Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the biting crispness of the air and pulling out sweaters, scarves, and boots. I love the colors of the leaves turning and the excitement of Holiday Season arriving. But, most of all, I love pumpkins!
From September 1st on, my best friend listens every morning as I place my order. “Hello! I’d like a medium coffee with two pumps of pumpkin. Thank You!!!” I, personally, don’t favor the sweet and creamy latte versions but love the little touch in my regular dark roast. Now, I’m not quite sure if my obsession would continue if pumpkin was available all year – and, let’s face it – with today’s food system, it can be. It is a special treat that I wait for and the anticipation makes it even more scrumptious.
In all actuality, pumpkin spice lattes have absolutely NO pumpkin in them. As Americans, I believe we are more in love with pumpkin spice mix. All spice mixes have variations, but a basic recipe is:
1/3 c. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1½ tsp. ground cloves
1½ tsp. ground allspice
Some omit the allspice or substitute the nutmeg for mace or the ginger for cardamom (although, I think the latter makes it have a chai feel.) I do love these spices and use this mix in many recipes that call for just cinnamon, but I really love pumpkin in all its forms. If actual pumpkins are hard for you to find, they can be substituted with most winter squashes.
When I thought about writing a post on pumpkins, I realized it would take me way too long for just one post. Because I love this vegetable and wanted to include some recipes, I decided to break it out into 3 more posts. The first will be a couple twists on classic sweet dessert recipes. The second will be with savory options and flavor profiles. Finally, the third will round us out with drinks and cocktails (including a latte recipe with real pumpkin!)
Although using canned pumpkin is always an option, the best end product will happen if you make your own pumpkin puree. This is the time to make this in bulk and freeze for later use.
The first step is choosing a great pumpkin. Most pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns are easy to find but are mostly hollow and very stringy. Heirloom pumpkins have amazing flavor and can be found at many farmer’s markets. In general, baking pumpkins are smaller than 10lbs. and are often labeled “pie pumpkins”. Some good varieties to look for are Sugar Pumpkins, Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, and Cinderella (sometimes called Fairytale Pumpkins and perfect to use in decorations, too.)
Now, making the puree is easier than it seems. Remove the stem and cut the pumpkin in half. For larger pumpkins, you may need to use a cleaver and mallet. Scoop out the seeds and fibers. (Save the seeds for roasting) Lay the pumpkins cut side down on a sheet pan. I like to line mine with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Roast it at 400º degrees F for about 30-45 minutes until a paring knife can be inserted easily in several places. Remove from the pan and cool. Scoop out the roasted flesh and puree in a food processor. For extra richness, transfer this puree to a sauté pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat to cook off some of the water. Be careful not to burn. Although this last step is not necessary, it will make a huge difference. If not using within a week, freeze for up to 3 months.