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Papaya in Syrup with Dutch Ball Cheese (Dulce de Papaya con Queso)

This recipe courtesy of Chef David Sterling, Executive Chef and Founder of Los Dos Cooking School in Merida, Mexico

This delicious dessert is one of the most popular on the Yucatecan menu. I equate it to the fruit and cheese course of a French meal; papaya is cooked in a sugar and honey syrup, then served with bits of Edam cheese. While is may sound strange, the Edam is the cheese of choice in Yucatan. It's heritage there goes back to the Dutch sailors (and pirates( who scouted the coats of the peninsula for about 200 years during the powerful rule of the Dutch West India Company. I use the Tajonal Organic Honey, which will nicely compliment the old world spices.

ingredients
1 large, under-ripe papaya - about 6.5 pounds - peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes
3-1/2 oz (100g) calcium hydroxide (note: look for this in hardware stores or in markets with supplies for pickling. This step is optional, but it does help soften the papaya. Without it, the papaya may require more cooking time.)
1 pound super fine cane sugar
1 pound dark muscovado sugar (if you can find it, use piloncillo for a more authentic taste)
1 cup honey
2 cups water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/3 oz - whole stick - ceylon cinnamon
10 whole allspice
Edam cheese - cut into cubes

directions
1. Cover papaya with water. Mix the calcium hydroxide with a bit of water to dissolve, then add to the papaya. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

2. Place sugars, water, honey, vanilla and spices in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add papaya and return to a simmer. Cover and continue to cook at a gentle simmer for 1-1/2 hours without stirring. Check for tenderness, and take off heat when tender.

3. Allow papaya to cook, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, allow to come to room temperature. Serve topped with come of the Edam cubes.

serves 15
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