The question for the week is “What do you love about the autumn?” If my mom is reading this post, she’s laughing because she knows the answer.
Some folks love falling leaves or the crisp scent of cooler weather in the air. Me? I love pumpkins. I’m not talking pumpkin spice (though I’m fond of that as well), but pumpkins. Big, fat orange ones. Adorable little ones which fit in the palm of your hand. Seeing them piled up outside the grocery store gives me a thrill. Even the fake ones outside the craft store make me happy.
I have a small collection which I’ll need to pull out soon to arrange by the front door to greet visitors. A stuffed pumpkin which live on the couch in my office year-round, a glass one which holds the candle to go on the dining table. I’m not certain why I love pumpkins; I just…do. Something about them pleases me to no end, probably from a childhood memory long forgotten.
Pumpkins are a cultivar (bred for specific qualities) of winter squash and go by the scientific name of Cucurbita pepo. These days, you find varieties of white or dull green, but orange pumpkins still dominate. When you say an item is pumpkin color, folks think of the deep, not bright, orange of the classic, the color Pumpkin Spice does its best to mimic. Orange is orange. Pumpkin is something else. Orange looks terrible on me, but I can wear a sweater which is pumpkin.
But I don’t love pumpkins only for their decorative quality, but for the delicious pies they produce. Truth be told, I love two kinds of pumpkins: the ones at the stores and the ones bred to become the can of pumpkin puree you find on the shelves this time of year. Known as a “baking pumpkin,” you must first remove the seeds (same as making a jack-o-lantern), then roast in the oven. After that, you pop the chunks of roasted pumpkin in the food processor.
I don’t remember what prompted my mother to try making her own pumpkin puree back in the days before food processors were standard equipment in a kitchen. The one time we tried the experiment, she mashed the pieces by hand. After a while, she decided me and my siblings should share the joy of this experience. The pie did not rank high in the household experience, the kitchen was a mess, and us kids would exit if we saw the masher come out of the drawer. Mom went back to canned pumpkin.
So here we are in the season, Libby’s Packed Pumpkin on the shelves, pumpkin-spice drinks at your favorite coffee place, pumpkin (and pumpkin-spice) muffins in the stores. If you want to go fancy, gourmet shops sell pumpkin butter, which produces a silkier filling, but costs about five times a can of Libby’s. I’ll stick with the canned pumpkin. I leave you with links to my two favorite recipes, both from the sadly now-gone Gourmet magazine: Brandied Pumpkin Pie and a non-brandied version.
That’s it for me. If you missed Claire Brett’s thoughts on her favorite things, check here, then hop on over to see what Brenda Margriet loves about fall. Brenda also has a new book on pre-order for $.99 cents. A Promise of Frost releases November 12 and tells the tale of a single dad, his neighbor, an adventurous kitten, a curious dog, and a matchmaking eight-year-old. All this promises a holiday to remember.
Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy.