Thanksgiving — gone. Halloween — gone. Now all those old pumpkins are hanging around.
But wait a sec, before you toss them into the garbage where they'll clog up the landfill. Dark orange and yellow veggies are your best friends any time of year, but especially now with the cold and flu season coming on.
They're loaded with nutrients and compounds that fight cancer, and they can help control your weight. Their high potassium content makes them good for the nerves, but it's their high carotene content that's their big health advantage. An average serving of pumpkin provides your full daily requirement and a good chunk of butternut squash has four times your recommended daily allowance plus tons of vitamins and minerals.
Pumpkin is yummy and can be used in much the same way as any orange or yellow winter squash. Just remember the flesh has a higher moisture content, so adjust your recipes accordingly.
It was Sarah McMillan at Rootdown Organics in Pemberton who got me cooking up pumpkin like it was squash. She grew up in Australia, where winter squash are called pumpkins and roasting pumpkin (squash) in the oven was a great family tradition. The turning point happened when she told me I didn't have to peel it.
Sarah's quick and delicious roasted pumpkin goes like this: Wash and seed the pumpkin; chunk it and arrange the pieces in a single layer in a roasting pan; drizzle them with olive oil (or butter); season and roast them at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Add more butter when you serve it.
My pal, Mona Houle, just finished canning her own pumpkin purée and then made this recipe, below. It's as simple as pie, and can be converted into pumpkin squares by using a square glass baking dish and adding a crumble topping like you would for apple crisp.
Not Just For Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie
1 15-oz can pumpkin purée
3/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp mace
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp molasses
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk
3 large eggs (room temperature)
Preheat oven to 375º. In a large bowl blend pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, mace and salt. In a separate bowl combine molasses, evaporated milk and eggs. Pour egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture and whisk thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a partially baked pie shell and place on middle rack of the oven. Bake one hour until the top of the pie looks shiny and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the crust is browning too fast, cover with an aluminum foil collar. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.
To make your own pumpkin purée like Mona did, wash the outside of your pumpkin and remove the seeds if you haven't already. (If you hollowed out a pumpkin for Halloween and used a candle inside, make sure you remove the waxy bits of pumpkin as well as any parts with soot.)
Leave the skin on, then chunk up the pumpkin into big pieces and bake it flesh side up. Cover your dish with foil. (You can add a bit of water, too.) Use a fork to check when it's tender, but it should take about 45 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees, depending on the size of the pieces.
When your cooked pumpkin is cold, scoop out the flesh. Best to purée it in a food processor or blender, or you can mash it up by hand. It will keep for about five days in the fridge, but if you want to take your pumpkin one step further, can it. See my September 13 Pique column, "Yes you can can!" for more details, but essentially you'll need to sterilize your jars and once you fill them with your purée, cook them in a bath for about 20 minutes.
You can also easily make much-appreciated gifts — instant pumpkin pie in a jar. Again, follow Mona's lead and add the spices used in the above recipe to the cooked pumpkin as well as the molasses and about half the sugar, then purée it all together. Mona then measured proportions into jars according to the recipe above, and added labels instructing recipients to add more sugar to taste along with a cup of evaporated milk and the three eggs along with cooking instructions so they could make their own delicious pies.
To wrap things up, here's one last great pumpkin recipe from one of Whistler's greatest assets, Florence Petersen. Florence passed away last August, but not before happily marrying about 1,000 couples at Whistler as a marriage commissioner and co-founding Whistler Museum as one of the area's earliest residents.
This soup is super easy to make and with its savory overtones stands up to any cold rainy day. The recipe is from Whistler Recipes, published by the museum but now sadly out of print, although another Whistler recipe book, Festive Favourites, is still available. But if you ever find a copy of the former, grab it. It's a gem from both a local history and gastronomical perspective, and a sure hit for easy-to-make dishes that are perfect for fuelling the local lifestyle. After all, it's written by Whistlerites for Whistlerites.
Florence Petersen's Pumpkin Soup
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp butter
4 cups cooked and puréed pumpkin
1 to 2 cups of stock or water
3/4 tsp salt
2 to 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp curry powder
Sauté the onion in butter in a soup pot. Add stock and pumpkin purée. Stir in the seasonings then let it cook for a bit for the flavours to mingle. Garnish with grated cheese or more curry powder. Enjoy.
If you've missed out on a pumpkin, lots can still be had at North Arm Farm in Pemberton, including New England sugar pumpkins, perfect for pies and desserts because of their high sugar content. If you buy a regular pumpkin for eating, remember that the smaller ones weighing around three pounds are sweeter.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who loves roasted pumpkin.
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