What to do with pumpkins aplenty

Pumpkins herald the coming of Halloween and the late autumn harvest – their bright orange bodies piled high in supermarkets, decorating doorways and convenience stores.

Not only can pumpkins be carved and used as a lantern to light the way on All Hallows Eve but also its cooked puree becomes a tasty addition to numerous recipes. First the Thanksgiving pie then Halloween treats and later pumpkin becomes an integral part in celebratory recipes for pies, cookies, loaves, soups, chutney up to Christmas and beyond.

When choosing your pumpkin, remember that the large one is for carving while the small pumpkin, or pie pumpkin as they are called, is used for its puree in recipes. Of course, if time is tight, canned pumpkin puree can be purchased ready to use.


Witches Brew (Alia, Mulled Cider)

Make a batch of this warming brew to serve in mugs on a blustery evening; its spicy fragrance will be welcome on a chilly evening.

1 can (48 oz/1.36 L) apple cider or apple juice (apple juice works just as well at a fraction of the cost)

6 whole cloves

1 each seedless and seeded lemon, washed and thinly sliced

1 cinnamon stick

In a large saucepan bring cider or apple juice to the boil with cloves, sliced oranges, seeded lemons, and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for at least 15 – 30 minutes before serving. Keep covered to prevent evaporation. Ladle into mugs. Makes 6 – 8 servings.


Orange Shortbread Pumpkins

These melt-in-your-mouth morsels will be a welcome treat on Halloween or at any time, simply change the shape of the cookie cutter to suit the occasion. If possible, leave the butter out the night before to soften. It makes shortbread production easier.

1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

2 cups (500 mL) all- purpose flour

1 tbsp (15 mL) grated orange rind (this will be the rind from one orange. Use the orange and slice it for the cider)

Pinch salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pre-heat oven to 325 F (170 C). Cut butter into pieces and add to large mixing bowl. Using electric mixer, beat in sugar until mixture is creamy. Gradually add flour bit by bit with orange rind and salt beating continually until well mixed. Using hands form mixture into a ball and roll out between 2 pieces of parchment paper (rolling away from body and turning the paper as you need to) to ¼ inch (5 mm) thickness. Use a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter (Or other shape depending on the season) to cut out cookies.

Arrange cookies in even rows on prepared baking sheet leaving ½ inch (1.2 cm) between each cookie for expansion; bake about 15- 20 minutes or until a pale brown around edges.

Cool pan on cooling rack about 10 minutes before serving. Keeps well in cookie tin (If you can keep them!) or freeze in a freezer container for up to three months.


Pumpkin Gingerbread Coffee Cake

Quick and simple to prepare, this moist, spicy cake is perfect for an after school treat or to serve with coffee.

1 3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (5mL) baking soda

1 tsp (5 mL) each, ginger and cinnamon

1/2 tsp (2m L) each, ground cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and salt

1 cup (250 mL) pumpkin puree, fresh or canned

1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins, washed and dried on tea towel (optional)

1/2 cup (125 mL) each, vegetable oil and plain yogurt

2 eggs

Spray 9 inch (23 cm) bundt pan with baking spray. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder and salt together. In separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, raisins (if using) vegetable oil, yogurt and eggs together until well blended. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredient stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Bake about 45 – 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack; invert cake onto serving plate; sprinkle cake with icing sugar. Makes 10 – 12 servings.

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