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Pumpkins: Part 1

October 14, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Pumpkins I

Boy there's a lot of pumpkins out there.  This time of year, everywhere you go, you see big old orange pumpkins laying all over the place.  Now I'm sure that some of these are going to be made into Jack O' Lanterns, but that only accounts for a small percentage. Here's a little guidance on the question of buying pumpkins for cooking.

First of all, you have to pick the right kind of pumpkin for cooking.  Big Jack o' Lantern pumpkins are for decoration, not eating.  But the little pumpkins that are available at markets and road-side stands are ideal for eating.  Generally, their texture is less stringy and the sugars are much higher.  Here are some great varieties for cooking.

Long pie pumpkin:  simply the best, if you can find it
Baby Pam:  ideal for pies
Peek-a-Boo:  a smaller pumpkin with smoother rind, good for pies
Long Pie:  a longer shape, very smooth flesh, one of the best for pies
Small Sugar:  great for pumpkin soup   
Sugar Baby:  one of the best all-purpose cooking pumpkins, easy to find

If you are looking to make a pie, you can count on getting enough filling for two 8" pies from one good sized eating pumpkins.  Here's a good recipe:
                PUMPKIN PIE FILLING

2 cups of pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs plus yolk of a third egg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 ground nutmeg
1/4 ground cloves
1/4 ground cardamom
1/2 tsp lemon zest

1.  To make the puréed filling, start with a small to medium sugar pumpkin.  Cut the stem and scrape out the insides.  Cut the pumpkin in half and lay the cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 until fork tender, which will take about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove and cool and scoop out the flesh with an ice cream scoop.  Run the flesh through a food mill to smooth it out.

2.  Mix sugar, salt, spices and zest in a large bowl.  Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir in the pumpkin puree.  Stir in cream and mix it all together thoroughly.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.