If you have never learned the meaning of Día de los Muertos, you might think it sounds frightening, especially considering it is celebrated two days after Halloween. But do not be afraid! Día de los Muertos is not about scaring anyone.
In the Mexican tradition, this day is dedicated to our loved ones who have passed away and are no longer with us. We use this time to remember them and, although they are no longer physically with us, we continue thinking about them with lots of love. Día de los Muertos does not mean to be sad, to cry or to suffer. On the contrary: it is a celebration of their memory and a remembrance of the joy that they gave us when they were alive.
Traditionally hosted in the cemetery, it is a big celebration as we visit the tombs and chapels of our loved ones. We fill them with flowers and floral arrangements then pray and sing. Outside the cemetery there is a lot of food for sale. People set up stalls and sell whole corn with chile, cheese, and lemon. There are also stalls and carts to sell chicharrón tostadas prepared with cabbage, white cheese enchiladas, tacos, fresh fruits, and sweet potato with condensed milk.
In our homes, we install an altar in memory of all our departed loved ones. On the alter we include their photos, candles, and decorations of flowers and festive skulls (but not real ones!). We pray and sing to them. Additionally, we prepare their favorite dishes and drinks in their honor. We believe that that they come down to eat and drink them with us.
Among the typical meals prepared by my family on Día de los Muertos are pozole and champurrado. Pozole is a Mexican soup and one of the most traditional Mexican dishes. Champurrado is a hot chocolate thickened with corn flour.
The pozole my family prepares uses only chicken. It can also be prepared with pork or a mixture of both. Here’s how we make it:
- A little over a pound of chicken
- 3 chicken legs
- Two handfuls of fresh spinach
- 4 poblano peppers
- 4 green tomatoes
- ¾ cup of cilantro leaves
- 1 can of ground corn (hominy)
- 1 garlic clove
- Half a large onion
- Oregano, salt, and Knorr chicken seasoning powder to taste
First, blend garlic and raw onion. Afterward, throw onto a pan to cook it. Boil the green tomatoes and peppers then blend with fresh spinach and cilantro (for less spice remove seeds from peppers). Add this to the pan of garlic and onion. While this cooks, boil chicken and hominy in a pot then add seasonings. Let chicken boil until completely cooked and to liking. Add pan ingredients to chicken. It is traditionally accompanied with radishes, lettuce or cabbage, lemon juice, and tostadas.
For the traditional champurrado:
- Half a cup of corn flour
- 4 1⁄3 cups of milk
- One can of evaporated milk
- Two whole cinnamon sticks
- Five tablespoons of dissolved Chocolate la Abuelita
- Half tablespoon of dissolved cocoa
- Sugar to taste (my family uses brown sugar)
Mix both types of chocolate together with milk and evaporated milk in a pot. While it’s cooking, add the rest of the ingredients and stir constantly to avoid sticking. Leave until it boils. It is served hot and usually accompanied with pan dulce (sweet bread).
I hope these family recipes are to your liking and that it brings your family and loved ones together to share the beautiful celebration of Día de los Muertos!