Friday, October 17, 2014


Well the air is chilled this morning in Florida, temps dipped to 52. And since it is October my thoughts naturally drifted over to the pumpkin. There's some interesting information on the pumpkin from the 19th century. Here's a sample from Table Talk ©1891

THE pumpkin and squash belong to the gourd family as do their cousins, the watermelons, canteloupes, cucumbers, etc., and they have been used for food both for man and beast from the earliest ages, forming in many countries the principal part of the fcod of the poorer classes. They cook them in a variety of ways, not only in pies and puddings, but sliced and fr ed like egg plant, made into soups, bread, etc. Some housekeepers use the water in which pumpkin has been stewed, to mix their bread, asserting that it not only improves the color and taste but that it keeps sweet and moist for a longer time. Gourds grow very rapidly, often as much as a foot in one day, reminding us of the story of Jonah for whose shelter the Lord prepared a gourd "which came up in a night and perished in a night," serving for him a double purpose, that of a protection and a lesson. The gourds having very wide leaves and being such rapid climbers are much used in the East to cover arbors, ard their fruit is for the most part edible/ but there is a wild gourd which is poisonous, it has, however, such a very bitter taste that it betrays itself even though so closely resembling a wholesome melon. It was probably this plant which was spoken of in 2 King. 4 : 39. The gourds produce their fruit in such a variety of shapes that it is no worder the natural ingenuity of man should adapt them to various uses, making of their hard shells drinking cups and many other household utensils. Some of them grow from one to three feet in length and from two to four inches in diameter. Of thee bottles are formed. Other fruit is a flattened globe, which, when cut in two, can be used as drinking cups, bowls or dishes, according to size. One kind is scalloped, rather irregularly sometimes; another kind is shaped very much like a hat, others again are oval; some are globular, so that there is an almost endless variety to make dishes of. But it is of the pumpkin itself I want to write. They are of various forms and dimensions from the size of an apple to one weighing two hundred pounds. They are called by various names, vegetable marrow, Hubbard, Kershaw Crookneck, etc. In some localities one kind is considered the best, while in other places the preference is
for another. This is the month for that particularly delectable dainty "pumpkin pie," so esteemed in New England, so often sneered at by those who live south cf Long Island Sound. Whether the pumpkins that grow elsewhere are inferior to those raised on ihe rocky soil of the land of the Pilgrims, or whether only those who have Yankee blood in their veins know how to make them, I cannot tell; but pumpkin pies as made in Yankee land are, to put it mildly, exceedingly good. There, they are baked in deep disnes, merely lined with the thinnest shell of pastry that only serves to hold together the generous pieces, three or more inches thick, that make glad the hearts of the Yankee boys and girls. Outside of New England the average depth of a pumpkin pie is half an inch, and so disguised with spices that one cannot imagine what it is made of, tre only recognizable thing is that we have far more crust than pie. Let us peep into a New England kitchen on Saturday morning, and watch how the huge yellow pumpkin is cut, pared and the seeds scraped out, how the great kettle is filled with the golden pieces, and how when they have stewed soft, they are squeezed in a cloth until the pulp is as dry as potato. It is then put through a colander, some salt and butter added, about an ounce of butter and half a saltspoonful of salt to each pint of the pumpkin; rich, creamy, sweet milk is poured in until th" mixture is like custard; eggs in the proportion of three or four to a pint; and ground spice, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste; sugar enough to sweeten and it is ready for the crust. Earthenware dishes three or four inches deep have been lined with a good, plain crust rolled as thin as possible, and then brushed over with the beaten white of an egg (to keep the liquid from soaking into it). The mixture is poured in to the very top and then the dishes are thrust into the great brick oven, where the pork and beans are seething and browning, the pan of apples bursting their red coats, the brown bread and gingerbread trying to see which will get to the tops of their respective pans first. As we stand there watching we recall the days of our childhood, those bracing last days of the autumn when they were gathering in the pumpkins, the very last of the harvesting. We could see them piled in golden mounds in the barn cellar, our oldest brother selecting one which he hollowed out, and cutting out holes for eyes, nose and mouth would mount it on a pole, with a candle inside.
