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 Tico chiverre empanada is a must throughout Holy Week

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Published on Thursday, March 28, 2024

By Melissa Pette


Let me dedicate this column to one of the most popular folk Tico Easter dishes. For many Ticos, not having "Chiverre empanadas" on the table during Holy Week is equivalent to missing Semana Santa.

Empanadas are baked pastries filled with a very sweet marmalade made from squash (Cucurbita ficifolia). 

Costa Rica's national Chiverre fair is held throughout Holy Week in Zarcero Canton, Alajuela Province. If you've just visited Costa Rica, I recommend going to that fair or any coffee shop and trying one (or more) Chiverre empanadas; I swear you won't regret it!

So, let's go to the kitchen.

To cook about 12 empanadas the ingredients you will need are:

First, for the Chiverre marmalade.

2 kilos of Chiverre.

2 sweet fig leaves.

4 sweet figs.

1 tapa de dulce. Let's talk about this ingredient later.

2 teaspoons of dried cloves.

2 teaspoons of vanilla.

For the empanadas, you will need:

2 cups of flour.

125 milliliters of sweet cream (half a glass).

250 grams of butter.

1 teaspoon of white sugar.

A pinch of salt.

An egg yolk.

Tapa Dulce is a particular kind of large candy derived from sugar cane. You may get it at your local fruit market or any store.

The slightly complex part of the recipe is making the Chiverre jam; you may skip this step and get the jam at the supermarket.

Jam first. With a hammer (yes, a hammer), carefully smash the entire Chiverre shell. Cut the peel off the shell using a knife. Insert the knife tip two millimeters into the Chiverre and peel it out.

Cut the Chiverre pulp into wedges and remove the seeds and yellow fibers from the pulp using your fingertips. Smash all of the pulp with the hammer until it's softer.

Place the pulp in a colander and wash until the sticky juice is removed.

Put the Chiverre pulp in a cloth bag and throw it in your washing machine's tumble dryer (yep, you read it properly) for 5 minutes to dry.

Place the figs and their leaves in a big saucepan, then add the recently tumble-dried Chiverre and the tapa dulce.

Cook until the tapa dulce has fully melted and the Chiverre pulp is a deep golden color. Place the pot in a fresh spot until it cools down.

Wrap the dried cloves in aluminum foil and smash them using a mortar or rolling pin.

When the Chiverre jam is cool, remove the fig leaves and mix in the crushed dry cloves and vanilla.

Now the empanadas. Mix all of the ingredients (flour, sweet cream, butter, sugar, and a bit of salt) and knead until the dough is springy and elastic. Then, let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes (no freezer).

Then, on a very clean surface, sprinkle flour and lay out the dough with a rolling pin. When the dough is one centimeter thick, use a tiny circular plate to make circles over it. Cut the circles.

On one half of the circle, spread the Chiverre jam. Close the circle (from side to side) to make the patties. Gently press the empanada's edge with a fork.

Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat together the egg and water. Brush the egg wash gently onto the empanadas. Bake the empanadas at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Holy Cow your empanada is ready!

Enjoy your delightful hot empanadas with scoops of ice cream and with no regrets.

Have a pura vida Holy Weekend !

Find more tasty step-by-step Costa Rican food recipes on 
the AM Costa Rica Food & Good Eating page. You are invited to share your favorite recipes with a horizontal photo of the dish by emailing food@amcostarica.com.

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