Pueblo Pumpkin Candy

This is an old Pueblo treat. Traditionally the strips of pumpkin are soaked in a bath of water and wood ashes to soften. Today many Indian cooks substitute baking soda for the ashes. If you prefer a less sweet candy, add the lemon juice and thin strips of lemon zest to the sugar syrup with cilantro. If you have a sweet tooth, roll the dried candy in coarse sugar.


  • 1 (2- to 3-pound) pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. Peel and seed pumpkin and cut it into 2 x 4-inch strips. Stir baking soda into enough water to cover strips. Add pumpkin strips and let stand 12 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse pumpkin in running water. Drop strips into a pot of boiling water and cook until tender but not soft. Remove pumpkin strips, crisp in ice cold water, and drain.
  3. Combine sugar with 1/2 cup water, lemon juice and zest, and cilantro in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, then boil slowly without stirring for 10 minutes. Add pumpkin strips, cover the pot, and simmer for about 20 minutes until syrup is thick and strips are brittle. Spread candy out on a rack or on a wax paper-covered tray to dry for at least 10 hours.
  4. Roll in additional sugar if desired and store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 1 pound