Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Pumpkins just scream fall! I guess they must be the symbol of all the fall harvest of plenty. Even though we know what is just around the corner, we can't help enjoying all the sights and smells of this time of year. It's possible to make the pumpkins last just a little longer.

Pumpkins are an inexpensive for decorating and for eating. They make great pumpkin pie, but they do so much more. Please don’t feel like you have to toss the pumpkin when the Halloween season is over. The beauty of a pumpkin is that you can enjoy them in new ways each season with the addition of a new pumpkin recipe or learning how to extend your pumpkin further.

Choosing a Good Pumpkin & Making it Last
You will want to pick a pumpkin that is fresh and firm. Avoid pumpkins that are bruised or have soft spots on them. Sugar pumpkins are the best to eat and the ones you usually find in the grocery store. Pumpkins that are not carved can last until after Thanksgiving, but may require being brought in at night. When pumpkin rinds freeze, the insides deteriorate and then collapse, that is why it is important to bring them in or cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
Everyone knows that you can make your own pumpkin puree, but most think it’s too much work. It is very easy and a great way to get your money back on the pumpkins you bought. The Tightwad Gazette recommends not cutting into your pumpkin until after October 30th. Save the cut out portions in your fridge and the day after Halloween, you can begin to process it. Simply cut the flesh away from the skin and dice it, just as you would do with squash. Fill a pot with your cubes and add two inches of water to the bottom. Simmer the pot until the pumpkin is soft. Then all you have to do is run it through your food processor and you can freeze this into two cup portions (the equivalent size of the canned stuff). How easy is that? Just as a side note, when thawed, the puree will be more watery than the canned version. Just allow the water to drain out and use the pumpkin as usual.

Pumpkin can also be canned without much trouble. Just cut peeled pumpkin in small pieces and steam, boil or bake until tender. To steam, add little or no water. To boil, add only enough water to cover. Put pumpkin and liquid from precooking through strainer or process in food processor till smooth. Spices may be added if desired; I like the pure pumpkin so I can spice it how I want to, or to just spice it lightly. Simmer until heated through, stirring often to prevent sticking. Pack loosely while very hot, into canning jars to within ½” of top of jar. Put on lid and screw band firmly tight. Process in pressure cooker 60 minutes for pints and 80 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure. (A pint jar is about the same measure as a small can of pumpkin.) This is quite an inexpensive food storage item when you can it yourself.

Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be a fun treat to eat with the children and can be a yearly tradition in your family. It is certainly time-consuming to separate the seeds from the pumpkin, but can be a fun activity for you to do with the kids. To toast pumpkin seeds you only need the seeds, vegetable oil, and a little salt. Preheat your oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the clean, dry pumpkin seeds in a bowl with a small amount of vegetable oil, just enough to coat, and toss with salt. Arrange in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can then bake these for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack and eat them by the handfuls. (Try different seasonings on these when you bake them.)

With the zillions of pumpkin recipes out there, you should never be at a loss of what to do with pumpkin. Here are some of my family’s favorites, from our house to yours! Thanks to my daughter for sharing her cheesecake recipe.

Jody’s Pumpkin Cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crust:
2 c. crushed graham crackers
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter
Mix and press into a 9" pie pan
2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. vanilla
Dash each of cloves and nutmeg
2 eggs
Mix everything except eggs until blended. Add eggs and mix. Pour into crust and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Chill 3 hours or overnight. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream.

I’ve made this pumpkin crumble dessert for years and sometimes it was better than others. I never was really sure how it would turn out. Then I found this recipe on “Our Best Bites” and it’s wonderful. Not too much filling, a little sweeter and it turns out the same every time.

