Saturday, October 11, 2008

When the frost is on the punkin — eat it!

10/08/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

“When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’ birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”
James Whitcomb Riley

Written nearly 100 years ago this snippet from the poem by renowned Hoosier poet Riley perfectly captures my fall feelings. Indian Summer is here and all’s right in my garden. Fall’s muted color palette puts summer’s crisp colors and days into perspective. Winter will soon be here.

Unlike Riley, most of us no longer live on farms where we need to be gathering in fodder (food) for our livestock. Many of us still plant pumpkins, however, and they do need to be gathered before the first frost if we hope to add them to our meals — or our front porches!

To the pioneer, pumpkins were more than a decorative asset. They were a food staple much like squash. In an era of root cellars with no refrigeration, they were good keepers and easy to grow — just drop a few seeds into a small shallow hole, water and watch them go!

Pumpkins pieces were sometimes dried and strung on a string. They could then be reconstituted and served as desired. One simple dish called for the dried product to be soaked in water, fried in bacon grease and served with crumbled bacon on top.

On a cold winter’s night, if all else failed, families could eat pumpkin for their main meal in soups and stews or even stuffed with rice or other leftovers. Carefully hoarded spices were used to put a little life into the otherwise bland vegetable.

“The Yankee Cookbook” originally published in 1939 has great stories about the eating habits of our ancestors. Evidently, stewed pumpkin was common, every day fare. In fact, one of the dishes was sarcastically called the “ancient New England standing-dish” due its prevalence: stewed pumpkin chunks dressed with a little butter, spice and vinegar.

Another common practice was to take a small, very ripe pumpkin with a hard shell and slice off the stem end to form a cover with a handle. The seeds were scooped out, milk was poured in, the cover was popped on and the pumpkin was placed into a brick oven to roast for 6-7 hours. It was then removed, filled again with milk and eaten straight from the shell.

Times have changed and so have our tastes. When it comes to pumpkin, most of us think of pie. But there’s a lot more to this orange-colored oldie than pie. Thanks to the magic of canned and pureed pumpkin, you can whip up a variety of pumpkin recipes for any meal at any time of the year. Experiment a little and enjoy!

Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Pecan Topping

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients. Batter will be lumpy. Let rest 5-10 minutes. If too thick, add a little milk. Bake on a hot grill.

Apple Pecan Topping

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan. Cook over medium head until apples are tender, stirring frequently. Serve over pancakes.

Pumpkin Eggnog Pie

2 cups pumpkin
1-1/2 cups eggnog
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425° F.
Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl and mix well.
Pour into 9-inch unbaked pie shell and bake 15 min. Reduce heat to 350° F. Bake an additional 40-45 min. or until knife inserted near edge comes out clean. Serves 6

Pumpkin Rum Cake
(A Taste of Oregon)

2 16 ounce packages pound cake mixes
1 16 ounce can pumpkin
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Prepare pound cake mixes together according to package directions, decreasing water to a total of 2/3 cup; add pumpkin and pie spice. Turn into well greased and floured 10-inch fluted tube pan. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan 10 min. Place on serving plate. Using long-tined fork or skewer, punch holes in top of cake at 1-inch intervals.

1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 cup rum

In saucepan, combine sugar, orange juice and cinnamon stick; bring to boil. Remove cinnamon and stir in rum. Spoon orange glaze very slowly over cake, a small amount at a time, allowing cake to absorb glaze. Continue until glaze is used. Spoon any glaze that runs onto plate back over cake. Chill until serving time

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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