Not just for carving

by guest blogger Rich Baringer

When I was a kid, my grandfather, who was quite the farmer, would always make personalized pumpkins for me, my sister and our cousins. When the pumpkin was very small, he would use a pen knife to carve our names and a little picture—by just slightly scoring the skin. As the pumpkin grew, so did the carving. We always looked forward to getting this special treat from him.

Like most families, we will carve a big orange pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern for Halloween. My son, Jake, gets very excited about that. And I think that’s what most people do with pumpkins—use them as autumn decorations. That’s a shame, because pumpkins are also a very delicious and nutritious vegetable.

Pumpkins come in many colors (orange, white, cream, blue-gray, reddish-brown), shapes (round, oblong, zucchini-like, flat), textures (smooth, netted, bumpy) and sizes (from those little ones used for decorations to huge ones weighing hundreds of pounds).

They’re used all over the world to make pies, breads, soups, pasta filling, gnocchi and much more.

For those looking for a healthy diet, pumpkin is a great addition because it’s low in calories and high in potassium and Vitamin A. You can use pumpkin and most squash (even sweet potatoes) interchangeably in many recipes. And, if kept in a cool and dry spot, a pumpkin will last for several months.

Not all pumpkins are equal

If you’re going to use a pumpkin for cooking, however, you need to choose the right variety. The Jack-o-Lantern type is not the variety to use for cooking—the flesh is pretty stringy and tasteless. You’ll need to find smaller varieties for the best cooking results.

The names of these varieties are as colorful as their skins: Baby Pam, Small Sugar, New England Pie, Spooktacular, Mystic, Peek-a-Boo and Winter Luxury, just to name a few. All of these have relatively thin skins and flesh that is sweet and not very stringy.

Crookneck Pumpkin; photo courtesy rareseeds.com
Photo courtesy rareseeds.com

Another pumpkin that is great for cooking is the Crookneck Pumpkin, which doesn’t really look like a pumpkin (imagine if a butternut squash and a giraffe had a baby), but it’s easy to cut up and peel, has very few seeds and sweet flesh.

Making your own puree

Canned pumpkin works fine for most recipes, but if you want to make your own puree, peel and seed the pumpkin and then cut it into 3-4 inch pieces.

Put them in a pot with a small amount of water, cover, bring to a boil and cook until very tender. (Start checking at about 20-30 minutes.) Cool a little bit and transfer to a food mill or food processor to puree. You can then use it or freeze for future use.

I prefer the flavor of baking (or roasting) a pumpkin. Cut it in half and place each half (cut side down) in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or longer (depending on the size). Test for doneness by poking a fork into the flesh. When it’s very tender, remove, cool slightly, spoon out the flesh and puree, if desired.

I’ve even heard of baking the pumpkin whole—just poke some vent holes in it and bake at 350°F until it collapses. I guess to do this you either need a small pumpkin or a big oven!

Don’t throw those seeds away! It’s easy to turn them into a tasty snack.

Rinse and dry the seeds, then toss in a bit of vegetable oil. Season as you wish—with salt, chili powder, garlic salt, etc. Put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. They turn out crunchy and nutty.

As you can tell simply by driving around Bucks County, pumpkins are plentiful in our area. Most farmers’ markets have loads of them—many of which can be used for cooking. Most of these local farms (from the Bucks County Co-op Extension) grow and/or sell a huge variety of pumpkins—some as many as 50-70 different kinds. The folks at the farm will be glad to point you toward the right pumpkin for your needs.

Active Acres Farm
881 Highland Rd.
Newtown, PA  18940
215-968-2192

Brumbaugh’s Farm
2575 County Line Rd.
Telford, PA  18969
215-723-3508

Center Farm
2224 Forest Grove Rd.
Furlong, PA 18925
215-794-7702

Charlann Farm
586 Stony Hill Rd.
Yardley, PA  19067
215-493-1831

Eastburn Farm
1085 Durham Rd.
Pineville, PA  18946
215-598-3396

Hellerick’s Family Farm
5500 Easton Rd.
Doylestown, PA  18902
215-766-8388

Lapinski Farm
1003 Middle Rd.
Dublin, PA  18917
215-249-3431

Maximuck’s Farm Market
5793 Long Lane Rd.
Doylestown, PA  18902
215-297-9894

Milk House Farm Market
1118 Slack Rd.
Newtown, PA  18940
215-852-4305

None Such Farm Market
4458 York Rd.
Buckingham, PA  18912
215-794-5201

Walter M. Orlowski, Jr.
2165 Trumbauersville Rd.
Quakertown, PA  18951
215-536-8859

Penn Vermont Fruit Farm
Rt. 113 & Rolling Hills Rd.
Bedminster, PA  18910
215-795-2475

Rick’s Egg Farm
4917 Durham Rd.
Kintnersville, PA  18930
610-847-5322

Shady Brook Farm
931 Stony Hill Rd.
Yardley, PA  19067
215-968-1670

Snipes Farm
890 W Bridge St.
Morrisville, PA  19067
215-295-1139

Solly Brothers Farm Market
707 Almshouse Rd.
Ivyland, PA  18974
215-357-2850

Styer Orchard
97 Styer Ln.
Langhorne, PA  19047
215-702-9633

Trauger’s Farm Market
370 Island Rd.
Kintnersville, PA  18930
610-847-5702

Winding Brook Farm
3014 Bristol Rd.
Warrington, PA  18976
215-348-5514
215-343-8880

Windy Spring Farm
1845 Myers Rd.
Quakertown, PA  18951
(Market on Rt. 663 east of the turnpike)
215-536-8624

Here’s a pumpkin ice cream recipe that I make at the holidays.  It’s always a big hit.

Pumpkin Spice-Cream

(from Cooking Light magazine)
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups milk
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 (8-oz) carton sour cream
¾ cup biscotti, crumbled (I’ve also used ginger snaps and baked pie crust)

HOW TO

  1. Combine 1 cup milk and brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan, and heat to 180°F or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil).  Remove from heat.
  2. Place egg yolks in a bowl.  Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Place mixture in a pan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture coats a metal spoon (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly.  Drain custard through a sieve into a bowl, discard solids.
  3. Combine 1/2 cup milk, condensed milk, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl.  Stir in pumpkin.  Gradually add custard, stirring with a whisk.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup pumpkin mixture and sour cream, stirring will with a whisk.  Add sour cream mixture to chilled pumpkin mixture, and stir until well blended.  Pour the mixture into freezer can of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, fold in crumbled biscotti.  Cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm.

Rich Baringer is chef/owner of Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service. Rich grew up in Haycock Township and has lived (and eaten) in Bucks County his whole life. He now lives in Blooming Glen Village with his wife, Mary Beth, his son Jake, and their new pup, Teddy. Rich graduated from the Culinary Business Academy in Atlanta, is a member of the U.S. Personal Chef Association and owns Dinner’s Done Personal Chef Service. For more information about Dinner’s Done PCS, contact Rich at 215.804.6438,  dinnersdonepa@comcast.net or check out his website.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. FYI – Winter Luxury is not a cheese pumpkin. It is a small, regularly-shaped pumpkin with netting on the surface like a cantaloupe has. It is very good for eating though, and so are some of the larger decorative ones like Cinderella and Musquee de Provence. The only thing with them is you will have a lot of leftovers!

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