Thursday, October 1, 2009

see, here's the thing.

pumpkins are real. 

it is a little known fact that you can put pumpkin seeds in the ground in early spring and if you take good care of them or at least moderately good care of them you will have one or two or several in the fall. they grow on vines and are orange and fabulous. the one i used and the ones pictured came from my garden! pumpkins are actual things, people.

i stress this because of this. these cans of pumpkin that seem to stand in for real pumpkin all the time. and you know what? most of the time they're not even pumpkin. they're squash. the companies have been pulling a fast one on us for years, and we've just sat by and taken it! well, not anymore. not now. find a real goddamn pumpkin any way you can and let's get to it.

admire the thing for its exquisite beauty. pat yourself on the back for either growing it yourself, snatching it from a neighbor's garden, or selecting it from a plethora of other pumpkins at a local farmstand. then cut the thing open, as in half as you can (mind the stem, or cut the stem out ahead of time, jack-o-lantern style) and scoop out the insides.

 an ice cream scoop works well, but you can also just dig in with your hands because it's fun and gooey and while you're doing it you can really get a good laugh in at yourself. also, if you're me and trying to photograph the venture at the same time, it will make things extra difficult. 

so, scoop out the insides as well as you can. get all the stringy stuff out. 

you can save the seeds and then bake them and spice them and have a grand old time with them if that's what you're into. or, just compost 'em. 

cut the stem out if you haven't already, and then cut the pumpkin caverns into smaller pieces. 

i call them caverns for obvious reasons. something adorable could probably make quite a home out of one of these hollowed out pumpkins. if you have ample pumpkins, hollow one out and set it up outside. not as a trap, but as an experiment. cut little windows and a door out of one side. your neighbors might think you're a creep, but you'll be the one with a somewhat domesticated vole family at the end of it all. if it works, consider making a quaint little village with pumpkin seed pathways. 

fire up your favorite steamer (i assume you have many) and steam up all the pumpkin fractions! 

you can also bake them if that is more your style. to bake them, put them on baking sheets that have a good half-inch to an inch of water in them, to steam them and to avoid anything burning.

after about 20 to 30 minutes of steaming, or 40-50 minutes of baking, your pumpkins should be soft and ready to be pureed. the skin should peel easily off of them. 

if it doesn't, give them more time in the steamer or oven, or just scoop the pumpkin from the shell manually. give it time to cool before you do this, either way. the pumpkin is going to be super hot and if you are too overzealous with handling them, you'll earn yourself some time in the burn ward, which won't be nice to begin with, but will feel extra horrible because you most likely don't have health insurance, even less, BURN insurance and oh golly. so, just let it cool. go take a walk or make a sandwich in the meanwhile.

once it has all cooled and you have all the skins off, puree all the pumpkin! i use an immersion blender, and it is quite the wonder machine. i feel like every kitchen-prone individual has that one kitchen implement that they swear by. it's actually annoying. whenever they use it, they'll say something like, "oh, i don't know what i'd do without my ______," or "what was my life like before i had my _____?" i have found this most often to be the case with people and their salad spinners. since i still don't have one, though, i can't relate. i eat somewhat soggy salad and get by just fine. but the immersion blender?! i don't know what i'd do without it! what was my life like before i had it? oh, i have no idea.

blend the pumpkin up with whatever you have. immersion blender, standard blender, masher, fisticuffs, egg beater...just get it all pureed. then you have pumpkin! ta-da! it is just like what they put in those cans, except that it probably has leeched little to no aluminum into it, and it's ACTUALLY pumpkin! yes, you can be sure of that.

so, once you have the pumpkin puree, you can do whatever you want with it. i recommend breads, pies, soups, ice cream, cookies, the whole nine yards. here i will impart a stellar pumpkin bread recipe, however. also, i will remind you that you can make a whole bunch of pumpkin puree and freeze it and have it year-round.

so, here's what you need for pumpkin bread:

1 cup sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup water

egg replacer for 2 eggs (i use 4 tablespoons water mixed with 4 tablespoons cornstarch)

1 2/3 cup flour (local flour wild hive blah blah blah)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

so, a quick note on apples/applesauce. if you live in the hudson valley, or even better, around new paltz or highland, there is a pretty sweet resource for you to get awesome organic apples. you can lease an apple tree from Libertyview Farms, and get full use and harvest of a tree for the season. my house has one, and this means we are constantly eating apples, making applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, all that stuff. unfortunately, we had just gobbled up the latest batch of applesauce from our apples, and i had to use the jar stuff for this recipe. but, i just had to note. homemade applesauce in this recipe would be killer.

mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl. mix the dry ingredients in another. then mix both together. easy!

pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 70 minutes or so. ovens vary, so just check it periodically with a knife or toothpick. and take a tip from me and don't let the top burn. the top of mine burnt due to small neglect. boy is my face red. i considered for a millisecond photoshopping this picture so it appeared to be perfectly un-singed. but here's the deal: my photoshop savvy just isn't what it used to be.

also, you may remember that pumpkins are real. burnt pumpkin bread is as well.

other uses for pumpkin? oh, i'm sure you know. carve your favorite archie character into the side of one. or, at least, the most identifiable archie character. that being archie, himself. that's what i did last year and i can't say it turned many heads. but, you know. someone's got to do it.