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Papaya in Syrup (Dulce de Lechosa — Puerto Rico)

This is wonderful served atop slices of cream cheese or over vanilla or coconut ice cream.

1/4 cup baking powder
2 pounds ripe papaya, peeled, seeded
    and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
Cream cheese, vanilla ice cream or
    coconut ice cream (optional)

Dissolve baking powder in 1 1/2 quarts water in a large non-reactive bowl. Add papaya and soak it for 5 minutes. Drain the fruit and rinse it well under cold running water. Cook the papaya with the sugar in a large pot, covered, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Do not add water. The papaya will cook in its own juice. Reduce the heat to very low, add the vanilla extract and cinnamon stick, and simmer the papaya, uncovered, until the juice thickens into a thin syrup, about 30 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the papaya to cool. Serve it warm or chilled, plain or as a garnish. Store any leftover papaya in syrup in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

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