1 pound green papaya, (not so green that there’s no scent but not ripe in any way)
2 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
½ vanilla bean, split
Peel of one lime, in strips
1 Wheel of Queso fresco, sliced
Peel and Seed the papaya. Slice into ¼ inch thick planks, about 1x3
Add the baking soda to the water and soak the papaya for about an hour. Put a plate on top of the papaya to ensure it remains submerged. The baking powder activates as soon as it hits the water and leaves the papaya with a soft interior and a toothy shell, about 15 minutes.
Drain the papaya. Rinse it carefully, but well. Add the papaya to a dutch oven over low heat. Gently mix in the sugar. Cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes. The papaya should release plenty of liquid, but not all papayas are created equal. If it looks dry add ¼ of water.
Add the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean, and lime peel. Stir and cook uncovered on low until the syrup has thickened. Use a candy thermometer and don’t allow the syrup to get hotter than 220 degrees. Reducing it should take about an hour.
When the candy is ready, take it off the heat. Remove the peel and the vanilla bean.
Let cool before serving planks of candied papaya on top of a chunk of queso fresco. Drizzle with syrup. Traditionally this candy is served with the cinnamon sticks and star anise and cloves still floating in it.
If there is any leftover (which I doubt) store in the fridge in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.