Easy Pumpkin Crumble
Recipe from “Our Best Bites”
1 boxed yellow or white cake mix
1-2 sticks butter (see notes in instructions)
1 16 oz can pumpkin*
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/3 C chopped pecans
1/2 t additional cinnamon for topping
*This makes a dessert about an inch thick or less. That's because I like a high topping-to-pumpkin ratio. If you'd like it thicker, use a large can of pumpkin and double the rest of the filling ingredients (Eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices). Leave the rest of the recipe the same. Preheat oven to 350º. Put 2 c. cake mix in a bowl. Cut in 3 T. chilled butter. Just use your fingers to crumble the butter until it's in small crumbly pieces. Place mixture in a 9x13 baking dish and press flat with your fingers. Mix pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and spices until smooth. Pour on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Now take the rest of the dry cake mix and mix in 1/2 t cinnamon. Sprinkle it all over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Use a measuring cup so you have a rough measurement of how much you're putting on. Here's why: Cake mixes all have different amounts in them! Different brands, different flavors, etc. Each one is slightly different in volume. I found one mix to have almost double the normal amount. Measuring the amount of cake mix you're sprinkling on top will help you get the perfect topping ratio in the last step. Here's the trick: For every 1 C of cake mix you sprinkled on top, you'll need 3 T of melted butter. Drizzle it right on top. Next, sprinkle on the chopped pecans. You'll have 3 distinct layers now. Bake it about 40 minutes or so. A knife should come out without globs of pumpkin on it and the topping should be nice and golden. You can eat it warm, at room temp, or chilled! Put a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top. It's also great with vanilla ice cream.

A friend shared this recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes and it’s awesome. I’ve included a couple of syrup recipes but you can top them however you wish:

Pumpkin Pancakes
2 cups flour
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground all spice
1 t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ginger
½ t. salt
1 2/3 cup buttermilk
1 c. pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 T. canola oil
2 T. vinegar
Combine buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, oil and vinegar. Mix dry ingredients well then add to pumpkin mixture just until combined. Heat your lightly oiled pan, or griddle. Brown pancakes on both sides and serve hot with buttermilk syrup or apple cider syrup.

Buttermilk Syrup
1 cube real butter
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 ½ c. sugar
2 T. corn syrup
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
Combine buttermilk, sugar, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda in a bigger pan than you think you need as this boils over easily. Bring ingredients to a boil and reduce heat to low and keep simmering. Cook, stirring very frequently, for 8-9 minutes till golden color. Remove from heat, skim foam if desired and add vanilla.

Apple Cider Syrup
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
2 c. fresh apple cider (or juice)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. butter
Mix sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg well. Add apple cider and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within a week or two.

This recipe was handed down from my husband’s mother. He has “tweaked” the recipe a bit and loves to help me make the filling. He will always be quoted in our family for saying, “It needs just a little more molasses!”

Pumpkin Pie

4 eggs slightly beaten
1 lg. can pumpkin
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. ground cloves
2 T. Molasses (maybe more)
1 c. canned milk
2 pkgs. Knox unflavored gelatin
Mix in order given, adding gelatin last. Pour into pie crusts. Bake 10 minutes at 425º; reduce heat to 350º and continue baking 30-40 minutes or untill knife inserted near center comes out clean. Y: 2 pies

It isn’t really fall till you make pumpkin cookies. This makes a large batch and we make these at least 3-4 times each year before we get our fill. I often freeze some to eat later. I’ve even frozen the dough and baked it later.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. shortening
3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 large can pumpkin (29 oz.)
12 oz. chocolate chips
5 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. soda
2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla
2 t. nutmeg
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. cloves
2 t. allspice
Cream shortening and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs. Add vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin. Beat after each addition until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 375º. Makes a large batch.

Possibly my favorite pumpkin recipe of all are these muffins. They are much too good (and easy) to just eat for breakfast:

Lisa’s Easy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 box Spice Cake Mix (Betty Crocker Moist)
15 oz. can pumpkin
½ c. water
1 egg
½ bag chocolate chips (I love milk chocolate chips in these – extra large chips if you have them)
Mix well and bake at 350º for 15-20 minutes or till done. Makes 12 large muffins or about 3 dozen mini muffins.

I know there are many, many more ways to use pumpkin out there. Everyone loves pumpkin bread, cakes and cookies. You can even make pumpkin milkshakes, hot chocolate, soup and pasta. I love pumpkin mousse and pudding. So, don’t you dare throw away those Halloween pumpkins. Make something good that will last through the fall.

No comments: