Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB #107) – Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo)
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For this year’s Hallowe’en, we bought one regular jackolantern pumpkin and one pie pumpkin. Other years, we have left the pumpkins on the porch overnight for the squirrels to discover before we take them directly to the composter. But there was no way we wanted squirrels to get any of our pie pumpkin so we brought it indoors. This is how it looked on 1 November, just before I cut it in half to bake it. (The larger pumpkin was broken up and is already languishing in the composter.)
Of course, all Jack-o-lanterns can be baked. But it’s really only worthwhile to bake “pie” pumpkins. The larger pumpkins that are grown specifically for Hallowe’en have been crossbred to be large, watery, easy to clean and seed, and easy to carve. They taste bland and dull. “Pie” pumpkins are considerably more difficult to clean and carve but are best for eating.
I know lots of people boil pumpkin but we prefer to bake it. There’s much less chance of the pumpkin to get watery. And to make sure that they aren’t thready, I use the back of a spoon to push the pumpkin through a sieve. (Of course a food mill works perfectly for this too – but we don’t have one…. You can also use a food processor but you risk leaving thready parts in the pumpkin.)
The sieve method is the way that Mom taught me. In the days before the hybridization of pumpkins, Mom always baked our Hallowe’en pumpkins. Or at least that’s what I remember. And I remember that sinking feeling, looking at the HUGE bowl of cooked pumpkin that had to be pushed through the sieve. “It’s easier to push a camel through the eye of a needle than…”
As I was scraping and scraping… and scraping… and scraping…, I thought about how much better the pumpkin would be than if I had resorted to using the food processor. And so I played “The Glad Game”.
I’m GLAD I’m standing here stirring cooked pumpkin around in a sieve wondering if it will ever move down into the bowl.
I’m GLAD the sun is shining through the stained glass.
I’m GLAD I read “Pollyanna” so I know how to play “The Glad Game”.
I’m GLAD I… etc. etc. ad nauseum
Luckily, T wandered into the kitchen to start making dinner and distract me from the terrors of finishing “The Glad Game” and in no time at all (*cough*) almost all the pumpkin was in the bowl and only a few threads and bits of skin were in the sieve.
Was it all worth it? You bet!! The pumpkin is beautifully soft and silky. And the flavour is already sweet and rich, even though there has not been anything added to it yet. We now have two cups of fabulous pumpkin just waiting to be used.
Sure, I could make a pie. But that isn’t why I went to all this trouble Just look at the picture of that cake in SAVEUR Magazine’s November 2007 issue that is dedicated to American Thanksgiving. We nneeeeeeeed to try that cake!
- pie pumpkin (or any winter squash)
- Wash the outside of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove any seeds and threads. Place the pumpkin halves shell side up on a cookie sheet and bake at 325F until the flesh inside the pumpkin can be pierced easily with a fork. The skin will be quite dark and if the pumpkin was carved for Hallowe’en, the features of the jackolantern will look even more sinister as they will have collapsed and shrivelled somewhat. (The small pumpkin that was about 8 inches across, took about an hour.)
- When the pumpkin flesh is fork-tender, let the pumpkin cool, then scrape the flesh out. Use the back of a spoon to push it through a sieve (or use a food mill) to get rid of any thready fibers.
It. Was. Spectacular.
Butternut squash is fabulous. But this pie pumpkin is also a really good one. Happily, the pumpkin roll cake only calls for 2/3 cup of pumpkin. I think we’ll use the rest for lasagne.
Please read about pumpkin:
- wikipedia – pumpkin
- Plants For a Future – Pumpkin
- The Cook’s Thesaurus – pumpkin
- Pumpkin Patches and More – Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
- Rainy Side Gardeners – Raising the Great Pumpkin (was at rainyside.com/archives/GreatPumpkin.html)
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