Can you believe that Halloween is just around the corner? The countdown to the witching hour is on, and we’re sure you’re all ready for the moment when those fearsome ghouls, goblins, ghosts and ghastly creatures (otherwise known as “kids”) will be on the prowl for candy. If you’re extra keen about the harvest season and Halloween, then your front porch and dining room table is already adorned with lovely fall décor—including those bright and popular mini pumpkins.
A few years ago, we posted a piece on our York Durham Headwaters blog called Eat Your Pumpkins! in which this humble writer, yours truly, admitted to a bit of an embarrassing habit… I am a pumpkin snatcher. That’s right. The day after Halloween is like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one, because this is the day that all of those lovely mini pumpkins are kicked to the curb for the green bin collection. Oh, how it breaks my heart to see them abandoned so unceremoniously. But, at the same time… Yay! Free food! These 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. Their flesh is denser and sweeter than their Jack-O-Lantern cousins, and they are delicious in soups, pies and breads.
Now, you don’t have to be weird like me and hop from house to house snatching curbside mini pumpkins (and I’m fairly confident that YDH does not encourage you to do so for health and safety reasons—especially during these times of COVID-19). But luckily, you can buy pumpkins from farmers markets and farm stores all over our region. Visit these rural gems on-site and pick up a cornucopia of pie and sugar pumpkins, as well as squash, sweet potatoes, and other wonderful things to eat. If you happen to have purchased some pie pumpkins for your own harvest display, don’t throw them away. Cook them and eat them. They’re eager to be your dinner, your dessert, your sweet afternoon treat. And their seeds want to be roasted and munched on cold autumn days.
All well and good, you may say. But you’ve never baked a pumpkin from scratch before. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find my tried, tested and true method for how to turn your mini pumpkin into delicious food. To give you some inspiration on what to do with your roasted pumpkin meat once you do, we touched base with Landman Gardens and Bakery to see what pumpkin creations they’re cooking up for the autumn harvest season.
Grand Valley, Ontario is home to one of our favourite success stories here in York Durham Headwaters. Landman Gardens and Bakery may describe itself as a small-scale sustainable farm… but they’re being modest. This family owned and operated farm is a booming rural business that has become a favourite destination for those seeking local produce and baked goods. The farm raises dairy goats, pigs, turkeys and chickens, sells organic produce and homemade preserves, and has an onsite bakery and butcher shop. It also features a Blackhouse—a traditional Scottish-style stone house built without mortar, in which the farm hosts delectable farm-to-table dinners (when COVID-19 safety measures allow, of course). At Landman Gardens and Bakery, you know you’re surrounded by history and heritage.
This autumn, owner Rebecca Landman and her staff welcome you to experience what tradition tastes like with a number of pumpkin-based goodies. “We will be making pumpkin cranberry scones, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes, and pumpkin pies. Yum!” says Rebecca. “I think my favourite thing to bake is the pumpkin scones, with a hint of pumpkin spice and the fresh cranberries. They just scream fall flavours.”
For Rebecca and her team, fall is a busy time on the farm. It is all hands on deck with canning and preserving all of the wonderful seasonal vegetables from the summer. This fall alone, they have processed 300 jars of summer relish, 200 jars of hearty salsa, 100 jars of cranberry sauce and 200 jars of pickled beets! “It is an exciting time,” she says fondly. “We are so privileged to be able to work with our fellow local farmers and producers who provide us with such amazing produce. Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday because it is a holiday just about the feast.” And at Landman Gardens and Bakery, it’s all about feasting.
As Rebecca points out, this is a great time to explore Ontario and see what is in your own backyard. “Take some time to explore your local farm stores and markets,” she urges. “Learn about the work that goes into some of your favourite preserves, bakery treats or ready-made meals.”
Hopefully we’ve convinced you to save your pie pumpkins… or better yet, to go out and pick up some more. Farm markets all over YDH will be open for many more weeks, after all. Because once Halloween is over, it’s only a matter of time until Christmas is upon us. To get you started, here is how I roast my pie pumpkins. If done correctly, this method of obtaining usable pulp from your mini-Jacks will leave you with a deliciously dense product that will turn a beautiful caramel brown when it’s transformed into a yummy pie.
Roasting Pie Pumpkins:
- 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 processor, puree your roasted pumpkin pulp which can now be used in soups, pies and other awesome culinary creations.
Want to know where to find some of our on-farm markets? Check out these links:
Story by Katherine Ryalen