It all began with a trip to the grocery store, which is one of our required stops when in a new location. Museums are nice, walking tours are great, but if you really want to get to know a new area and its people, shop at a local grocers. Here in south Texas we’ve been able to try so many different foods, pickled cactus, guava, blood oranges, chorizo, pan dulce, and mountains, I mean MOUNTAINS of tortillas! We can usually identify most of what we find in the stores, but when I saw this
I was stumped. I could read on the label that it was cane sugar from Mexico, but I’d never seen sugar packaged this way and wondered why there was a huge seasonal display of piloncillo.
Fortunately our job brings us into contact with many Mexicans so I cornered Cristobal, one of the truck drivers, and asked him to tell me about piloncillo, what is it, how do I pronounce it, and why is it in a seasonal display? He was very eager to share this information with me (and very patiently coached me on the pronunciation). Piloncillo is unrefined cane sugar from Mexico. Whereas bagged brown sugar is mostly refined white sugar with molasses added for taste and color, piloncillo is raw, unprocessed sugar. It has a dark, rich taste and can be used in place of regular sugar. It is formed into hard cones and requires a bit of work to grate or shave it into granules. It is available year-round, but this time of year, it is used in capirotada, a special dish served during the Lenten season. That explains the seasonal display!
I was able to find several recipes for capirotada or Mexican bread pudding on the internet. No, let me rephrase that. I found an abundant multitude of recipes for capirotada on the internet! Much like goulash or fried rice or chili, each family has their own unique recipe for capirotada. But no matter what the slight differences may be, each ingredient in capirotada is symbolic of the life and crucifixion of Christ.
Capirotada begins with bread. Christ Himself said, “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me will never hunger.” (John 6:35)
And on that sorrowful crucifixion day, Christ’s body was broken for us. “This is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)
Piloncillo, representing the sweetness of God’s words (Psalm 19:10),
is combined with water, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:14),
cinnamon sticks, symbolic of the cross which bore the body of Christ (Luke 23:33),
and cloves, representing the nails driven through the hands and feet of our Lord (John 20:27).
These ingredients form a syrup symbolic of the shed blood of Christ. (John 19:34)
Raisins, which remind us of Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2) are added.
And cheese covers the mixture, symbolizing the shroud or napkin which covered the face of Jesus in the tomb (John 20:7).
And the finished product, capirotada!
Delicious, sweet, and savory. This may become a new Easter tradition!
Cristo ha resucitado!
Christ is Risen!