We’re accustomed to finding pumpkin flavored with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice in pies and desserts. Pumpkin flavoring also thrives in the company of savory accents such as garlic, ginger root, onion, hot peppers, chicken broth, shallots, certain cheeses, herbs or fruits. Flavored this way, pumpkin is delicious in casseroles, soufflés, ravioli, pancakes, soups, salsas, salads, vinaigrettes, breads, sweet & sour combinations, chutneys and pickles. Commercially, food companies feature fall specials with either pumpkin spicing or pumpkin and its spicing in a variety of foods:
- Pumpkin Jello
- Pumpkin-spiced nuts
- Pumpkin-spiced crackers
- Pumpkin coffee creamer
- Pumpkin donuts
- Pumpkin-cookie mix
- Pumpkin-spiced cereal
- Pumpkin-spiced tea
- Pumpkin-spiced English muffins
- Pumpkin-spiced waffles
- Pumpkin-spiced coffee
- Pumpkin-spiced ice cream
- Pumpkin-spiced marshmallows
- Pumpkin-spiced pasta
- Pumpkin- spiced syrup
Historically, Native North Americans ate what they called pumpkin 9,000 years ago and introduced it to Columbus when he arrived in their midst. The explorer then introduced pumpkin to all of Europe. The English used their word for gourds, or “pompions.” Thus the word, “pumpkin” became popular. Early consumers preserved pumpkin meat by drying it in strips, or drying whole pumpkins for use as water jugs and cooking vessels. Gradually they learned to roast them and grind roasted seeds for poultices used in treating wounds.
One cup of pumpkin puree, boiled or steamed without salt, contains a mere 49 calories and beneficial amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate and Vitamins A and E.
Choosing good pumpkins in fall or winter isn’t complicated. In general, however, the flesh from small sizes is more tender and sweet for eating. Such pumpkins have a hard shell and sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles. The stem should be attached, dry and firm. Choose pumpkins that are free from blemishes and heavy for their size. Store whole pumpkins at room temperature up to a month or refrigerate up to 3 months.
Pureed pumpkin is generally preferred for most recipes and easily done. Cut pumpkin in large chunks. Remove seeds and thread-like pulp. Bake skin-side-up, on a rack in a shallow pan with a small amount of water in the bottom. Tent it loosely with foil. In a 360-degree oven, cook about 45 minutes, or until fork-tender. Once cool, peel with a paring knife. To puree, use a food processor or a potato masher. One pound of pumpkin yields one cup of puree. Try making extra puree to freeze.
Plain, canned pumpkin flesh can be purchased and substituted for mashed, fresh pumpkin. However, the fresh tastes better.
Here are some foodsites with pumpkin recipes:
http://gherkinstomatoes.com/2009/06/06/10572/ (African recipes)
Note: It’s okay to use the kid’s jack-o-lantern after Hallowe’en and before it becomes moldy and unusable.