Puns and Pumpkins
Pumpkin Cheesecake Photographed on Fiesta Dinnerwareby Patricia Mitchell
Like the old vaudevillian said, words that start with the letter "P" are funny; and words with "K" are funny. If that′s the criteria, then the word "pumpkin" should be a riot. And, actually, it is.
Pumpkin just isn′t a serious word. It′s used as a pet name -- an endearment often further cutesyfied as "punkin′". And in our culture anyway, the pumpkin is more associated with the fanciful, like jack-o-lanterns and Cinderella coaches, than the sedate. Unless, of course, you don′t count the rather grim domestic situation of Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater. Mother Goose recounts that Peter "had a wife and couldn′t keep her" until he imprisoned her in a pumpkin shell ("and there he kept her very well").
I have no intention of discussing varieties or exploring the origin of the word, going back to the Greek or Latin or any of that etymological nonsense. I prefer to stick with the fun part and, specifically, the delicious aspect of pumpkins.
Actually, it′s probably the physical characteristics that pumpkins possess which have inspired humanity to find so many imaginative uses for them. They′re roundish, they′re hollow, and they are quite orange. In short, pumpkins absolutely beg us to do things with them.
But before we get to that, let′s make sure everyone knows how to prepare pumpkin purée, the key ingredient in each of these recipes. Now, I′m going to assume that everyone knows not to bother with trying to cook the jack-o-lantern giants. These varieties are bred for size only, and any attempt to purée their innards is largely a waste of time.
Although many pumpkins are grown in Texas, Morton, Illinois bills itself Pumpkin Capital of the World and, indeed, the Libby pumpkin cannery is located there. Incidentally, Libby Solid Pack Pumpkin is an excellent product. The smaller can size is 15 ounces, just right for their fine pumpkin pie recipe on the label. One of these cans will serve very well in any of the recipes in this article that calls for two cups of pumpkin purée, even if it is one ounce shy of two cups.
After you have learned how to make pumpkin purée, decide whether it′s worth what you pay at the supermarket for the Libby product.
Among the best, meatiest, sweetest and tastiest of the pumpkins are the small Sugar pumpkins found in supermarkets, called "pie pumpkins" Among the best, meatiest, sweetest and tastiest of the pumpkins are the small Sugar pumpkins found in supermarkets. They are usually called "pie pumpkins" and are kept apart from and priced differently than the jack-o-lantern candidates that your kids are eyeing.
Okay, now let′s get on with the recipes.
And, as we have discussed, pumpkins are a lot of fun. Save the pumpkins seeds from the jack-o-lantern this year and toast them. Wash the sticky juice off the seeds and dry them. For every cup of seeds, melt a tablespoon of butter in a flat pan with an edge, like a jelly roll pan, add the seeds and shake the pan to coat with butter. Place the pan in a 425°F oven and toast for 20 minutes until light brown, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool before eating.
October activities afford many opportunities for pumpkin inspiration. So unleash your imagination. Even if you go only as far as picking up a can of Libby′s Solid Pack Pumpkin, we have given you at least five ways you can put it to good use. Each of the recipes is in Grandma′s Cookbook on the TexasCooking.com website.
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