When Pumpkin was Pumpion

Pumpkins

Heirloom, eating pumpkins may not all be orange. Photo by Jeremy Seitz form Flickr

It is October and the great pumpkin attack has begun. Not content with pumpkin pie– or here in the Southwest, pumpkin empanadas– the orange army pops up everywhere. Pumpkin breakfast cereal, pumpkin cider, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin sausages (!?!), pumpkin tortilla chips. If you eat it, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks and everywhere you turn will be injecting pumpkin into it.

My daughter-in-law, Rene, revels in all this.  I find it partly amusing and partly annoying.

But on second thought, the proliferation of pumpkin everything just emphasizes what our ancestor knew. Pumpkin is endlessly versatile.  In fact, thanks to pumpkin knowledge shared by the Native Americans with our earliest settlers, our great-great-grands lived through many a New England and Northwest Territory winter.

An ancestor of mine whose family were early settlers in the Northwest Territory wrote about his experiences as a boy, and the food they existed on. Along with game and root vegetables, “Great use was made of pumpkin.  We used to cut up and dry a great quantity of pumpkin.”

Pumpkin As a Side Dish

Here’s how they might have cooked pumpkin over a fire, and some facts about pumpkin as a survival food.  Also some useful tips for cooking pumpkin today.

Stuffed Pumpkin

pumpkin macaroni

Pumpkin stuffed with macaroni and cheese

Back in the mid 19th century, cooks liked to stuff things inside of other things–a tradition that goes back about as far as we can trace cooking, at least to the Romans.  But this recipe that bakes macaroni inside a pumpkin is a strictly modern and simply heavenly adaptation of that principle.

Pumpkn Cornbread

Pumpkin Cornbread

Robin Benzle’s Pumpkin Pecan Cornbread

Last year, I discovered a simple recipe for pumpkin corn bread that quickly became my favorite. In fact, it edges out the previous favorite, cranberry-pumpkin bread by a tiny margin. Although it is not a traditional recipe–it uses Jif Cornbread Mix for heaven’s sake–it gets its goodness from ingredients our ancestors in aprons would have used frequently–cornmeal, molasses and pumpkin. (Be sure to make the molasses butter to go with the cornbread!)

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

This recipe caught my eye in a magazine ad, and I clipped it and taped it to a cupboard door long ago.  It is moist and adaptable to your family’s taste. Adjust to your tolerance of spice and nuts.

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Serves 20
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 5 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
A rich bread that is a great addition to Thanksgiving menu, combining two traditional favorites--pumpkin and cranberry sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or substitute 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 16-oz can pumpkin ((not pumpkin pie mix))
  • 1 16-oz can cranberry sauce (whole berry sauce)
  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

Optional

  • 3/4 cups pecans (chopped)

Directions

1. In large bowl, whisk together, flour, sugar, soda, spices, salt and baking powder.
2. In second bowl, stir together remaining ingredients until well mixed. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir well.
3. Pour batter into two greased loaf pans (9 1/4" x 5" x 2"). Bake at 350 degrees F for 65 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
4. Cool in pans 10 minutes then remove to cooling rack.
5. When cool, drizzle glaze over top if you wish. If freezing, freeze before glazing.
6. Optional Glaze: Mix 1 Cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup undiluted orange juice concentrate and 1/8 tsp allspice until smooth.

Note

Cranberry pumpkin bread is moist and rich. I personally think it stands on its own, so I never add the orange glaze to the cranberry pumpkin read as was recommended in the magazine recipe I clipped long ago.

You can bake the cranberry pumpkin bread in a pyrex 9 x 13 flat pan rather than loaf pans, if you prefer.

Adjust the spices to your liking.

Freezes great, so I make it several weeks before Thanksgiving. One less thing to worry about on the day.

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