Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 1999

S MORE TO PUMPKIN THAN MEETS THE PIE

October 20, 1999

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The vast majority of pumpkins sold this fall will be carved up into jack-o'-lanterns, and their pulp will be thrown away. To satisfy demand for this ornamental squash, farmers select seeds for planting that will produce uniform and smooth pumpkins, to facilitate the artwork of knife-wielding children.

Unless farmers are growing pumpkins for a cannery, they have no reason to care about the quality of the flesh inside the gourd.

As a very general rule, the pumpkins that traditionally have been grown for eating are smaller. The pumpkin invests its energy in producing a meaty, flavorful pulp rather than achieving mass. Depending on whom you consult and where you live, these squash are called pie, sugar, sweet or cheese pumpkins.

According to one source, traditional pie pumpkins comprise as little as 1 percent of the annual pumpkin crop. Local vegetable growers are your best source, if you don't grow your own. The last time I asked about pie pumpkins in a supermarket produce department I couldn't find a clerk who knew that there was any distinction among pumpkins.

For the home gardener, pumpkins are not difficult to grow under the proper conditions but creating those conditions can be a chore. Pumpkins love sandy and evenly moist soil. They also can be susceptible to the same bugs and diseases that afflict winter squash. Since pumpkins usually require 90 to 110 days to grow to maturity, gardeners must keep them under surveillance for the entire summer.

Plenty of cooks do just fine opening a can of Libby's pie filling to make fall desserts. The ease of doing so presents a strong case for avoiding the hassle of using fresh pumpkin. However, a cook has much more control over the flavor and texture of the pulp of a pie pumpkin, which will not have been sweetened, pulverized and processed before it arrives in the kitchen.

Judith Fertig's "Pure Prairie" cookbook (Two Lane Press) includes a recipe for a Jack o' Lantern Compote that uses, ironically, a small pie pumpkin. I also like Lawrence resident Patty Boyer's recipe for pumpkin yeast bread, which appears in "The Kansas Cookbook: Recipes from the Heartland" by Frank Carey and Jayni Naas (University Press of Kansas). The bread recipe includes instructions for getting the pulp out of a fresh pumpkin. Both recipes are appropriate through the Thanksgiving season.

Jack o' Lantern Compote

1 cup port

1 cup cider vinegar

days to grow to maturity, gardeners must keep them under surveillance for the entire summer.

Plenty of cooks do just fine opening a can of Libby's pie filling to make fall desserts. The ease of doing so presents a strong case for avoiding the hassle of using fresh pumpkin. However, a cook has much more control over the flavor and texture of the pulp of a pie pumpkin, which will not have been sweetened, pulverized and processed before cent, about 4 minutes. Add the dried fruit, honey and apples to the skillet and stir to blend. Pack the cavity of the pumpkin, in which the flesh has been left intact, with this mixture, then pour the port-vinegar mixture over the filling. Put the lid back on the pumpkin and bake in a 350° oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the compote is bubbling and the pumpkin is tender. To serve, spoon out both the pumpkin flesh and compote.

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

1 package dry yeast

¤ cup warm water

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs, beaten

¤ cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

er surveillance for the entire summer.

Plenty of cooks do just fine opening a can of Libby's pie filling to make fall desserts. The ease of doing so presents a strong case for avoiding the hassle of using fresh pumpkin. However, a cook has much more control over the flavor and texture of the pulp of a pie pumpkin, which will not have been sweetened, pulverized and processed before e remainder for another use.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Pour the pumpkin puree into a large bowl. Add the dissolved yeast, eggs, butter, chili powder, sugar, salt, raisins and pumpkin or sunflower seeds, mixing well. Gradually stir in the flour until the dough is firm enough to handle.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down and divide the dough in half. Shape into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375° for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a wire rack. Makes two loaves.

-- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. You can send e-mail to her at mellinger@harvey.bakeru.edu. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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