Eat Your Pumpkins!

Halloween has come and gone. Jack-O-Lanterns all over the country sit on front porches with spent candles inside their empty orange shells, and their frightening (or eerie, or funny, or lop-sided, or [insert your artful carving of choice here]) faces are now wilting slightly in the morning light of November The First. They know their fate: to the curb they go to wait for the garbage man, or perhaps to the back garden to decompose and become next year’s tomato haul. Our Jacks will be joined by their mini pumpkin friends who have spent the fall season adorning hay bales, Thanksgiving tables, mantlepieces and flower pots as mere ornamental statements—

Screeeeech. STOP! Don’t do it. Don’t throw those Pumpkin Juniors away. They’re FOOD! They have so much more to give than just a pretty orange porch. Those pint-sized pumpkins that look like Big Jack’s kid siblings in your Halloween display are often generically called “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins at your local produce market, but can be a number of varieties like Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, and Cinderella. Their flesh is denser and sweeter than their Jack-O-Lantern cousins, and they are delicious in soups, pies and breads.

I know this because I love to bake with pumpkin. I bring my creations to family dinners, or to get-togethers, or to any event or meeting where I need a little extra “to the heart through the stomach” help. You know what I love even more? That wide-eyed gaze people give me when they ask through a mouthful of deliciousness, “That was an actual pumpkin yesterday?”

This is why witnessing the demise of so many lovely pie pumpkins the day after Halloween is bitter sweet for me. Bitter, because I know that they’ve missed their calling to become our nourishment. But sweet because… Yay! Free food! Yes, I am pretty sure I’m known as “That Weirdo Pumpkin Lady,” in my neighbourhood—the one who snatches abandoned pumpkins from the jaws of the dreaded Curbside Pickup; who darts in and out of her car, and drives away with her bounty, cackling maniacally.

[At this point I will save York Durham Headwaters the editor’s note and just add it in myself. Ahem, here goes… “We at YDH do not encourage you try to appropriate your neighbours’ discarded pumpkins at home for health and safety reasons. We like Katherine… but sometimes we just don’t know about her.”]

Questionable pumpkin antics aside, my point is this: Keep those mini pumpkins. Use them. They want to be your dinner. Their meat wants to be your next pie and their seeds want to be roasted and munched on cold autumn days. In YDH, we love our autumn harvest—by the way, if you didn’t know already, we will be attending the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair this November with many of our family owned and operated farms. You can visit them on-site and pick up a cornucopia of pie and sugar pumpkins, as well as squash, sweet potatoes, and other wonderful things to eat. They are open well past Halloween, too.

Pumpkins

All well and good, you may say. But you’ve never baked with a whole pumpkin before. Don’t worry, I anticipated this. I’ll let you in on one of my super secret pumpkin recipes. It’s unbelievably easy to make the best pumpkin pie ever, and if you don’t happen to have one of these delicious miracles of nature available right now, we at York Durham Headwaters encourage you to visit your nearest on-farm market and pick one up today.

Katherine’s Best Pumpkin Pie Ever

Part 1: Roasted Pumpkin Puree

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cut the stem off your small pie pumpkin by inserting a sharp knife into the top and carving a circle (I prefer a serrated steak knife).
  • Cut your pumpkin in half, and scoop out the pulp and seeds; reserve seeds for brining and roasting.
  • Place your pumpkin halves cut-side down on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. You can check this by piercing the top of the shell with a fork. If it goes through easily, your pumpkin is roasted.
  • Remove your baking tray from the oven and let the pumpkins cool. Once cool, scrape out the roasted meat.
  • Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processer, puree your roasted pumpkin pulp which can now be used in soups, pies and other awesome culinary creations.

Part 2: Mmmmmm, Pie!

You will need one oven-safe pie plate (I love deep dishes) and one uncooked pie shell, bottom only.

  • Blend together the following until smooth like soup:
    • 3 cups roasted pumpkin puree
    • 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (skim or whole fat is your choice)
    • 4 eggs (we recommend farm fresh from one of our YDH family farms)
    • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place your pie shell into your pie plate, then pour your soupy pumpkin mixture into the pie shell until it almost reaches the top – you just need to make sure you can carry it to the oven without spilling it.
  • Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then reduce your oven’s temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for another 45 to 60 minutes. Your pie will be done when you can insert a knife in the centre and it comes away clean. Note: Your pie filling will puff up like a souffle a bit. Don’t worry, it will settle down once you remove your pie from the oven and it cools.
Pumpkin Pie

Our local on-farm markets have lots of great ideas for recipes, and many of them bake their own treats onsite. If we’ve convinced you to eat your mini pumpkins—whether because you’re done with them after Halloween, or whether because, hey, pumpkin is just awesome—head into YDH farm country today and get started. Want to know where to find some of our on-farm markets? Check out these links:

York Farm Fresh

Durham Farm Fresh

Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance

Story by Katherine Ryalen

Ryalen is a Durham-based author and lifestyle blogger. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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