We grew pie pumpkins this year. We started them from seeds indoors, with 3 seeds in each of the grow cubes that have been around for years. (Amazingly enough, 2010 will mark the year we used up all the stockpiled grow cubes!) The homegrown seedlings were a little behind the Farmers’ Market purchased ones, so when it came time for planting, they didn’t get the pick of the yard. We were running short on space at that point actually, so, at Jim’s suggestion, the pumpkins got the newly cleared spot over by the fence.
And by the fence turned out to be a great place to grow pumpkins. Our pumpkin vines got a lot of leaves, and the foliage liked to spread out… and then up.
I wasn’t completely positive that the pumpkin vines would love growing along the fence, but they did.
We were prepared to support the pumpkins themselves with slings if necessary, but the vines were mighty strong.
Pumpkins on the fence had two other positive points. One was that the pumpkins didn’t develop a flat spot like they sometimes do when sitting on the ground.
The other was that the squirrels didn’t seem to notice the pumpkins under the foliage on the fence and so were not tempted to nibble and sample them.
Other than pumpkin pies, which are coming soon, what does one do with pie pumpkins? Some years ago, we picked up a vintage recipe at Greenfield Village for Stuffed Pumpkin, which calls for hollowing out a pumpkin, filling it with meat and vegetables, and baking. Jim had also sent me this pumpkin oatmeal recipe to ponder. Jim is not really a “sweets” person, and he likes savory oatmeal made with broth. He wondered if a pumpkin filled with sausage and oatmeal would be good, so we decided to find out.
Note that, for this recipe, I used steel-cut oats, which are heartier and more grain-like than rolled oats. Steel-cut oats also take longer to cook. I would not recommend using rolled oats. If oats don’t appeal to you, substitute another grain such as rice or couscous that will add body to the stuffing and not get too mushy.
Stuffed Pumpkin with Sausage
One medium sized pie pumpkin, about 3 lbs
1/2 pound bulk sausage, mild or spicy, your choice
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 pine nuts
1/2 cup of steel-cut oats
1 cup of broth
Salt and pepper
1. Thoroughly wash the pumpkin and dry it off. Use a sharp knife to cut a circular “top”—cut on an angle so the top will not fall in. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp with a spoon. I like to use our stainless steel medium scoop or an ice cream scoop. Put the seeds and pulp in a bowl of water and set aside for making roasted pumpkin seeds. Aim for a smooth cavity without the stringy stuff inside the pumpkin.
2. With a fork, prick the inside of the pumpkin and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Brown sausage and drain. Set aside.
4. Sauté onions and garlic in a little butter or olive oil until tender. Add mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add browned sausage, pine nuts, steel-cut oats, and broth. Stir to combine.
5. Stuff pumpkin with sausage mixture and replace the top.
6. Place in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Bake uncovered in a 350F degree oven for 30 minutes, then loosely cover with foil and bake 40 minutes or until tender.
7. Cut pumpkin into wedges to serve.
While you are at it, take the time to prepare roasted pumpkin seeds. A tip from my daughter-in-law to soak the seeds in salt water guarantees that they are salty enough.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1. Put the seeds and pulp from a pumpkin into a big bowl of water. Rub the seeds between your hands to clean them. Pick off the orange and stringy bits.
2. Add a teaspoon of salt to 2 cups of water. Soak your pumpkin seeds in water for at least 30 minutes.
3. Then put the seeds in a strainer to drain them. Blot them with paper towels.
4. Dump the seeds on a baking sheet lined with foil and add a little oil to the pile. Stir to coat them.
5. Add 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 of salt, if desired. Mix with seeds and then spread out in a single layer on the sheet.
6. Roast the seeds in a 275F degree oven for 10 – 20 minutes. Check them every 3 or 4 minutes and stir them. Pay close attention because seeds can easily burn!
7. Cool completely and store in jars, if they don’t get eaten up immediately.
We haven’t even had a real pumpkin pie yet, but one will be on the menu very soon. Pumpkins will definitely be part of next year’s garden too. We’ll save the spot by the fence especially for them.