Three ways to gift the taste of Tucson this holiday season

The holidays are here and that means all things pumpkin spice and everything nice. Here in the Southwest we like to do things with a twist. We’ve rounded up three locally cultivated products that make for the perfect gift, along with recipes to bring the flavors of Baja Arizona to your friends and family! A beautifully wrapped treat is the perfect way to show someone you care.

Spicy Pumpkin Caramels, Desert Provisions

Photo courtesy of Desert Provisions

Using their Red Chile Roasted Pepitas as the base for this recipe, these caramels perfectly combine spicy with sweet! Per Desert Provisions founder, Amanda Horton, “this recipe requires minimal effort and is pretty much foolproof!” First, you’ll need to prep the Red Chile Roasted Pepitas.

Recipe Ingredients:
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (35% or whipping cream)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. each allspice and cloves)
2 cups white cane sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
Red Chile Roasted Pepitas (uses Hatch Red Chile Powder and Sonoran Sea Salt)

1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square glass pan with buttered parchment paper. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of Red Chile Roasted Pepitas to the parchment paper, evenly spread. Spread out the toasted pumpkin seeds on top of the parchment in the pan.

2. In the saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin puree, and the spices. Heat it until warm, but do not let it boil. Remove from heat.

3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is melted. Allow it to boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the upper limit of “soft ball” point on a thermometer). Add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and stir gently until incorporated. Allow this mixture to boil and bring it to 240 degrees on the candy thermometer. This is the part that can take time, around 30 minutes, so be patient and watch it carefully, stirring often so it doesn’t burn, particularly in the last stages when it gets very thick.

4. Once it has reached 240, remove it from heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice swiftly, stirring well until both are fully incorporated and butter is melted. Now pour the caramel into the pan, on top of the pumpkin seeds. Let it cool about 30 minutes and if you wish you can sprinkle the salt on at this stage (or wait until later and individually sprinkle salt on each square once they are cut). Wait at least 2 hours for caramel to fully set before slicing. Use a hot knife to slice them more easily, cutting them into 1-inch squares. If you have trouble cutting them because they are too soft, you can always chill them for 20 minutes before cutting. Wrap them individually in waxed paper, if you wish. Otherwise, store in an airtight container.

Sonoran Pecan Pie, Chef Angie Staats

Photo courtesy of Angie Staats

“Roasted jalapeños and a blend of chili powder are the perfect complement to pecans. Deep smoky notes of the peppers highlight the bright notes of this amazing nut.” Local Tucson Chef,  Chef Angie Staats with My Best Friend is Food, shares this recipe using locally grown pecans from the Green Valley Pecan Company! 

Filling Ingredients: Find the Pecan Crust recipe here.
1 cup dark corn syrup
⅔ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp chipotle chili powder
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp hot New Mexico chili pepper powder
½ tsp pasilla chili powder
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup butter melted
3 eggs
1 cup Green Valley Pecan Pieces

Toppings and Baking:
3 jalapeños
¼ cup Green Valley Baking pieces
½ cup Green Valley Pecan halves
½ fresh lime (optional)
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Preparation for the filling: 

  1. Beat corn syrup, sugar, spices, salt, butter and eggs together until slightly frothy and sugar is dissolved.
  2. Stir in the Green Valley Pecan Pieces by hand until coated.
  3. Pour into your prebaked pie shell.

Preparation for the toppings and baking:

  1. Place your jalapeños over an open flame and allow the skin to turn black. Once cooled, gently peel off the jalapeño skins. Slice in half and remove the seeds.
  2. Sprinkle the Green Valley Pecan Baking Pieces on top of the pie filling.
  3. Place the jalapeños on top of the filling.
  4. Arrange the Green Valley Pecan Halves on top of the filling around the jalapeños.
  5. Place the pie into a 350°F oven and bake until the center does not wiggle when moved. About 40-50 minutes.
  6. When hot from the oven, squeeze the lime juice over top and sprinkle with cayenne. (optional)
  7. Allow to cool before slicing.

About: Chef Angie is a local chef and recipe creator! Foodies can learn bite-sized cooking lessons and fall in love with cooking by following her on Instagram

About: Green Valley Pecan Company was founded in the Santa Cruz Valley in 1965 by and has become premier supplier of fresh pecans. Three generations of the Walden family have maintained the principles and standards of a family farm.

Support: Purchase an array of treats online and arrange for curbside pick-up. They also ship nationwide!

Mesquite Syrup, Iskashita Refugee

Photo courtesy of Iskashitaa Refugee Network

Did you know mesquite is the most common shrub in the Desert Southwest? Mesquite pods are highly nutritious and diverse. They can be used to make mesquite meal, flour, molasses/syrup and more! Follow this recipe to make homemade mesquite syrup. Gift alongside a bag of mesquite flour to make pancakes, french toast, waffles and anything your heart desires!

18 cups mesquite pods
10 cinnamon sticks
9 cups water
1 cup sugar

Large stock pot
Jars and lids

Recipe Instructions:

  1. Break up mesquite pods and place in a large stock pot. Add cinnamon sticks and water.
  2. Bring to a boil and turn down flame to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour. Pods will sink to the bottom.
  3. Strain pods from the broth.
  4. Use 6 cups of the broth and mix with sugar and ½ packet of pectin in a pot.
  5. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes then remove from heat.
  6. Ladle hot syrup into clean jars. Screw lids on tight and store.

About: Iskashitaa Refugee Network creates opportunities to integrate UN refugees into the Southern Arizona community while educating the public, strengthening the local food system, reducing local food waste, and increasing food security.

Support: Shop specialty food items, made by local refugees and with gleaned organic fruit via the online Iskashop.

For more gift ideas, be sure to check out Tucson’s local gift Collection.