Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

In spite of the awful drought that we have had in the Middle Atlantic States this year, the pumpkins are still scattered by the thousands over the nearby fields like enormous orange beads from the broken jewelry of some giant from a Walt Disney movie.  We are so lucky to be able to see that.   It is an incredibly beautiful sight, and many people think that pumpkins only come in cans in the market, or are made of plastic, with the faces cut out, and lining the shelves of party stores, this time of year. 

One of the scariest images that I remember from a Walt Disney cartoon involving Halloween is the adaptation of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, when the headless horseman flings that flaming pumpkin head right at Ichabod Crane, and the horrible thing seems to be coming right at the face of the audience.  Fantastic animation, but it could make small children wet the bed.

However, for the most part, pumpkins are wonderful, not terrible.

My Mom's father, whose name was Jimmy, and who I never knew, was a wonderful man.  He died many years before I came here to live.  My Mom says that he would have had a special love for me, as he, too, spent his early years in foster care.  She told me that while he was a brilliant man and very creative, because of this lost childhood, a part of him never quite grew up.  He played with his only child, my Mom, and gave her a childhood that she has tried to pass on to me, though I came to it late.  One of the things that he built for her was an 11-room dollhouse with electric lights.  We still have it, and you wouldn't believe how beautiful it is to this day.  Mom also has his train set, given to him by a friend long after he was grown.  It is a giant-sized 1923 Lionel set, a passenger train with a locomotive, passenger car, and an observation car with a cute little platform at the back.  Mom said that Grandpa Jimmy said it was for tiny politicians.

One of the things that she remembers best about those magical childhoods, is the annual ritual of spreading clean newspapers on the floor and carving out a pumpkin.  No plastic Jack 'O Lanterns for that man!   Mom says that it was astonishing how much stuff could come out of one pumpkin!  He always took his time, and selected just the right one each year.

I wish that I had known him.

Most of us don't realize how many fantastic foods can be found inside those great (and heavy!) orange gourds.  Here are a few.  Do I have more?  You bet I do.  Next year.  Unless you have a special request.

Pumpkin Nut Waffles

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs separated (or an equivalent amount of Egg Beaters)
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (try soy milk)
  • 1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening 
  • 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup of chopped pecans

Sift together dry ingredients.  Beat egg yolks.  Combine with milk, shortening, and pumpkin.  Add to dry ingredients.  Beat egg whites stiff. 

Fold into batter.  (If you use the egg substitute, just skip the separation steps).  Pour onto hot waffle iron.  Sprinkle with a few chopped nuts and bake.

This is good!!!

  • Yields: Makes about 8 waffles
  • Preparation Time: Less than half an hour

Pumpkin-Orange Custards

  • 1 cup canned or mashed cooked fresh pumpkin
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten (or substitutes)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup light cream or milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated orange rind

Mix pumpkin with eggs, sugar, salt and spices.  Stir in cream and orange rind and pour mixture into custard cups.  Set cups in a shallow pan of hot water high enough to come almost to the top of the cups.  Bake in a pre-heated slow oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until custard is firm.

If you have kids, the waiting time and the smell from the oven will make them crazy.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About an hour and 15 minutes

Pumpkin Ice Cream

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Mix pumpkin, spices, salt and nuts.  Heat milk and add sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Stir into pumpkin mixture and chill.  Fold in whipped cream.  Pour into a mold or freezer tray, and freeze until firm.

It's easier to buy ice cream, I know, but the supermarkets have not yet caught up with this flavor!!!

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: Less than 3 hours -- including freezing time

Pumpkin Preserves

  • 5 lbs pumpkin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 4 thinly sliced lemons
  • 1 thinly sliced orange
  • a few grains of salt

Remove peel and cut raw pumpkin into slices 1/4 inch thick and 1 or 2 inches long.  Place in a stone jar or earthenware container and add sugar.  Let mixture stand overnight.  Drain liquid from pumpkin and boil liquid until it spins a thread.  Add sliced pumpkin and remaining ingredients.  Cook until thick and clear.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

This one is from a pile of recipes that belonged to my Mom's Irish grandmother.  Born in Ireland but raised in the US, it's clear to see that Sara had a lot of patience for cooking.  She also had 8 children.  The woman was a miracle in skirts!

  • Yields: about 8 pints
  • Preparation Time: 2 days