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Posts Tagged ‘pumpkin’

Gastronomically yours,

October 7th, 2016

Pumpkins are most commonly consumed in pumpkin pie during the Thanksgiving holidays and as ghoulish decorative pieces through Halloween. For many people Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie. You can forget the cranberry sauce, maybe over cook the turkey and have lumps in your gravy which will all be forgotten but if you do not have pumpkin pie on the table for dessert you may consider never hosting the family Thanksgiving Dinner ever again.  So ingrained is this tradition that once during the early colonization of North America, Thanksgiving celebrations were delayed due to a shortage of molasses which at that time was a key ingredient to making pumpkin pie.

Canned pumpkin is available year-round and is typically used for pumpkin desserts and baking. Fresh pumpkins are available in such great quantity right now that one should take full advantage of them. Fresh cooked pumpkins can be puréed and used in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin. This puree can be frozen and stored in your freezer for up to 3 months.  Smaller sized pumpkins are best for cooking, as they are sweeter, more tender and easier to handle. A 5-pound pumpkin will yield about 4 cups of mashed, cooked pumpkin. With fresh pumpkins one also gains the use of pumpkin seeds. Shelled pumpkin seeds known as Pepitas can be toasted and added to salads, breads or casseroles.

Pumpkins alone are quite healthy for us as they are high in Vitamin A, potassium and antioxidants. This member of the gourd family has an exceptionally high water content making it ideal to use in juicers and blenders for making smoothies and cocktails. The creamy texture of cooked pumpkin flesh is enhanced even more when added to soups and stews.  You can even choose to bake pumpkins like squash with some butter and spices in the oven to be served as the vegetable component of a meal.

I have purchased a number of pumpkins from different farms in the area since late August, but the best tasting pumpkins in the area were once again grown in our backyard by my children in their very own pumpkin patch which again has yielded us a two pumpkin harvest. They were perfect for baking up a batch of pumpkin bread which we slathered with butter and took the chill out of the autumn morning.

 

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

15 fl oz. pumpkin puree, fresh or canned

4 eggs

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup water

3 cups sugar

1 tbsp. molasses

3 ½ cups all-purpose flower

2 tsp. baking soda

 

3 tsp. Humble Pie spice blend from The Spice Co. naturally

Method:

In a large size bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, sugar and molasses. Separately in another bowl sift together all of the remaining dry ingredients.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it is just mixed together but do not over mix it.

Pour the bread batter into lightly greased and dusted bread pans or muffin tins and bake them for 45-50 minutes in a preheated oven at 350°f. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool down a bit before serving with lots of butter.

NOW AVAILABLE from The Spice Co. Humble Pie

NOW AVAILABLE from The Spice Co. Humble Pie

Gastronomically yours,

October 28th, 2014

Smashing Pumpkins

 

Photo courtesy of http://cbswrch2.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/jack-o-lantern.jpg?w=436

Photo courtesy of http://cbswrch2.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/jack-o-lantern.jpg?w=436

The pumpkin has become synonymous withHalloween. Beyond the pumpkins symbolism most of us know little about this fruit and leaves most of us reaching for this product in its store-bought canned form when it comes to cooking.

Its symbolic presence of the autumn harvest has made this fruit a traditional staple of the North American Thanksgiving and though it has taken some time; like Linus waiting for the great one to arrive, the pumpkin has come of age and has transitioned itself into a staple of our pantries.

Most of us consume pumpkins in sweet dessert like preparations such as pie, cheesecake and muffins. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, baked, or roasted. Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell, to the seeds, to even the flowers.

Pumpkins are the largest berry in the world and are related to other fruits like squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be prepared in the same way as squash or zucchini, where a more mature pumpkin might be served mashed like potatoes.

Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are the small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pepitas are a popular snack that can be found hulled in most grocery stores.

When Pumpkin seeds are roasted one can extract thick oil that is somewhat reddish-green in color and is generally diluted with milder flavored oils because of its vigorous full bodied flavor. It is often drizzled over salad greens, pumpkin soup, potato salad, and even on vanilla ice-cream.

Pumpkin seed oil contains fatty acids which help maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves, and are loaded with essential fatty acids that help to maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues with its high fiber content helping to aid proper digestion.

Pumpkins are available almost everywhere one would find food for sale right now. It can be fun to go to a pick your own field as well to get your pumpkins. Be sure to save your seeds for this recipe which is a twist on a classic treat of toasted Pumpkin seeds by turning them into a gourmet confection.

 

Pepita Brittle

Ingredients:

One and one half tsp. baking soda

Two Tbsp. butter, melted

One and one half cups sugar

Three quarters cup water

One quarter tsp. fine grained sea salt

Three quarter cups of hulled roasted pumpkin seeds “pepitas”

One quarter tsp. cinnamon

Method:

Stir together baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside a second sheet the same size. Butter the parchment on one side.

Combine sugar, water and salt in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer syrup 10 to 12 minutes, until it reaches 240°F. Remove from heat; with a wooden spoon gently stir in the pumpkin seeds.

While stirring, return pan to medium-low heat until the mixture turns a deep amber color and reaches 290°F. Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon.

Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet; cover with second parchment sheet. Press the mixture with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thick. Remove top layer of parchment and allow it to completely cool down. Next crack the brittle and serve the tasty morsels.

Store your pepita brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Jack o’ Lantern

Numerous religious groups have placed great importance on the last days of October and the first days of November. These include but are not limited to the Gaelic Samhain, Christian All Saint’s Day, All Souls Day, All Hallows Eve, Day of the Dead and All Hallows Mass. For the most part it appears that the general consensus was that most people believed that there was a lot more spirit activity at this time of year as relatives and ancestors who had passed away might drop by for a visit. This was also a time for community festivals celebrating the end of summer, the harvest and the coming dark days awaiting the rebirth of spring.

