With Halloween lurking right around the corner like a kid in a goblin costume, we thought it was time to turn our attention to the great pumpkin. A member of the squash family, cucurbita pepo is native to North America and has been cultivated here for thousands of years, with sees found in archaeological digs in Mexico dating as far back as seven thousand years B.C. Nowadays we tend to regulate the pumpkin to the front porch as a decoration, or in pie form around the holidays. Why not change all that and start incorporating pumpkin into your regular recipe repertoire? Starting with something totally delicious and unexpected – popsicles!
Pumpkins are a winter squash, and the kind used for cooking, both desserts and savory dishes, are a slightly different cultivar than their larger cousins, the curcubita maxima that are mostly ornamental, used for jack o’ lanterns and supplementing headless horsemen on their midnight rides. Typically the pie pumpkin will grow to about 5-15 pounds, while there is almost no limit to the size of pumpkins that housed Peter Peter Pumpkin eater’s wife; the largest pumpkin grown in North America weighed in at a whopping 1,682 pounds! Room enough for Peter Pumpkin’s in-laws as well!
There are literally dozens of varieties of pie pumpkins and ornamental pumpkins it is not recommended using Jack o lanterns for cooking, they are specifically bred to be tall and hollow with the emphasis on sturdy walls rather than sweet flesh. For cooking and eating, a variety like the Baby Pam Sugar Pie is a great choice, whereas something like the Big Rock or Big Max will hold up to the most ardent of pumpkin carvers.
Recently I teamed up with my husband Kerry and our squash expert friend Rob Firing to produce a book of squash and pumpkin recipes. In The Everyday Squash Cook we included several recipes that utilized pumpkin in applications sweet and savoury, and one of our great revelations during recipe testing was that you don’t need to make pumpkin recipes from scratch. Canned pumpkin works beautifully; all the messy work has been done for you. The best part is that the can contains nothing but pumpkin puree, there are no preservatives or weird ingredients, it is just pure pumpkin so you can open a can and you’re good to go.
Remember, pumpkin is great for more than just pies. Here are just a few pumpkin recipes that were so good we had to include them in our cookbook- and they are all made with canned pumpkin.
-Apple Pumpkin Muffins
-Chicken Breasts stuffed with Spinach and Pumpkin
-Lemon and Pumpkin Custard
-Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin and Rum-Spiked Icing
-Mini Pumpkin Tarts with Brandied cream
-Speedy Pumpkin Waffles
Here is a cool recipe you can put together in minutes in the morning and have for dessert that night, it is so simple your kids could make it on their own. It’s a great idea for something totally unique and remarkably delicious. All hail the Great Pumpkin!
These Middle Eastern-inspired popsicles are creamy and sweet, and super fast to whip up. No ice cream maker required, just a whisk and a popsicle mold.
Makes 8 popsicles
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
¾ cup evaporated milk
½ cup 35% whipping cream
½ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
In a mixing bowl whisk together all the ingredients. Pour into popsicle molds, being careful to leave about ¼ inch headspace to allow the mixture to expand as it freezes. Insert popsicle sticks or lids and freeze for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.