Since Canadian Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en have come and gone and American Thanksgiving is just around the corner, this time of year there are a plethora of pumpkins about. Most often used to make Jack-O’-Lanterns and then either left to rot or offered up in tribute in some form or another to the musical group ‘Smashing Pumpkins‘, pumpkins can be cooked and made into many wonderful treats. It is a bit time-consuming, but much better (in our opinion) than purchasing canned pumpkin from the store when there are so many real ones laying about.
Before I get to the recipes I want to add a memory from one of my favourite Hallowe’en memories… Marcia and I were staying with some friends who live out in the country and they were having a Hallowe’en party at their house. Outside their front door they had artfully arranged several bundles of straw, so we went around and gathered enough leaves to fill a pair of coveralls, added rubber boots and gloves and a carved pumpkin for a head, with a candle inside the pumpkin. We set him up on one side of the door to welcome people as they arrived. On the other side of the door there was another pair of coveralls, another pair of rubber boots, another pair of gloves and another carved pumpkin, but this one had me inside. I cut open and hollowed out the pumpkin from the bottom, making the hole just large enoughto fit over my head Couldn’t put a candle in there, though. My head may be empty and Marcia was half convinced that melting the wax first and pouring it in my ear might work 😉 , but I finally convinced her that it would be a challenge to light the wick. In any event we decided to use a small set of battery-operated lights instead. Avoided all of the ‘hothead’ comments, anyway.
I laid myself out as best I could as an approximation of a pile of leaves by the door, and of the thirty or so people who came to the party, only one person figured it out. He passed by at first, came back out and stood there for a while, muttering about the display being too well done. I finally waved at him and ended his guessing, but he kept the secret. Our hosts had one boy convinced that it was an animatronic robot, and with a switch on my back the robot could move its head (slowly), wave an arm, etc. When I finally showed up (late) to the party (and without a costume!) everyone asked where I’d been. I’ll never tell.
So, without further ado…
Wash pumpkin and cut into quarters; clean away the seeds and stringy fibres. An ice-cream scoop works great for removing them. Place the quarters in a low-sided baking dish containing ½” (12 mm) of hot water. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove pulp from rind and mash or rub through a sieve or food mill. Alternately, you can add the pulp to a blender and blend on high, stopping occasionally to stir. Pour the purée into a large colander and let drain – preferably overnight. Pack 2 cups (500 ml) at a time into freezer packs, leaving ½” (12 mm) headspace. Seal and freeze. Keeps for 1 year.
MIKE’S PUMPKIN PIE
This is an amalgamation and dstillation of several recipes we’ve tried over the years. We rather like it.
1 un‑baked 9 inch pie shell*
2 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) molasses
½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1 ml) baking soda
1 tsp. (5 ml) ginger
1 tsp. (5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp. (3 ml) cloves
½ tsp. (3 ml) nutmeg
2+ cups (500 ml) of cooked pumpkin, mashed and drained
1 cup (250 ml) sour cream
½ cup (125 ml) milk
Prepare the pie shell with a fluted standing rim, and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Mix the eggs, molasses, sugar, salt and spices in a blender or mixer until well mixed. Add the baking soda, sour cream, milk, and pumpkin and blend well. Turn the mixture into the prepared shell, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F (200°C) and continue to cook for about 30 minutes more.
* If you need a recipe for pastry, I highly recommend ‘Barbie’s Perfect Pastry‘ from Edna Staebler’s wonderful book ‘More Food That Really Schmecks‘.
MIKE’S PUMPKIN BISQUE
~3 cups (750 ml) good stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable, whatever)*
1-14 oz (400 ml) can coconut milk
4 cups (1L) + cooked pumpkin, mashed or blended
1 tbsp. (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
½-1 tsp. (2-5 ml) cayenne pepper
1 tsp. (5 ml) nutmeg
½ tsp. (2 ml) black pepper
Combine the stock, coconut milk and pumpkin in a large pot and heat on a low heat.
Add the onions and the olive oil to a frying pan at low heat and cook until brown – about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cooking the onions on a low heat caramelizes them and adds flavour. Cook them until nicely browned; when the onions are about half way there, add in the garlic. Toward the end of the cooking time add the spices, salt and pepper and stir to mix.
If you have an immersion blender, add the contents of the frying pan to the soup pot and blend to mix. Otherwise, add the mixture from the frying pan to a blender and add enough soup stock to allow this to blend easily. Pour the contents back into the soup pot. Add in the balsamic vinegar, stir and serve.
Can be served alone, with a nice chunk of bread, perhaps with a sharp cheese or with pepitas (roasted spiced pumpkinseeds).
* The stock amount can vary a little depending on how much liquid is in your pumpkin mixture and how thick you want the final soup to be. Canned pumpkin tends to have less moisture.
AUNTY DONA’S PUMPKIN MUFFINS
My auntie Dona used to run a catering service, a cooking school and for a while she ran a lunch counter at a small airport and did catering for several small airlines. In that period she used to get up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to make the day’s bread for the her restaurant. Something she got from her mother, I believe.
3 cups (750 ml) flour
2 cups (500ml) white sugar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) cinnamon
1½ cups (375 ml) vegetable oil
2 tsp. (10 ml) baking soda
14 ozs. pumpkin (approx. 2 cups/ 5oo ml)
2 tsp. (10 ml) baking powder
1 cup (250 ml) raisins
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
The recipe is for 2 dozen muffins. She used to say if you only made 1 dozen you wish you had made 2 dozen so go ahead and make 2 while you have all the stuff on the counter.
As usual, she’d only give an ingredient list and then you were on your own… Mix everything in a bowl until combined, don’t overmix, and pour into prepared muffin tins. Baking at 375°F (190°C) for 20/25 minutes should do.
FROZEN PUMPKIN DESSERT
I don’t have an author for this recipe, but it involves ice cream so it’s offered with thanks and appreciation!
1-15 oz. can (approx 2 cups/500 ml) solid-pack pumpkin
¾ cup (180 ml) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground ginger
¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground nutmeg
1/8 to ¼ tsp. (½-1 ml) ground cloves
2 quarts (2 L) vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped walnuts
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Fold in ice cream. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 inch (22.5 x 32.5 cm) pan. Sprinkle with walnuts. Cover and freeze overnight. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares. Yield: 16-20 servings.
One final note, on the basis that sometimes obvious things aren’t so obvious… If you’re planning to repurpose a ‘used’ Hallowe’en Jack-o-Lantern into pumpkin pies, ensure that you use a naturally-sourced candle – like beeswax or soy – rather than something toxic. If you wouldn’t eat the wax composing the candle, you probably shouldn’t eat the smoke it produces.
P.S. If you have a favourite pumpkin recipe you want to share, please add it to the comments!
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