have to try it out. It actually sounds easier than I thought it would be, and a pumpkin pie would be worth the effort!

          Ryan

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