One of my proudest farmgirl moments came a few weeks ago when I harvested sixteen robust, flaming-orange pumpkins from my front yard. Every Halloween, I would save a handful of pumpkin seeds from one of my children’s jack-o-lanterns, store them in a box, and plant them in the spring with high hopes. But I never managed to grow more than one lonely pumpkin until this year (thank you, global warming).
Once my little trick-or-treaters have hung up their costumes this weekend, my pumpkins will beckon for another purpose. But this time, I am emotionally attached. I simply cannot just toss them into the bin of yard waste. So, in the days to come, I will be making fresh purée, destined for a spiced-up slather on toast, or Heidi Swanson’s tantalizing Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup, or a sultry, quintessentially autumn pumpkin pie.
Now I know you are thinking I am some compulsive Martha purist who won’t buy anything that comes in a can. But I have my reasons. Actually, with fall finally in the Southern California air, I am feeling more like Pioneer Woman, in the mood to wrangle my supper with my bare hands. As I butcher my pumpkins this week, picture me with a gleaming carving knife, earnestly slicing my little pumpkins’ crowns off. It is about as close as you will ever come to seeing this vegetarian butcher her dinner.
Makes about 5 cups
1 large pumpkin, about 8 inches in diameter
1. Wash the pumpkin in warm soapy water, rinse, and dry well.
2. Place the pumpkin on a large cutting board and, using a very sharp serrated knife, slice in half using a sawing motion.
3. Position one half of the pumpkin flat side down and cut it into several large wedges. Repeat for the other half.
4. With a large metal spoon, scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds, leaving the firm flesh and skin.
5. Place a steamer insert in a large stock pot and fill the pot with a few inches of water. When the water boils, place the pumpkin pieces inside, packing them in tightly so that they will all fit. Cover and steam for about 30 minutes, until the flesh is quite soft and easily punctured with a fork.
6. Using kitchen gloves, scoop the flesh from the skin into the bowl of a food processor. Process to a smooth purée.
7. Transfer the purée to a sieve that is lined with several layers of paper towels, and allow to cool and drain for about 30 minutes.
8. Place the purée in freezer bags or plastic containers, and either freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.
Fresh Pumpkin Butter
This richly spiced condiment is a welcome alternative to jam on toasted walnut or whole-grain bread. For an uncommon dessert that exudes luscious fall flavors, swirl it into plain or frozen yogurt or pudding, and top it with baked streusel or toasted pecans.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
3-1/2 cups fresh or 1 (29-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 star anise (optional)
1. Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
2. Reduce the heat to low and, stirring often, simmer until thickened and glossy, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Try some hearty fall fare, our Farmers Market Vegetable Soup.
Photo credit: LiveWell360