The first week of November, we held a Pumpkin workshop. It is late in the season to expect anything to dry outside, but with harvest behind us, more time available, and a nice crop of native pumpkins, it was perfect. The practice of making tasajos I have only ever heard about. My father remembers the end product, but doesn't remember how it is done, but his big sister, my Tia Alcarita, who is ten years older, remembers the process. We asked her to facilitate the workshop, and learned the basics from her. She shared with us that the last time she can recall it being practiced, she was a little girl. I had asked many people about it, and told by so many how delicious the end product was, but of all these people that I spoke with, no one really remembered how it was done.
The morning began with firing the Horno, which had to burn at least two hours. The rules with firing the Horno, is that good wood needs to be used, as the flavor of the wood will permeate the food. Throughout the season, we have used cedar, pieces of brazos from the apple and plum trees that were cut when the trees were pruned early in the Spring. For the pumpkin workshop, we were down to jaras de manzana.
The pumpkins were wiped clean of any dirt, then cut in half so the seeds and fiber could be removed. When the horno was ready, the ashes were pushed to the back of the horno, and the pumpkins were placed inside. The pumpkins were left to cook for about 30 minutes. We then took them out and they were allowed to cool for a while. The pumpkins then needed to be peeled. The outer shell of the pumpkin is removed so that the pumpkin can dry quicker, and more thoroughly. The pumpkin then looks like a beautiful orange bowl.
This bowl is then placed on a fence post outside to dry for a few days. The bowls are then taken down, and the bowl is spiral cut, so it could be pulled into one long piece. After it completely dried, the pumpkin is stored in sacos de harina. These are flour sacks that are re-used for food storage.
It was late in the season, so we were not able to dry them this way. When the pumpkins cooled, we sliced them in 1" pieces, and put them in the dehydrator. They dried in about 12 hours, and my family has really enjoyed them. They're much like dried fruit, and they are delicious. Next year, we will start earlier in the season, and practice the method traditionally through the finished product.