Country Kitchen: Pumpkin Time of Year

Country Kitchen: Pumpkin Time of Year
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These orange globes of autumn dot the fields and gardens. They're stacked in piles around farm stands. My husband and I saw a church yard colored orange by the multitudes of pumpkins for a fund raising sale.
Children carve or paint laughing faces on pumpkins to display for Halloween. That was a high point of my childhood and for my daughter and grandchildren.

Pumpkin Costume

I recall the "Big Pumpkin" of my youth which my sister used as a Halloween costume. We cut a hole in the bottom instead of top, scooped out the seeds, and carved a face. Then Sister draped herself in a sheet as a ghost. She placed the pumpkin over her head.

I used a variation of this idea for my story, "Mama's Prize Pumpkin," in my children's anthology, TALES OF ADVENTURE & DISCOVERY. I drew a picture to accompany the story, which also appears in a coloring book and on posters.

(If anyone would like a bookmark with the pumpkin head character on it, e-mail me and I'll let you know where to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

Pumpkins in History

The more practical use of pumpkins is for food and dates back to the natives of the Americas. These people grew pumpkins and squash and developed many ways to prepare them. Then they taught these foodways to the early settlers.

Originally, it's believed pumpkins were grown by natives in Central America, then adopted as a food by those of North America. Their various methods of preparation included baking, boiling, making it into a soup, drying it, and grinding pumpkin into meal which they used for making breads.

For winter use, the natives cut the pumpkins into rings and strips and hung them to dry.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie has been associated with Thanksgiving menus since the 17th century. It's believed the first pies were made by scooping out the seeds from the center of the pumpkin and then filling it with milk and seasonings, maple syrup or molasses. The pumpkin was baked until tender.

Poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about pumpkin pies. Mention of pumpkin pie, pudding, and other dishes is found in other writings and diaries.

Pumpkin pies come in many varieties today. Some cooks like to use the fresh pumpkins, cutting them up, cooking and mashing them for a pie filling. Others use canned pumpkin.

You also can mix pumpkin with other ingredients for pie variations. This includes stirring a package of mincemeat into your pie recipe. Or you can create a chiffon pumpkin pie by making a gelatin custard mixture and stirring cooked pumpkin into it. Then turn into baked pie shell and top with whipped cream or whipped topping.

FROZEN PUMPKIN PIE is another variation. Stir 1 pint vanilla ice cream to soften. Spread in a baked 9-inch pie shell. Freeze ice cream in shell until firm.

Mix together 1 cup canned or fresh cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if you don't want it so sweet), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. (Spice amounts may vary depending on individual taste.) Fold in 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows and 1 cup heavy cream, whipped (or whipped topping).

Spoon onto ice cream layer. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Freeze until firm.

When serving, take from freezer and let it stand in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. Top with more whipped topping, if desired.

(C) 2003 Mary Emma Allen

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About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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