From left, June Hendrix, 9, Mikaela McCollum, 10, and Memory Smithy, 9, marvel at the variety of pumpkins at Country Pumpkins in Caledonia Monday. Hendrix is the daughter of Justin and Jessica Hendrix of Amory. McCollum is the daughter of Mike and Tina McCollum of Amory. Smithy's parents are Joel Smithy and Brooks Williams of Nettleton. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff
October 3, 2018 10:44:25 AM
Few things convince us that autumn will eventually make an appearance more than pumpkins. Whatever color, shape or size they are, pumpkins put us in mind of crisper days ahead, leaves skittering across the road and holidays to soon celebrate. They also evoke aromas of pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice everything.
Pumpkin is a type of squash, one with a rich, fresh flavor that lends itself to soups, stews or risottos, pumpkin muffins, fries, French toast, even pumpkin Alfredo. They can be grilled, baked, roasted, broiled or steamed. There are more ways to incorporate this fall staple into breakfast, lunch and dinner than we can count.
One trip to Country Pumpkins on Spruill Road in Caledonia will help illustrate the vast variety of pumpkin and squash that can be grown. Dwight and Jean Colson open their pumpkin patch and family fun agri-tourism activities from mid-September to early November each year. It's always a visual reminder that not all pumpkins are created equal in appearance -- in taste, either.
"I love seeing these beautiful pumpkins," says Heather Cowell of Columbus, a visitor to the pumpkin patch. "We tend to grow up thinking there's just one kind, the kind we put on our porch for fall decoration or carve up for Halloween. But when you start thinking about cooking with them, there's a lot more to pumpkins."
First and foremost, your standard fibrous jack-o'-lantern pumpkin isn't the pumpkin you want to cook with. Recommendations for cooking pumpkins fill the internet, but common to most lists are Baby Pam pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, Cinderella, Jarrahdale, Blue Hubbard, and many more.
Look for deep, rich, uniform color -- no green or light tan spots where the pumpkin rested on the ground. You want a healthy, stiff stem; avoid pumpkins with soft spots.
If you're opting for canned pumpkin, be sure not to accidentally pick up sweet, spiced pie filling. Look for the can with one ingredient, says cookinglight.com: pumpkin.
While we often think of pumpkin in sweets, it is equally at home in so many other foods. Here are a few quick, easy ones: Stir 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree into the morning oatmeal before cooking, then season with cinnamon and sugar. For lunch, add a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds full of fiber and protein to your salad, says cookinglight.com. At dinnertime, add peeled or cubed pumpkin to a stew for a hint of sweetness, not to mention extra nutrition and texture.
When you pull out the slow cooker, make up a batch of pumpkin butter. The recipe from delish.com today makes up about 4 cups that you can store and use for a while.
It's October. And sooner or later, we'll experience an invigorating cool spell. We have to believe. Go ahead, pick up some pumpkins to cook with, to decorate with -- it may speed autumn on its way.
PUMPKIN CROSTINI WITH ROCKET PESTO
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Makes 4 crostini
4 slices of toasted bread (sourdough bread)
1/2 cup hummus or vegan ricotta
4 slices of butternut pumpkin/squash (sweet potato works well too)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted on a pan
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or Turkish pul biber
For rocket/arugula pesto:
1 ounce rocket/arugula
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 ounce walnuts, toasted on a pan
1 large garlic clove
Pinch of sugar
3/4-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN BUTTER
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Makes 4 cups
2 (12-ounce) cans canned pumpkin
1/2 cup apple cider
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
PUMPKIN PECAN BREAD PUDDING
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Makes 8 servings
3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 cup day-old brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon bourbon
Serve pudding with sauce alongside.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.