Last week my dad bought a papaya, one of his favorite fruits, to either eat alone or make a papaya salad. But it was in one of those in-between phases, not green enough to make a salad and not ripe enough to eat alone. (It’s kind of like an avocado in that way. Annoying unless you have some kind of fruit ripening sixth sense 😉 ) My Grandma Maria told us about how growing up her mom would make Dulce de Lechoza, or candied papaya, with cinnamon and vanilla and how amazing it was. She said it was one of her traditions back in the day to make it around Christmas-time but that she hadn’t made it in a really long time. Gram thought it would be nice to make it again using the in-between papaya, so we looked up a couple recipes to confirm the proper ingredients (half were in Spanish and unfortunately I don’t speak it, so that was pretty interesting *wink*) and gave it a go!Making this with my Gram was so much fun. And that’s one of my all-time favorite things about creating dishes and desserts. Food transcends all barriers and makes people connect. Sitting there with my grandma, talking about the good ol’ days when her mother made it for her or when she made it for my Gramps made me so thankful for the people in my life and the fact that this delicious candied papaya could bring back such good memories. 🙂
Now, I’ve never ever liked papaya in my life. But this, this was different. It was unbelievably good. Soft, yet firm pieces of fruit steeped with the warm flavors of vanilla and spice. It reminded me of caramelized pears. Topped with some Breyer’s vanilla ice cream and I was in heaven. Literally one of my new favorite fruit desserts. Who would’ve thought? Thanks to my grandma for my very first good papaya experience and for teaching me how to make it! 🙂 Recipe is below, hope you enjoy! Adapted from La Cocina de Sandra.
Dulce de Lechoza (Candied Papaya)
- 1 papaya shouldn’t be too ripe
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 5-6 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cloves
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Cut papaya into large slices. Place in bowl or wide pan with 1-1/2 quarts of water and the baking soda. Let soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain water and rinse papaya very well. (The baking soda allows the papaya to stay together during cooking process, but you definitely don’t want to taste it!)
- Place papaya and sugar in a medium-high heated saucepan. Gently mix with spatula. Add cinnamon sticks, then cloves and vanilla. Add the cinnamon powder last. The papaya will create it’s own juices and incorporate the ingredients.
- Lower heat and cover; cook for about 20 minutes, or until papaya is soft and golden. Do NOT mix while this is cooking. Allow to cool, and serve with vanilla ice cream!