Cajeta de Celaya, the richest sweet in the region

If you have a sweet tooth and you love Mexican cuisine, you have probably heard of cajeta, a delicious caramel-like confection made with goat’s milk and sugar. But did you know that this treat has its origins in the city of Celaya, in the state of Guanajuato? In this article, we will tell you more about the history, preparation and varieties of this typical sweet that has conquered palates around the world.

The History of Cajeta

The story of cajeta goes back to the colonial times, when the Spaniards arrived in the Bajío region and settled in haciendas where they hired local people to serve them. The Spaniards were used to a different gastronomy than the one that existed in Mexico, and they taught their servants how to make the products they needed, one of them being dulce de leche, a dessert made with cow’s milk and sugar.

One of the servants, over time, wanted to continue making the delicious dulce de leche for his own consumption, so he sought to produce it at his home. However, in those times, goat cattle were more abundant than cow cattle in the area, and there was more goat’s milk than cow’s milk available. So the servant started to make dulce de leche with goat’s milk, resulting in a new and different sweet, with a better flavor and texture.

He decided to market his product and create a container for it, so he made a wooden helmet using two wooden caps, one as a lid and another as a bottom, using a pegged and cooked tejamanil, creating a new container called “cajete”. He delivered his cajetes to some inhabitants and they were sent to the train station, a place frequented by people who traveled around the country. There, the sellers shouted “Cajetes, cajetes!” to sell their products, but because their dialect was different, the buyers heard the word “Cajeta”, giving rise to the name that this dulce de leche would receive and that would become very famous over time due to its great and unique flavor.

Cajeta also played a role in the Mexican War of Independence, as it was used by the army of Miguel Hidalgo, who received the title of Captain General of the Americas in Celaya. Cajeta was a convenient and nutritious food for the poorly fed troops, as it was easy to store and transport, and it lasted for many months without spoiling. In 2010, cajeta was declared “The Bicentennial Mexican Dessert”, honoring its history, tradition and origin.

The Preparation of Cajeta

In Celaya, Guanajuato, cajeta is still prepared with the traditional method, by pouring milk and sugar into a copper pot, letting them boil for approximately four hours, and then packaging it. If it is about making some typical sweets like chewy and ham, they also add syrup or corn syrup to the mixture. For the burned cajeta, the cooking time is doubled, and for the different varieties, ingredients such as vanilla and alcohol are added, which give it a twist of flavor.

Celaya cajeta is its typical sweet and is recognized worldwide as the best cajeta, which includes goat’s milk heated in a copper pot, to which sugar is added, letting it boil, this last step is considered and done manually under the experience of each manufacturer. Some factories, among them “La Tradicional de Salgado”, which was inaugurated in 1860, continue to burn the milk in copper pots, so its preparation remains the same, the difference is that now it is packaged in glass jars, highlighting that something that symbolizes them is to offer their customers quality, original flavor, hygiene and freshness, since the goat’s milk, which is the only one they use, when received is clarified, placing it in a machine that cleans it of bacteria and dirt, so its degree of innocuity (free of contaminants) is very high.

The Varieties of Cajeta

Cajeta can be enjoyed in a great variety of combinations and flavors, such as natural, burned, wine, vanilla and many others. It can also be combined with other ingredients such as nuts, raisins, pine nuts, coffee and even fruit to achieve delicious fusions. Cajeta can be eaten by itself, spread on bread, pancakes or waffles, or used as a filling or topping for cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream and other desserts.

From cajeta, a wide range of products and candies have been created, such as wafers with cajeta, cajeta popsicles, chewy, ice cream, glorias, etc. Celaya also has other typical sweets that are derived from cajeta, such as chewy, which are bars of cajeta mixed with nuts; glorious, which are balls of cajeta covered with powdered sugar; and ham, which are slices of cajeta with quince jam.

The Festivities of Cajeta

Cajeta is one of the most emblematic traditions of Celaya, and it is celebrated in different occasions throughout the year. One of them is the anniversary of the foundation of the city in October, where cajeta is part of the gastronomic and cultural offer. Another one is the traditional Cajeta Festival, “Tasting Celaya”, which seeks to exalt at the national level the cajeta and its derived products, as well as the exhibition and sale of the representative crafts, gastronomy and culture of Celaya and the region. One of the attractions of this festival is the filling of the cajete, a wooden container of more than two meters in diameter, from which all visitors can enjoy the traditional and unique cajeta of Celaya and its different flavors, made by the different cajeteros. A unique festival of its kind that all Celayans are part of and are extremely proud of.

Recently, the city obtained its second Guinness record by making the largest milk candy in the world; since with the alliance of the Celaya cajeteros, about 3 thousand liters of cajeta were made that were later given away among the population. This achievement was celebrated with a big party that included music, dance and, of course, cajeta.

Cajeta is more than a sweet, it is a symbol of the identity, history and culture of Celaya and Guanajuato. It is a product that reflects the creativity, ingenuity and hard work of its people, who have managed to preserve and innovate this tradition for generations. If you have the opportunity to visit Celaya, do not miss the chance to taste its delicious cajeta and discover why it is the sweetest treasure of the region.

Source: El Sol del Bajio