Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pumpkin, Pumpkin

It’s pumpkin time …

We cook a lot with pumpkin here at Stonewall Kitchen; we make and sell many products with a base of pumpkin ~ everything from Pumpkin Pancakes to Maple Pumpkin Butter to our new Pumpkin Risotto. Our “Pumpkin, Pumpkin” classes in the Cooking School sell out almost immediately so that tells you something about how much people like pumpkin. Maybe it’s the aroma that appeals to people or maybe it is just the taste. It’s almost a bonus that the fruit is full of potassium, beta-carotene and Vitamin A and that the baked seeds are a delicious snack.

Americans it seems, have always used pumpkins in many, many ways. Native Americans dried strips of the pumpkin shell and wove them into mats. They also roasted long strips of pumpkin on the open fire for food. The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes. Later pumpkin was actually used as an ingredient in the crust for the pie more than for the filling. Early settlers used every part of the harvest. They actually believe that a paste made from the pumpkin flesh lightened freckles and cured the pain from a snakebite!

Before I pass along a few of our better pumpkin recipes, I wanted to tell a story that some people believe is the story behind the history of the Jack ‘o Lantern. Apparently there was a man living in Ireland called Stingy Jack. One evening Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. And, true to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use it to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and ran off from his bill. The next year, Jack again tricked the same Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so the Devil wouldn't pass the mark and was stranded up in the tree.
Soon after that tree incident, Jack died. God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," or simply "Jack O'Lantern." I can’t make this stuff up!

Here’s a couple of great pumpkin recipes, the Pumpkin Sage Soup is favorite, it can be made ahead of time and warmed just before serving which makes it a great choice for entertaining. The bread is great anytime.

Pumpkin Custard Pie - Serves 6

  • 1 ready-to-bake pie crust, precooked according to directions
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks and 4 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Stonewall Kitchen Maple Pumpkin Butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat cream in a small, heavy saucepan. Warm thoroughly but do not simmer. Remove from heat and stir gradually into beaten eggs. Add Maple Pumpkin Butter and mix well. Pour custard into pre-baked pie shell.

Bake approximately 35-45 minutes or until custard is set. An inserted knife or toothpick will come out clean. Cool before serving.

Pumpkin Sage Soup - Serves 10-12

  • 2 lbs. Sugar pumpkin
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 3 leeks (white part only) cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Clean pumpkin, peel and cut flesh into 1-2” cubes.

In a large pot, heat butter and oil, add the leeks and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add pumpkin, herbs, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Puree in a blender or food processor, working in batches.

Return to heat and simmer until warm and serve. Garnish with a swirl of heavy cream, crème frache or sage leaves.

Pumpkin Bread
Makes 2 loaves
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 (one-half) teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 (one-half) teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts and raisins, if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.


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