‘Tis the Season for Everything Pumpkin

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November 3, 2015

‘Tis the Season for Everything Pumpkin

By Danielle Scott (bake these. Uploaded by Skeezix1000) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The most popular fruit in fall, no doubt, is the pumpkin. That’s right, the pumpkin is a fruit and it’s a berry. The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pepõn which means large melon. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae plant family, which includes melons, cucumbers, squash and gourds. Long before the European explorers came to North America, the early Native Americans roasted pumpkins over campfires to eat; pumpkins helped them make it through the harsh, cold winters. When the pilgrims arrived, they got introduced to the pumpkin and it’s become a favorite fruit ever since.

 

How to Grow a Pumpkin

To grow a pumpkin, you need to start off with an area to plant that gets full sun. Also, you need pick an area that has a long bed, such as the backside of your house or garage. The pumpkin vines can get very long, usually 20 to 30 feet. Also, make sure you have good drainage.

  • Jack-O-Lanterns: A good variety is Connecticut Field or a Howden.
  • Miniature: A good variety is Jack-Be-Littles.
  • Pumpkin Pie: A good variety is Baby Pam’s.

 

Health Benefits

You might be surprised that the pumpkin is a great source of nutrition. Of course, this is not a good excuse to eat too much pumpkin pie. Eating the pumpkin in a variety of recipes and ways will give you the most health benefits.

Good Eyesight

According to the National Institute, you can get your daily intake of Vitamin A from just from a cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin.

Weight Loss

Pumpkin is a good source of fiber and low in calories and will keep you feeling fuller longer.

Good for the Heart

The pumpkin seeds are packed with phytosterols, which are known to reduce bad cholesterol.

Good for Skin

The carotenoids in pumpkins neutralize free radicals in the body that can attribute to wrinkle-free skin.

Cancer Fighting

According to the National Cancer Institute, pumpkins boast the antioxidant beta-carotene, which plays a role in cancer prevention.

 

Jack-o-lanterns

In our culture, jack-o-lanterns are a symbol of Halloween. However, they originated from an ancient Celtic tradition known as Samhain, which means “summer’s end.” On this night, jack-o-lanterns where carved from turnips or gourds and set on porches and in windows to protect against evil spirits. When the European settlers arrived, chiefly the Irish, they found that pumpkins were a better fit for the jack-o-lanterns because they were bigger and more easier to carve.

Pumpkin-Carving Tips

  • Use a serrated knife.
  • Carve the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin so that the pumpkin will sit level. Also, it’ll be much easier to place the pumpkin over the light source.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to remove the pumpkin seeds.
  • Use a paring knife to carve the design of the pumpkin. You can also get a battery-operated pumpkin-carving knife.
  • Google pumpkin stencils online for fun carving ideas.

 

Unusual Uses for Pumpkins

Facial Mask/Skin Cream

It you want an anti-aging, clarifying facial mask use canned pumpkin – or make your own puree from a fresh pumpkin. Mixed with other natural ingredients such as cinnamon or coconut milk will make a great moisturizer. It is also a good exfoliator if you add brown sugar and olive oil.

Vase

Cut off the top, take out the seeds and filling, and then fill it with water. Then, pick out your favorite flowers and set on the table.

Pumpkin Candle Holder

Get a miniature pumpkin (3″-4″ across) and a votive candle (pure beeswax votives). Hold the candle over the top of the pumpkin and trace a circle around it. Then, carefully cut out the circle so that a votive candle will fit into the hole snugly. Fill a bowl with water and place the pumpkin in the water to float and light the candle.

 

Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

You can use pumpkin for about anything. There is pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pie, pumpkin risotto, even pumpkin beer. Here are some favorite pumpkin recipes.

Stuffed Pumpkins

Turn your pumpkin into a crock pot. Cut off the top, take out the seeds and filling, and bake the pumpkin for 20 to 30 minutes – until the flesh is soft. Then, you can stuff it with your choice of soup, a casserole, etc. There are many recipes online you can choose from.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients:

8 oz of cream cheese, 2 cups of pumpkin (fresh is best), 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 of salt, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 egg and 2 yolks, 1/2 stick of melted butter, 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of ginger, 1/4 of nutmeg, 1 tsp of syrup or molasses, whip cream and pie crust.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 1 piece of pre-made pie dough down into a (9 inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about 2 pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake up to 10 minutes, remove foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until crust is dried out and beginning to color. For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger and beat until incorporated. Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Pumpkin Fries

Use a potato peeler to remove the pumpkin’s skin, then cut the squash into fry-like strips. Coat them with the spice of your choice, arrange on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Serve with a spicy aioli or the dipping sauce of your choice.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Williams – Sonoma has a wonderful ice cream recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree or canned,  unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 cups heavy cream, 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, 5 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. salt, pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tbs bourbon.

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Cook until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 cup cream and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.

Place the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water, stirring occasionally until cool. Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bourbon during the last minute of churning. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Bourbon Pumpkin Mousse

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar, 6 tbs bourbon, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 8 eggs, separated, 1 can of canned pumpkin and orange zest.

Directions:

Bring 2″ water to a boil in a 4 qt. saucepan over medium high heat. Place a medium metal bowl over the pan, and add 3/4 C. sugar, 6 T. bourbon, 1/2 t. each Kosher salt, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon, 1/4 t. each fresh grated nutmeg, and ground cloves, 8 egg yolks, whisk together and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and pale, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set bourbon mixture aside. In another bowl, whisk 8 egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form, add 1 C. canned pumpkin and fold until combined. Add mixture to warm bourbon mixture and fold together until smooth. Divide among serving glasses and sprinkle with orange zest; serve immediately.