Turns out that once you leave the comfy confines of North American, pumpkins don’t come in ‘cans’ but instead grow on ‘vines.’ Who knew? And because of this, those seeking to make pies, cookies, cakes and other pumpkin-flavored goodies must use an actual pumpkin, not a can opener, to obtain the nutmeg flavored fruit flesh. This process is not as easy as it sounds, especially to those of us who are used to harvesting our pie filling from aluminum. What follows is an account of my adventures in making, mushing and baking my autumnal goods.*
First, after an exhaustive search of several grocery stores to confirm that there was no shortcut, I walked to the fruit and vegetable market in the center. My first and only luck of the day would come when I realized that some peon in the back room of the market had already sliced the pumpkin into quarters before I arrived. I chose the smallest quarter I could, picked up a cucumber for good measure and dragged that heavy bastard home. My hand should provide some idea of the scale of the pumpkin slice.
After using a spoon to scrape out the remnants of the innards, I began the dangerous task of slicing the specimen into manageable pieces. Any of those who have seen me with a kitchen knife, potato peeler or cheese grater know that it is generally advisable for me to stay away from blades of any sort. But today I threw caution to the wind and brought the big butcher knife of out of the block. I hacked and chopped, slice and stabbed, and the once formidable fruit was reduced to several awkwardly shaped chunks. The chunks then slid into the boiling water like an old man into the bath. Throughout this, my fingers were neither dismembered or scalded.
Despite some extensive googling, I had no definite idea of how long the pumpkin pieces had to boil before becoming the required texture. And since I live in a flat furnished by men from the hockey office who seem to grab randomly from the racks of the housewares department of the dollar store, I knew that my pumpkin would have to be extra soft due to my lack of blender, potato masher or mallet. I boiled the hell out of that pumpkin. And when it was done, I boiled it some more.
Once the pumpkin was soft enough, I risked more second-degree burns and knife-wounds to separate the softened flesh from the wrinkly skin. (Yet another analogy to an old man in a bath comes to mind) Using the butcher knife and a various assortment of spoons, I mashed the pumpkin as finely as possibly. I added zimt (cinnamon) and muskatnuss (nutmeg) to give it that true pumpkin essence. Admittedly, my pumpkin ‘puree’ wasn’t as mousse-like or rich as the canned version, but it had that home-grown, craft-fair, living off the land feel. And it smelled like Thanksgiving.
Now that the hard part was over, I used this recipe from a fellow blogger to complete the process. And guess what? Despite some discrepancies in texture and color (both artificially added to that canned business), my muffins tasted the same, NAY!, even better than they would have at home. So please, take a whiff and enjoy.
*Only one pumpkin was harmed in the filming of this process.