Food Culture of the South
Makes 1½ quarts of candied squash
¼ cup lime powder*
2 quarts cleaned African squash** or butternut squash, cut into medium chunks and pricked with a fork
4 piloncillo cones*** (or 8 cups demerara sugar)
This nixtamalized squash candy is a nod to chef Maricela Vega’s mother, who grew up on the stuff. “It’s one of her all-time favorites,” she says. It takes about a day and a half to make, but don’t be intimidated: The majority of the recipe is hands-off.
- In a large bowl, combine lime powder with 3 quarts water and stir to dissolve. Soak squash in lime solution for 24 hours.
- The next day, rinse squash under running water for a few minutes to wash off the lime solution. Transfer squash to a large pot and cover with water (about 3 quarts), add sugar, and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours, checking for doneness after 8 hours. The slow cooking will help prevent the squash from burning; be careful checking for doneness, as the crystalizing sugars will make it extremely hot. Serve over atole de arroz.
*Lime powder, also called cal, quicklime, and slack lime, is widely used in Latin cooking. When mixed with water, the alkaline solution removes the cellulose hull of corn kernels in the production of masa.
**African squash is a variety unique to Georgia. It’s been grown in the state ever since one of the founders of farmer-owned cooperative Georgia Grown brought seeds back from Zaire, where he was stationed with the Peace Corps. The drought-resistant plant took well to the local climate, and produces a squash with high sugar content that grows in many shapes and sizes.
***Find these at a Mexican market.
- Recipe by Maricela Vega of Chicomecóatl, Atlanta