On Cooking Southern: Pumpkin Up the Volume

Pumpkin Soup Shooters
Serve pumpkin soup shooters while dinner is cooking. Your guests will thank you.

Spice up Thanksgiving with pumpkin soup, cheesecake and more

By Laurie Triplette

ldtriplette@aol.com

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK:

All vines and no taters (a Southern state or condition): All talk and no action. Think Congress.

ON COOKING SOUTHERN

This week, the Old Bride is focusing on PUMPKIN, the agricultural star of Autumn. Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash native to North America, perhaps originating in Mexico. Pumpkins range in size, shape AND color — from green to creamy white and the familiar bright orange. The vegetable has become a global culinary staple, grown nowadays on every continent except Antarctica.

Pumpkin is one of the most popular and nutritious crops in the U.S., to the tune of approximately 1.5 billion pounds grown annually. Pumpkin is naturally high in Vitamin A, C, E and Riboflavin, Thiamin, B6, Niacin, Folate, and Pantothenic Acid. Pumpkin also is a good source for potassium, and contains healthy small amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. A cup of cooked, unflavored pumpkin contains 2.7 g of fiber, 2.5 g of complex sugars, and zero cholesterol. Every part of the plant except the rind is edible, including the pulp, seeds (known as pepitas to our REALLY Southern friends), leaves, and flowers. Think fried squash blossoms.

For savory dishes, prepare the pumpkin like any other squash. Slice it, dice it, boil it roast it, puree it, or prepare it any way you prefer. Season it with savory spices, salt, pepper, garlic, peppers, cheese, and meats such as turkey. For sweet pumpkin dishes, boil or bake it and combine with sugar or natural sugar substitutes, honey, molasses, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla.

The recipes below call for canned PLAIN pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling. Our homemade pumpkin pie spice is interchangeable with the store-bought version.

RECIPES OF THE WEEK

PUMPKIN SOUP
From GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN, the Old Bride’s version of Pumpkin Soup can be varied by omitting the lemon pepper and cayenne. Instead, add 1/8 tsp nutmeg.

4 T salted butter
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 c chopped scallions or green onions (my preference)
15-to-16-oz can plain pumpkin
5 c good chicken broth or stock
1 Bay leaf, OPTIONAL
1 tsp lemon pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 c whole milk or half-and-half
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Green onion tops, chopped, for garnish
Sour cream for garnish

Sauté the onion and scallions in butter for 5 minutes until transparent but not brown. Cool slightly and puree in a food processor. Add pumpkin, chicken stock, lemon pepper, and cayenne; puree some more. Pour into large saucepan with Bay leaf and parsley. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove Bay leaf and parsley; stir in milk or half-and-half. Continue simmering, whisking gently, until blended and thickened. DO NOT LET BOIL. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into cups; garnish with the sour cream and pinches of chopped parsley and green onion. YIELD: 6 to 8 one-cup servings.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Be sure to give your cheesecake enough oven time, or it will set up too soft to cut.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
From GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, this is a slight variation of the standard pumpkin cheesecake popularized years ago by Kraft Philadelphia-brand cream cheese.

1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
Four 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 c white granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 c of all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
15-to-16-oz can plain pumpkin
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c whipped cream

Butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs. Shake pan to coat all sides. Let excess crumbs remain on bottom. Preheat oven to 325ºF. In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with the mixer until fluffy. Beat in sugar gradually. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add pumpkin. Sift together flour, salt, and spice, and beat into batter. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes, until firm around sides but soft in center. Turn off heat. Open oven door a crack; let cake cool in oven for 30 minutes. Top of cake will have cracked during baking. Remove cake from oven after 30 minutes. Cool completely before chilling in fridge. Remove pan sides and garnish with sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit such as raspberries when serving.

Laurie Triplette
Laurie Triplette

HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PIE SPICE
Recipes using pumpkin pie spice often call for 2 to 2-1/2 tsp of the spice blend. Feel free to double or triple our recipe and save the leftover spice.

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves

Combine spices in a small jar (I use leftover 4-oz pimiento jars). Stir with a fork, close the lid, and shake well. Spice keeps for about one year.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, art curator, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB).