When the frost is on the pumpkin you know that fall is here," my mom was fond of saying. At this time of year when the air is nippy, the skies are autumn blue, and the leaves are turning orange, bronze, and scarlet, we begin to think of pumpkin recipes old and new.
We see the pumpkins piled beside the roadside stands, among the cornstalks in farmers' fields, and on front porches.
History of Pumpkins
Pumpkins first were grown in tropical America. The Indians in the northeast used this vegetable, too, so when the first colonists arrived they became acquainted with this food.
Soon the settlers were growing pumpkins in their fields of corn, using them fresh and dried. They learned from the natives various ways to cook the pumpkins, such as boiling, drying, grinding into meal, and making soup. The ground pumpkin meal was used like cornmeal in making puddings and breads.
A Nutritious Food
Pumpkins are nutritious. Rich in minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and iron, the pumpkin also is high in carbohydrates. It contains Vitamin A as well. And roasted pumpkin seeds make a good snack.
Used In Many Ways
Pumpkin can be cooked, mashed, and then frozen for use in cookery throughout the winter. Or you can cut pumpkin into rings and hang to dry for later use, like the native people used to do.
Today, throughout the fall months, pumpkin dishes galore come from New England kitchens. For the pumpkin is a versatile food which can be used in breads, cakes, cookies, pies, casseroles, and even jam.
To Prepare Pumpkin
To prepare pumpkin for use in cooking, scoop out the seeds and cut into pieces. You can peel it before or after cooking. Boil the pumpkin until tender, then mash it.
Or you can cut the pumpkin into quarters, scoop out the seeds, and lay the pieces in a pan of water, filled to about one inch. Then bake at 350 degrees F. until the pumpkin is tender. Peel and mash it. It's best to put the mashed pumpkin through a strainer or sieve to eliminate the stringy portions.
Early Pumpkin Pie
One of the earliest recipes for PUMPKIN PIE didn't call for a crust. The pioneer cooks cut the stem end from the pumpkin, as you do for a jack-o-lantern, and saved it. Then they scooped out the seeds and fiber.
They next filled this hole 2/3 full of milk. Sweeten with honey, maple syrup or molasses. Add some spices you have on hand, such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Then the cook put the end back on and baked the pumpkin in a brick oven for 5 or 6 hours. For serving, the pumpkin was placed on the table the pulp was scooped out and served with butter and more sweetening.
Modern Pumpkin Souffle
For a more modern dish, try PUMPKIN SOUFFLE. Combine 1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar; mix well. Beat 3 egg whites until stiff and add 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Fold into the pumpkin mixture. Then pour into greased 1-quart baking dish and set in a pan of hot water. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 40 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
(c)Mary Emma Allen
About the Author
Mary Emma Allen has been a food writer and columnist for 30 years. Her columns appear in newspapers and on websites. She also writes travel articles, children's stories, and books for writers. Visit her web site at http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea
or drop her a line at meallen(at)juno.com