On Saturday, October 29, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum transformed into a DIY Day of the Dead market, giving guests a chance to prepare for the November 1st holiday. There were freshly made sugar skulls to ice and bedazzle, skull paper masks to cut out, and coloring books to adorn. Kids and adults alike showed off their creative skills and ensured that we'll never see a glitter-free day in the museum again (we know, we asked for it!).
Meanwhile, local artist Mario Padilla gave a short presentation on the many traditions of Day of the Dead in Mexico and other Latin American countries, from culinary treats like Pan de Muerto to the personal details that go into building an altar. After the lecture, we were treated to a wonderful Day of the Dead dance from Catalina Reyna, and then the cooking started!
Chef Melissa Araujo treated us to candied pumpkin and champurrado, or chocolate atole. The atole was a drink kind of like hot chocolate, but a little heartier. Then, she started on the pumpkin tamales--a nod to our pumpkin obsessed fall flavors--with a chipotle and black bean filling. Tamales are a very hands-on affair, so we recruited a few willing volunteers to help us make a few.
Finally, to cap the day off, we welcomed bartender extraordinaire Mark Schettler, who led our adult attendees through an in-depth history of tequila and branding. We had a chance to try three different kinds of tequila while learning, which always makes a bit of history go down easier. With that, we wrapped up the day. Everyone grabbed one last scoop of guacamole, collected their various arts and crafts projects, and headed out the door to put the final touches on their altars.
Thanks so much to our partners for putting in the hard work and crafting knowledge to make this happen: Jack Carrell from Ochsner Health System, Eat Fit NOLA, the Mexican Consulate, Swerve Sweetener, and TopBox. And of course, a huge thank you to our sponsor, Domino Foods, Inc. for allowing us to make the event free for Louisiana residents!
Calabaza en Tacha (Candied Pumpkin)
- 5 lbs. whole pumpkin
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- zest of one orange
- juice of one orange
- 2 lbs. piloncillo (you can substitute brown, pure cane sugar if necessary)
- 4 cups of water
Cut the stem off of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy parts. Don't forget to save the seeds to make Pepitas! Leave the skin on and cut each piece in half lengthwise again and again until you have 8-10 long pieces of pumpkin. You can cook the long strips or cut it into to 2-inch pieces. Place the pieces into a large saucepan and bring the piloncillo, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon sticks and water to a boil. Carefully add in the pumpkin pieces and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for approximately 2 hours or until pumpkin is fork tender and the rest of the ingredients have reduced to a thick glaze. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving.
Champurrado (Chocolate Atole)
- 3 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 anise star
- 1/4 cup masa harina
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 disk Mexican chocolate, chopped (abuelita or Ibarra chocolate)
- 3 oz piloncillo, or 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
In a large saucepan boil water with the two cinnamon sticks and anise star. Remove from the heat, cover and let the cinnamon sticks and anise star steep for about 1 hour. Remove the cinnamon sticks and anise star, return to low heat and slowly add the masa harina to the warm water, whisking until combined.
Add milk, chocolate, and sugar. Heat over medium heat just until boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted and sugar is dissolved, whisking occasionally. Serve immediately.
Oaxacan Pumpkin Tamales
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons anise
- 1 can (15 ounces) chipotle in adobo sauce
- 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained – No salt added variety
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons lard
- 1 pound banana leaves or corn husks
- 2 cups Maseca corn flour
- 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups warm chicken stock
- 1/2 pound lard
- 2 cups pureed cooked or canned pumpkin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
Prepare the bean filling by adding the water and anise to a small pan and boiling until the infusion is reduced by half. Strain and reserve. Puree the beans, chiles, garlic, and anise infusion in a blender or food processor. Melt 2 tablespoons lard in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. When it’s hot, add the bean puree and reduce to medium heat and allow it to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is evaporated. Season to taste with salt and let it cool to room temperature. To assemble the tamales, unfold the banana leaves or corn husks and wipe them clean with a damp cloth. Pat dry.
Trim leaves into 12 to 14 rectangles using kitchen shears – 14 by 11 inches each – while saving some of the longer trimmings for ties. Mix the Maseca corn flour with enough of the warm chicken stock to make a mixture that’s soft, but not sticky. Beat ½ pound lard in a separate bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the Maseca mixture and pumpkin puree to the lard in a couple batches, beating on medium speed and scraping the bowl as needed, until incorporated and light as butter cream.
Beat in cinnamon, sugar, and salt to taste. Place one or two leaf or husk rectangles on the counter and place 2/3 to 1 cup of Maseca mixture in the center and spread with a spatula into a 1/2-inch-thick oval. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the bean filling in the center of the oval and fold the left and right edges toward the center so they overlap slightly. Do the same with the top and bottom edges. Once you’ve made neat, flat packages tied with the leftover trimming strings, steam the tamales for 45 to 50 minutes.