The Day of the Pumpkin – An Unwaffling Winner
We, at Penchant for Produce, have decided to dive, head first, into fall and embrace a key seasonal staple, the Pumpkin. This morning we ventured out on our usual Saturday morning foray to the Nashville Farmers market to find ourselves a Fairytale Pumpkin. And by Fairytale, I am not referring to a particularly purdy pumpkin, but to an actual variety of slightly oddly shaped but stunningly sweet, pumpkin. As an indigenous crop, there is evidence that pumpkins have been part of the New World diet since 5500BC. The pumpkin was introduced to the European Colonists by the Native Americans and the pilgrims quickly embraced the prolific crop for its versatility, using it to create side dishes, desserts, and alcohol.
Now most of the pumpkins which are later broken down and transformed into the puree that goes into producing the many different types of baked goods and side dishes that grace our holiday tables today come from the great state of Illinois. Yes, and a great number of those pumpkins are later processed by the Nestle Corporation, which is responsible for approximately 85% of the pumpkin puree that is consumed annually in the US. Chances are that if you had a slice of commercially produced pie in the last year it came from a can of Nestle produced pumpkin puree and can trace its roots to a pumpkin farm somewhere in Illinois.
Nutritionally speaking, pumpkins are a great source of Beta Carotene, one of the plant carotenoids converted to Vitamin A in the body. Pumpkin is also low in calories, high in fiber, and nutritionally rich in Vitamin C and Iron. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell (which becomes quite soft once roasted), the seeds (an amazing snack when toasted), the leaves (commonly used as a source of greens in Asian Countries), and even the flowers, which can be stuffed or fried in a similar fashion to squash blossoms.
In the USA Pumpkin most commonly finds it way onto the dining table as a some sort of dessert item, typically in the form of a pie. As Dustin and I took it upon ourselves to roast an puree an entire 13 pound heirloom variety pumpkin (yielding over 15 cups of pumpkin puree) we are determined to test the limits of the pumpkins culinary versatility and will feature several recipes which highlight the fall crops many uses in the next several posts. To start off lets talk about how to transform a farm fresh pumpkin into a steaming vat of fresh pumpkin puree. Begin by locating an heirloom pumpkin, such as a Fairytale or Cinderella that is freshly picked. Look for a pumpkin with at least an inch of stem. If the stem is cut too short pumpkin may decay quickly and could even be decaying at the time of purchase. Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. Pick a pumpkin that seems heavy for its size. Except for cosmetic purposes, the shape is unimportant.
To prepare a pumpkin for pureeing, begin by heating the oven to 350 degrees. Carefully slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Reserve the pulp and seeds for a future use. Puncture the shell in several locations with a sharp knife so that the steam that develops beneath the rind as it roasts has an avenue to escape (keep the pumpkin from exploding during the cooking process.) Find a large roasting pan with deep sides, place the pumpkin cut side down on the roasting pan and transfer to the preheated oven. Roast for an hour to an hour and a half or until the flesh can be easily punctured with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before scooping the flesh from the shell. Place the flesh in a fine mesh strainer and press lightly to extract some of the liquid. Finally place the pumpkin in a blender and puree in batches, store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for later use.
As you all well know, Dustin and I are big fans of breakfast. So when I came across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s site for Pumpkin Waffles I was overwhelmingly excited to try them. And I am so glad that we did. These are not only the best waffles that I have ever produced in my own kitchen, but rival the best of the best that I have ever had the pleasure to indulge in at a restaurant. Even in our 25 dollar waffle iron, these beauties toast up to a perfect consistency, crisp on the peaks while remaining deliciously fluffy and tender on the inside. The flavor has a strong undertone of pumpkin and hints of spice from the cinnamon and ginger. All waffles should be cooked at once, the batter wont store too well in the fridge. Leftover waffles can be stored in a zip lock and briefly reheated into the toaster. I hope that your family enjoys them as much as we did.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (home made or store bought, canned pumpkin are both OK)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray
Lightly Whipped Cream for Serving
Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron. Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl with buttermilk, pumpkin, and butter until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.
In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks (as in, far softer than the over-beaten whites you’ll see in my picture above). Folk them gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.
Brush waffle iron lightly with oil and spoon batter (about 2 cups for four 4-inch Belgian waffles) into waffle iron, spreading quickly. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.