Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pieces of Pumpkin.


I read somewhere that 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown and sold every year in the USA, and that most of these are used around Halloween. Assuming that this figure is ball-park correct, that is an awful lot of pumpkin.

What do you do with all of the pumpkin innards that are removed in the making of all of those scary candle-lit heads? Whatever the poundage of pumpkins used in Halloween sculpture - and I am sure it is large - there must be an awful lot of pumpkin flesh dotting kitchen landscapes at this time of year. My mission in the next couple of days is to help you find uses for these chunks, slivers, and shavings of this wonderful vegetable which is actually a fruit.

If you really cannot deal with all of this vegetable flesh right now, you could dry some of it for future use. The New Hydropathic Cook Book (1854) tells us that dried and pulverised pumpkin was a small industry for the Shakers, who “sell the article as pumpkin powder, which is very convenient for making pies expeditiously.”  

On second thoughts, you are probably too busy making scary costumes and stocking up on candy to be bothered drying pumpkin flesh right now, but in case you are still interested this is how the method was described in the Janesville Gazette of October 19, 1878:

‘Pumpkins may be put up in the old fashioned mode of cutting them into rings, paring, and drying upon poles; or they may be cut up into small pieces and dried on plates In the sun and oven. A better way, however, is to pare, stew and strain them, just as if for pies; then spread the pulp on earthen dishes, and dry quickly in the hot sun or a partially heated oven. If dried slowly, there is danger of souring. Store in a dry room. Kept in this manner they retain much of the freshness and flavor of newly gathered fruit. The dried pulp should be soaked in milk a few hours before using. In making pies they are greatly improved by stirring the pumpkin in
scalding milk, especially if eggs be not used; but without eggs they fall far short of the true "pumpkin pie."’

If you are really, really keen, you could make your own yeast with your leftover pumpkin pieces – fresh or dried. An article from the St. James's Chronicle, or British Evening Post of January 20, 1795 tells you how (and reminds us that the yeast can also be used to make beer):

To make Pumpkin Yeast.  
Cut the Pumpkin in slices, and with a handful of Hops, boil it in a small quantity of water, till it is soft enough to pass through a Cullender. When strained, put it in an earthen or Stone Jar, with a sufficient quantity, of good Yeast to ferment it. It will be fit for use in a day or two, and will keep a month or six weeks.
The Pumkins may be sliced and dried, in order to make it the year round. From experience it is found to be quite equal to the best Brewers Yeast, for the purpose of making Bread, or in family beer.’

Now you have some pumpkin yeast, you could use it instead of the recommended potato yeast, to make pumpkin-bread from the following recipe.

Pumpkin Bread.
Stew and strain the pumpkin, stiffen it with a little Indian-meal, and then add as much more wheaten flour, with the necessary quantity of potato-yeast; bake two hours. This is an excellent and wholesome bread.
The New Hydropathic Cook Book (1854) 

And then you can spread your bread with this delightful-sounding conserve:

Pumpkin Marmalade.
Peel and seed 8lb pumpkin. Cut into small strips, put into a preserving pan and add the grated rinds, and juice of two oranges and one lemon and 71b. sugar. Bruise 3oz, root ginger and tie up in a mus- lin bag. Add to the other ingredients and leave'tor 24 hours. Cook till tender und transparent looking. Put into pots, and tie down.
The Canberra Times, 12 February 1931

Quotation for the Day.

A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween.
Erma Bombeck

7 comments:

Alys K. said...

In general, the only "innards" that are discarded are the seeds and the fibrous material that holds the seeds in place. That is scraped out, discarded, and then the hollow that is left gets a candle or some other light source after the pumpkin is carved. At least, I never cut off any of the inner flesh. Once carved, the pumpkin is not really good for anything.

I've baked regular pumpkins, however, to make the filling for pumpkin pie (rather than use canned pumpkin which most people use).

Ferdzy said...

Most of the pumpkins grown for Hallowe'en decorations are Connecticut Field Pumpkins, a very old native variety. They are bland and stringy, and were originally used mainly as a winter animal feed. Very few people attempt to eat them, and those who do are usually disappointed by the experience. They are not bad if cooked well down and strained but there are much better varieties out there for cooking.

I was a little shocked to go to a vegetable auction last month and discover that ornamental pumpkins sold for about 3 times as much as edible pumpkins and squash. Even more expensive are the Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkins, but they are becoming more popular as a decoration - you used to just see them at fall fairs!

At any rate, the traditional way to dispose of jack-o-lanterns after hallowe'en is to drop them from a bridge. Or the compost pile, for the more sedate (i.e. the childless.)

And I really don't see the point of drying pumpkins. They store so well just put in a cool, airy room!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Ferdzy. I am learning a lot about the different ways that pumpkin is used in our two countries! I think the drying would only be worthwhile if a large pumpkin was cut and it could not all be used at once - no refrigeration back then. Also - it would take up less space?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Alys. I am baffled by the idea of canned pumpkin! I have never seen it in the shops here in Australia. I did not realise that special pumpkins are grown jsut for carving - fascinating!

Shay said...

When I was young, after we finished cleaning the insides out of the pumpkins, we were instructed by my mother to carefully wash the seeds and pick all the icky strings off them. Then she roasted the seeds in the oven with a little salt and we snacked on them.

My mother came from Southern country stock and was a Depression baby, which may explain why she felt she had to get something more out of our pumpkins than just jack-o-lanterns.

Piet said...

I'm a little late to the pumpkin-carving party, but I wanted to second what Shay said about cleaning and roasting the pumpkin seeds. They're wonderful as a snack. They are also used in Mexican cooking, often ground and put to thicken sauces such as mole.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Shay and Piet: i do love pumpkin seeds: I did dry them a couple of times when I lived in the country and neighbours kept giving us pumkkins, but I has 'forgotten' about doing them myself! I believe they are very nutritious too.