One of the first plants domesticated by humans was the gourd, not so much as a food source but for its carving potential which led to the creation of the first line of primitive kitchen ware. Jack o’ Lanterns in my opinion was the earliest version of a flashlight after the torch. Walking home from any autumn festival in the dark would be a nerve racking experience with all of the blowing leaves and night time sounds of autumn, add in the fear that the undead might show up would only further your worries.

The tradition of carving Jack o’ Lantern’s was brought to Canada by Irish and Scottish settlers. They often transformed gourds, turnips or squash into easy to carry lanterns. These lanterns were decorated with intensely fierce faces to represent the souls forever lost in purgatory. They were carried and displayed about homes to ward off evil spirits and protect people from the undead, which were believed to be at their peak activity in the autumn months.

Pumpkin carving has evolved greatly in recent years and has gone beyond triangle eyes and smiles. Specialty pumpkin carving kits and power tools are used by some to create works of art and some neighborly competition.

This being the last weekend before Halloween you should get out to one of the regions pick your own pumpkin farms and get your pumpkin carved this weekend for Halloween. Choosing a pumpkin is easy to do knowing that the larger the pumpkin, the easier it is to carve. Avoid bruised or moldy pumpkins as they will spoil much faster. Lighter coloured pumpkins tend to be softer and easier to carve.

The way we carve pumpkins has evolved as well as you don’t have to take off the top of your pumpkin, which is the hardest and possibly the most dangerous thing to do as the top of the pumpkin is woody and tough, try using a key hole or drywall saw for this. You may choose to remove the bottom or the back of your Jack o’ lantern as it is easier to cut through and allows easy access for electrical cords to power up colourful tree lights inside your pumpkin and forgo the candle.

Ice cream paddle-style scoops make quick work of cleaning out the seeds and pulp.  They also allow you to scrape down the inside to about an inch thickness with relative ease. Many people use carving templates available on-line which they print off and use as a transfer to outline their images with.

Once you have your pumpkin carved it will quickly want to rot but this easy to avoid or at least prolong the pumpkins life by soaking your cleaned and carved pumpkin for a couple of hours in a bleach water solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon of water. Remove the pumpkin from the water and dry it thoroughly. This will help keep bugs, mold, and animals away from your pumpkin. Then rub a thin even coating of cooking oil or petroleum jelly all over your pumpkin, inside and out with particular attention to all of the cut edges to prevent shriveling.

If you use a candle to power your pumpkin be sure to place it in a glass or votive holder, and cut a ventilation hole into the pumpkin. Candle powered pumpkins can be used as an aromatic air freshener by sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin with some cinnamon and cloves.

Finally you can extend your jack-o’-lanterns life by storing it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator when not in use. Finally I must add that you do not eat a pumpkin that has been used as a jack-o’-lantern. Happy Halloween!

Sun kissed pumpkins

Sun kissed pumpkins

Gastronomically yours,

September 18th, 2014

The Great Pumpkin 

As the first day of autumn approaches, and the shadows are growing longer it won’t be long until we will start scraping frost off of our windshields. This beautiful and vibrant time of year sees us consuming more food as an ingredient for decorating our homes than what we may actually put in our pantries.

As we decorate our homes with corn stalks, kale and all sizes and varieties of gourds and squash, the pumpkin has become synonymous with Thanksgiving and Halloween. Beyond the pumpkins symbolism most of us know little about this fruit and still has most of us reaching for this product in its store-bought canned form when it comes to cooking. Canning pumpkins are harvested in August and are a smaller early maturing variety.  Pumpkins for Jack-o-lanterns are a late harvest larger variety of pumpkin.

The pumpkin’s symbolic presence of the autumn harvest has made this fruit a traditional staple of the Canadian Thanksgiving and though it has taken a considerably longer amount of time than Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive, the pumpkin has come of age and has transitioned itself into a staple of our pantries.

Sun kissed pumpkins

Sun kissed pumpkins

Although many people are quaffing copious amounts of pumpkin spice flavoured coffees most of us devour pumpkins in sweet dessert like preparations such as pie, cheesecake and muffins. When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, steamed, baked, or roasted. Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking, from the fleshy shell, to the seeds, to even the flowers.

Pumpkins are the largest berry in the world and are related to other fruits like squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be prepared in the same way as squash or zucchini, where a more mature pumpkin might be served mashed like potatoes.

Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are the small, flat, green, edible seeds. Most pumpkin seeds are covered by a white husk, although some pumpkin varieties produce seeds without them. Pepitas are a popular snack that can be found hulled in most grocery stores.

The origin of making pumpkin pie came about when after early colonist  were introduced to the pumpkin and chose to slice off the top of the pumpkin,, removed the seeds, and filled the pumpkin with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.

Pumpkins are available almost everywhere one would find food for sale right now. It can be fun to go to a pick your own field as well to get your pumpkins. Try cooking with pumpkin whether it be canned or fresh in the following recipe for pumpkin bread.

 

Pumpkin Bread

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour

⅔ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. pumpkin spices

¼ tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin purée, canned or freshly cooked

½ cup packed brown sugar

⅓ cup olive oil

⅓ cup maple syrup

2 Tbs. unsalted pumpkin seeds

 

Method:

In a medium bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients; flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin spices, and salt. Separately in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and maple syrup until evenly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir them together with a large spoon just until smooth.

Spoon the batter into an oiled and floured 9×5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the pumpkin seeds and gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to settle the batter.

Bake on the middle rack at 350°F until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the cooked bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring it to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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