Doce de abóbora em pedaços or “sweet pumpkin in pieces” is a common roadside snack that you might see while travelling in São Paulo state on the way to Minas Gerais in Brazil. There’s another version that uses green papaya instead of pumpkin. The secret ingredient is this chemical called cal virgem. We bought some of this whitish powder, anxious that the border patrol would find it in our luggage and think that we were importing cocaine or something naughty. Nobody in Brazil seemed to know exactly what “cal virgem” really is. Thank god for the Internet! Turns out that it’s just calcium oxide, also known as lime: so not nearly as nefarious as we had feared.
What makes this sweet interesting is the firm almost crunchy exterior with the soft creamy interior. It takes a while but it’s actually easy to make so long as you have the cal virgem. I ended up with quite a lot of the stuff so we’re still snacking on it after more than a week. I think that if you have attractive jars, that this would make a lovely gift.
Doce de Abóbora em Pedaços
1 lbs. winter squash (I used butternut)
1 tbsp. cal virgem
4 cups sugar
2 liters and 2 cups water
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Peel squash. Remove seeds, inner stringy parts and woody parts. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Mix cal virgem in 2 liters water. Add squash and allow to sit for two hours.
Drain water and thoroughly rinse squash. Using a fork, poke each piece of squash once to allow liquid to enter.
In a large pot, add sugar, 2 cups water, cloves and cinnamon. Cook on high until sugar melts into liquid. Add squash, bring to a boil then simmer until ready, about 20 to 30 minutes. Refrain from stirring the squash to prevent damaging it. It’s ready when a fork passes through easily.
Let cool and enjoy. This makes a great dessert, snack or breakfast food.