No, it’s not the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! Although if Linus ever got out of that pumpkin patch he might just be pleasantly surprised. I’m sure even Snoopy would enjoy any number of tasty treats one can create from a simple fall harvest.
Right now in CT pumpkins of all shapes, sizes & varieties are available at road side stands, farmers markets, garden centers, grocery stores, and maybe even your own back yard. Look for fruits that are free of discolorations, soft spots or bruising with a firm healthy stem and should feel heavy for their size. The flesh from smaller fruit will be more tender and succulent. The nutritional benefits are endless! Full of potassium, beta carotene, vitamin A (to name a few) plus they have no cholesterol and are low in fat and sodium. Wow! Who could ask for more. October 26th is National Pumpkin Day, so get moving and go get some of these beauties now.With such a bountiful supply there is simply no excuse to use canned pumpkin. Shame on you if you do, though if you live in Alaska or Antarctica I will forgive you.
Okay now onward to pumpkin folklore. There are many thoughts out there on this subject, but I am sticking to one I have heard for years. It started in Ireland. The story goes a man named Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink, but didn’t want to pay for it, so they struck a bargain. Jack broke his word and tricked the Devil, who was tired of Jack tricking him, so he sent him to wander in the dark with only a lump of coal to light his way for all of eternity. Jack placed the coal in a hollow turnip (some say gourd) to make it last longer. It’s said he has been roaming ever since. The Irish refer to the ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern”. It later became Jack O’ Lantern. People in Ireland & Scotland carved scary faces into hollow turnips (or gourds) and placed them near windows and doors to scare Jack and ward off other evil spirits who roam the Earth. This became what we now know as Halloween. Pretty cool, huh?
So go get a basket of Sugar pumpkins or Jack B’Littles whatever your favourite is and get your fanny into the kitchen and let your imagination run wild. The possibilities are endless. Just remember while you are at it to roast, cool & scoop the flesh (leave the seeds to deal with later) and pack it in quart size zip-lock baggies for your freezer. So when temptation strikes, you are ready & no need to open a can. However, if cheat you must, please buy “organic”. Most American’s think of Libby’s when they think of canned pumpkin. I recall a jingle as kid from the 70’s (dating myself here) that went like this ~ “If it says Libby’s, Libby”s, Libby’s on the label, label, label you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table “, and so on. Geez,what brilliant Ad~man thought that up. Earthworm anyone?
What to make with your glorious gourds? Here are a few ideas: The obvious of course being classic pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, waffles or pumpkin soup. So why not take it to the next level? These are mostly dessert ideas for your upcoming holiday table. Recipes to follow in a separate post.
1) Individual Pumpkin Souffles w/ warm grand marnier creme anglaise. No other embellishment necessary.
2) Pumpkin Crepes w/ filled milk chocolate mousse, side of cinnamon ice cream & caramel drizzle and toasted pepitas (remember to lightly sprinkle them w/ sea salt).
3) Cognac Pumpkin Cheesecake w/gingersnap crust & mascarpone topping & cranberry conserve sauce.
4) Pumpkin Mousse in a spun sugar shell w/ dk chocolate sauce, rum whip cream & almond tuile (can’t spin sugar? present in a martini glass).
5) Pumpkin Tart in a chocolate/hazelnut crust w/ganache rosettes & white chocolate curls.
6) Warm Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/ bourbon soaked sundried cherries & chocolate espresso sauce.
And a few unconventional ideas:
1) Hors d’oeuvre ~ Tiny deep fried pumpkin & sweet potato croquettes (one biters) dusted w/ finely grated pecorino romano cheese & a drizzle of white truffle oil.
2) Small cubes of oven roasted pumpkin ~ skewered w/ a bamboo pick & sprinkled w/ french celtic salt (think mellow sweet salty flavour) & creme fraiche dip w/ some chinese 5 spice stirred in (keep it subtle!).
3) Mini pumpkin ~ walnut blini w/ maple/balsamic/currant chutney & sliver of duck confit.
Just a note ~ I thought this was totally cool! In China they sell a pumpkin flavoured whole wheat noodle. How brilliant is that! Leave it to the Asians to be creative with mother nature. They are called “Pumpkin Original Flavor Noodles”.
Info: Fuxin Zhenlong Nature Produce Company.
I am ordering some, plus a few of their other flavours. I will update when they arrive and what I plan on doing with them! So until then, keep those ovens hot and pots simmering. Just imagine how incredible your house will smell. Hungry yet anyone?