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Ellen’s Kitchen & Garden

Traveling the county to find the perfect pumpkin

Posted Friday,
October 28, 2011
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Emma finds her perfect pumpkin.
Christine, Ellen and Susan Fox are ready for Halloween.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

When I think of autumn, brisk temperatures, rainy days, a cozy fire, falling leaves, pumpkins, apples, pig roasts, Brunswick stew, Halloween and Thanksgiving all come to mind. So far, the rainy days and pumpkins have been abundant.

I heard a rumor three weeks ago from Matt Carson that pumpkins were scarce. What a terrible thing if little Emma and other children wouldn’t have pumpkins for Halloween this year. And it was this rumor that brought pumpkins to my attention.

Last Sunday was so beautiful I took a drive that covered much of the county. My first stop was the Archwood Green Barns in The Plains and then I headed up to Hollin Farms in Delaplane, over to Markham to Hartland Orchard and then down to Lee Highway Nursery in Warrenton to Cows and Corn in Midland. There were pumpkins everywhere, all shapes, sizes and colors.

Of course the pumpkins reminded me of when we were little. On the eve of Halloween, we’d each carve a pumpkin and take great pride in the orange faces we’d created. And on Halloween, all dressed in our costumes, we’d go out trick or treating leaving our lit pumpkins on the front porch to greet the neighboring children.

After an hour out, we’d returned home with grocery bags full of candy. We’d race to our rooms and empty the contents on our beds to see what treats we had collected, trading maybe three Tootsie Rolls for a Baby Ruth, or two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for a Mars Bar.

Typically the morning after Halloween on our walk to the bus stop for school, we’d see all of the tricks that had been played the night before. The bad boys in the neighborhood had strewn toilet paper all over the power lines, egged the cars parked along the streets and smashed just about every pumpkin that was left out the night before.

It was a curious thing to me. Our pumpkins were still just as we had left them the night before. Not one was out of place. Why were ours out of harm’s way, and everyone else’s destroyed?

Years later we learned that my mother had warned Roger Morton (not a bully but a mischievous teen) that if anything happened to her children’s pumpkins, he would have hell to pay. Apparently Roger told the other boys in the neighborhood to stay away from the Foxes’ pumpkins or else. I never realized the power she had.

Obviously pumpkins are not just used for Halloween decoration. They become pies, breads, cakes and soups. And what fun it is to be able to say you made the pumpkin filling in the pie.

Cooking a pumpkin isn’t something I’ve ever done. I’ve always used it from a can. My first question was what kind or size pumpkin is used?

From pumpkin growers around the county, I learned a pumpkin, maybe 6 inches in diameter and height, with a deep orange or amber color, is best suited for cooking.

I roasted one of the pumpkins and was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to prepare pumpkin and how good it tastes on its own. Below is a favorite pie I make every year for Thanksgiving.

Roasted Pumpkin

1 6-inch pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While the oven warms, wash the pumpkin and then cut in half. Clean the pulp and seeds out and set the seeds aside for roasting. Place the halves, cut side down and add water to ½-inch depth and roast for an hour or until tender. Let the pumpkin halves cool and scoop out and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 9-inch pie shell baked
1 tablespoon of gelatin
¼ cup cold water
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup pumpkin
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar

Soak gelatin in cold water.

Separate eggs. Slightly beat the egg yolks then add the sugar, pumpkin, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend thoroughly. Cook and stir over hot water until smooth and thick. Stir in soaked gelatin and then cool.

Whip the egg whites and ¼ teaspoon of salt until stiff. When the pumpkin mixture begins to set stir in another ½ cup of sugar and fold in the egg whites. Fill the pie shell with the pumpkin mixture and chill for 2 or 3 hours. Garnish with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of sugar

Chill the mixing bowl in the freezer. When the bowl is chilled put the three ingredients together and turn the mixer up to a high speed. Beat until peaks form in the cream. It only takes minutes to whip, be careful not to over whip because it will turn to butter.
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