Friday, October 3, 2008

of pumpkins...a history (part une) ~ Our First Annual Pumpkin Week

Welcome to the First Annual Pumpkin Week here at “feasting…on gluten-free pixels”.

I love this time of year because I adore pumpkins…
and they are everywhere I look.

I love that…!

I love that their bright, cheerful color brightens these days when the sun rises later and sets earlier. Pumpkins are like small balls of sunshine unto themselves just when the autumn sun gets scarce and filtered.

I love that in the hands of the right cook, pumpkin dishes have a comforting soft aroma and a poignant flavor and taste-memory of a warm and welcoming home.

I love:
pumpkin pie
pumpkin whole roasted stuffed with bread and cheese
pumpkin soup
pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting
pumpkin mousse
pumpkin muffins
pumpkin cheesecake
pumpkin scones
pumpkin brûlée
pumpkin and cranberry relish
pumpkin custard
pumpkin butter on 9 grain toast
pumpkin-peanut curry noodles
pumpkin fritters
pumpkin seed brittle
pumpkin bread
pumpkin-maple pot de crème
pumpkin ravioli
pumpkin seeds roasted and salted and eaten as I watch a scary movie…

The list is endless.
At least mine is endless, and these are just a few of my favorite pumpkin dishes.
I am betting that you have a few favorites of your own.

In this post I wanted to explore the history, lore and use of the pumpkin, a common commodity available this time of year.
For many years I, as perhaps many of you, just thought of the pumpkin as a jack-o-lantern and a pie at the Thanksgiving table.
But this orange orb is so much more…

A Short History of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America.
Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C. References to pumpkins date back many centuries.

The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for large melon; which is pepon.
The word pepon was changed by the French into pompon.
Then the English changed pompon to pumpion.The American colonists changed pumpion into pumpkin.
Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed.
They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them.

When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a staple in their diets. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from desserts to stews and soups.
The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled it with milk, spices and honey.
The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.

Whole Stuffed Pumpkin Makes 6 generous servings
(This wonderful recipe is adapted from a recipe from dorie greenspan)

1 Pumpkin, about a 3 pound orb

6-8 ounces stale whole grain Bread, cut into ½ inch squares

6 ounces of a combination of Gruyere, Swiss, Blue, Cheddar Cheeses, cut into ½ inch squares

fresh Garlic cloves (2-4) coarsely chopped large for mild flavor, fine for a stronger flavor

heavy Cream, 1/3 cup

1 Egg

freshly grated Nutmeg (to taste)

Sea Salt (to taste)

Freshly ground black or white Pepper (to taste)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat or find a Dutch oven that's the same diameter as the pumpkin.

With a heavy sharp knife, cut a cap off the top of the pumpkin.
Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and scoop out the seeds and filaments inside the pumpkin.
(You can reserve the seeds to roast later if you wish.)

Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and rub around the insides.
Place the pumpkin on the sheet or in the Dutch oven.

Alternate layers of bread and cheese and add the chopped garlic in between the layers.
The bread and cheese should fill up the pumpkin at least 2 inches from the top.
You might have a little too much filling or you might need to add a bit more bread or cheese, as it is hard to give exact amounts.

Beat an egg into the cream and season it with salt, pepper and grated fresh nutmeg to taste. Pour the mixture into the pumpkin until you see that the filling of bread and cheese are moistened. You may have a bit left over depending on the size of the pumpkin.

Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours.
Check after 90 minutes, or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.

You can remove the cap during the last 20 minutes of baking so that the top of the stuffing can brown a bit if you wish.

To serve, cut the pumpkin into wedges, and plate a slice of the pumpkin with generous spoonfuls of the beautiful stuffing.

What are your favorite Pumpkin dishes and recipes ?
Please add a comment and a recipe, as I would love to add your favorites to my blog.

Bon appetit…!


Anonymous said...

Yummy pumpkins !!! I love your shot...the light is such a wonderful illumination for the little orange orbs ...

Your recipe for stuffed pumpkins sounds very interesting...I've never come across a dish like this!

I was just wondering if there were many pumpkin dishes in France ? Is it more of a traditional American veggie?

As always, great post and photos...

Barbara :)

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci beaucoup Barbara for your comment.
I am glad that liked the sound of the stuffed pumpkin recipe. I have made it several times and reworked the original recipe to have a filling that was more like a custard and more to my liking.
Try it and let me know what you think.

There are many, many pumpkin dishes and many types of pumpkins grown in France. You can see that I have listed a few as my favorite French dishes in this blog post.

The Jaune Gros de Paris and the Rouge Vif d'Etampes are the most famous pumpkins in France.
I will explain about the French pumpkins in part deaux or trois of my blog post series "of pumpkins"

Hope you will enjoy the posts and my new pumpkin images from the fabulous Pumpkin Farm I visited today.

Merci aussi for your nice comments on my images. I am so happy to have your friendship and support.
It means a great deal to me.

A Brush with Color said...

I have never had pumpkin that way--I love pumpkin, and it's very good for you, too, so I bet I'd like that. Your list sounded like mine would be--I'm a big pumpkin fan. Joe's not as crazy about pumpkin, and I never do understand that. I love it!

Eduard said...

While reading your post, I find it strange I've never tasted pumpkin (I think).
Maybe this weekend I will try to buy some. But I don't know yet where I can buy them here in Holland. On Saterday they were in the flower shop, but these are for decoration (?)
Are all pumpkins suitable for eating?