When it grew dark the candle was lighted, and with this delightfully terrible object in front of us we would march around the house and garden, then stand longingly at the gate watching other pumpkin lantern parades that were given the liberty of the village streets. And we would remember our firm and unshaken belief in Cinderella's coach which was made of a pumpkin. That such a thing could be done, we never doubted when we looked at some of the enormous pumpkins that taxed the powers of a strong man to lift, and our joy overflowed when Abner, our "hired man," fashioned one into a coach for us, mounting it on wheels made of large spools. In this coach our dolls rode in state, personating not only our beloved Cinderella, but various high and lofty dignitaries, even our much venerated General Washington and his wife, until our brothers coaxed the golden chariot from us for the base purposes of a farm wagon. No wonder the wits of early New England seized upon the pumpkin as a symbol of the country, adopting as its emblem "a chubby boy astride of a large pumpkin and blowing the hollow stalk of the vine for a trumpet."
Besides the Yankee recipe for pumpkin pies, there are others, one of them made from the raw pumpkin reads as follows:
Pare and grate raw pumpkin; to one pint of the grated pumpkin, add one quart of milk, two cups of sugar, half a teaspoonful of salt, half a teaspoonful of extract of cinnamon, a little ground mace and three well beaten eggs. Bake in a pan lined with puff paste.
I have never tried this recipe, but I should think it might be very good. Some recipes call for molasses and ginger in pumpkin pies, but to my taste it spoils the delicate flavor of the pie. I can recommend the following:
To a pint of stewed pumpkin that has been pressed through a colander, add a pint of rich cream heated, a quarter of a pound of butter, a quarter of a pound of granulated sugar. Beat eight eggs very light and stir them gradually into the mixture with a tea
spoonful of powdered mace and cinnamon mixed together, a grated nutmeg, a wineglass of rose water and (if you use liquor) a wineglass of brandy. Having beaten the mixture very hard, turn it into dish well buttered, and bake it three-quarters of an hour n a hot oven. To be eaten very cold. Those who prefer home-made yeast and have difficulty in keeping it should try it made of pumpkin, as it will keep longer than any other kind. For their benefit I give the following recipe:
Pare and cut in small pieces a medium sized pumpkin; put them with a large handful of hops into a kettle, and just cover them with water. Boil them until the pumpkin is soft, press it through a colander into a stone jar and when it is just lukewarm, add half a pint of good, strong yeast, stir it well in. Leave the jar uncovered until the next day, then tie it up tightly, and keep it in a cool place. Use as you would any other yeast.
Pumpkin stewed and pressed through a colander, with a little butter and salt added, makes a very nice vegetable for winter use, and is especially good as an accompaniment to roast pork. It also makes one of the most delicious preserves, the recipe for which I gave last year, but it will bear repetition, and, as it is one of the few preserves that can be made in cold weather, it is doubly worth trying.
Take a fine, round pumpkin of a deep, rich color; pare, slice it, and take out the seeds. Cut it into slices as thin as you possibly can, about twice as long as they are broad, and as near the same size as possible. Allow to each pound of the chips, one pound of the best loaf sugar and a gill of lemon juice. Before squeezing the lemons, grate off the yellow rind and mix it with the sugar. Lay the chips in the preserving kettle, sprinkling the sugar between the layers, pour the lemon juice over the whole, cover the kettle and let it stand all night. Next day, put it over the fire, bring it to a boil and let it simmer slowly until the chips are tender" and transparent. Take them up with a perforated skimmer and spread them on large dishes to cool. When cold, put them in jars and pour the boiling syrup over them. Put them away when cold, as you do any other sweetmeat. These chips are as good as they are handsome.

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