i can hardly wait!! it's PUMPKIN TIME at Perry Farm
in the beautiful Ardenwood Historical Park
. as some of my correspondents know, my wife's family runs an organic farm within the borders of the park. every year brings PUMPKIN TIME around. during october, pops has a huge pumpkin patch, and i help around the place doing odds and ends chores, and give tractor pulled hay rides around the farm. we've had as many as 1200 school kids a day during the week, out for a day at the farm. i love this time of year. i'm so excited i can hardly contain myself. PUMPKIN TIME! i look forward to this for 10 months a year. i take a month off to recover, where anything pumpkin or tractor related sort of falls flat. but then, come thanksgiving time, i'm already planning my little talks as we travel thru the farm. last year, the early birds got a real treat. weekends are the main tractor ride times for the general public. and in the beginning of the season, we still have watermelons, persians, cantaulopes, and, well, we had 10 or 11 varieties of melons last year. and during the beginning of october, there are still a lot of ripe, unpicked melons in the field. so, being an independant sort, if the number of people wanting rides isn't too big, i get to go play. i will probably do the same this year. we went out to the melons, i picked a couple, chopped them up, and shared them with the folks riding with me. most of the melons, such as the russian seeded watermelon, are not available in any store. so the folks get to eat killer melons, while i talk about organic farming, farming in an urban area, and the loss of farm land due to encroaching residential/commercial building. and i get to show kids how to spit watermelon seeds. i always tell the adults that my mom tasked me with being an example for the younger ones, but she forgot to stipulate that it had to be a GOOD example. so it's a ton of fun for me, and i've never had a complaint from the folks that travel around the farm with me, except that we get back too soon.
so in honor of PUMPKIN TIME, i would like to share my favorite pumpkin soup recipe.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
(this stuff is so good even my son the pumpkin and squash hater loved it).
WARNING: this is off the top of my head, which is the only way i've ever made it. no recipe card exists for this one that i know of. so if the measurements are imprecise, or the directions are foggy, consider this an opportunity to explore your own skills. you really can't make this soup wrong, unless you burn it.
- 2 eating pumpkins. none of those thin shelled carvers. if you can get at least one Cinderella Pumpkin,also known as rouge vif d'etampes, all the better. Ali probably knows this pumpkin well, because it was what i thought pumpkins looked like when i moved away from france. you can also use hubbard squash for this. it has just about the same texture and flavor as pumpkin squashes do. anyway, the other pumpkin can be any that you like, since we won't be eating that one. a carver about the same size as the one we're eating would be good.
- 1/2 tsp cordamon seeds, crushed or ground up in a spice mill (i use my coffee grinder) or about 1/4 tsp of ground cordamon. you CAN put too much of this in the soup, so taste as you go.
- nutmeg to taste
- allspice to taste (hint: this and nutmeg are pretty powerful stuff. a pinch or two of each should be plenty. as you get familiar with this soup, you will know how much or how little to add. me, i like about 1/4 tsp of each, give or take a pinch.)
- chicken stock in a 1 to 1 ratio with pulped pumpkin (this is not exact. use less for a thicker soup, more to stretch it and thin it out. 2 parts stock to 1 part pumpkin is still good!)
- 1 sweet onion, chopped. you don't need to get too crazy chopping the onion, since this is headed to the food processor when we're done. saves the eyes, aye.
- couple of cloves of garlic, minced.
- salt and pepper to taste. i just lightly lightly salt and pepper in the pot, and let the diner adjust to taste.
- sour cream or plain yogurt
cut and seed/gut the eating pumpkin into quarters. rub with olive oil, and place skin side down on a cookie sheet. pop into a 400 degree oven until the pumpkin turns a medium brown, speckled with some dark spots. takes about 15 to 20 minutes to even see any color. don't get too anxious. i've roasted them for up to 35 to 45 minutes before. we're looking for that carmalized pumpkin flavor here, so let them brown up, without burning. burned food is hardly ever good.
once the pumpkin looks good, and is at least fork tender (stick a fork in easily), pull the tray out of the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes. cooling at this point is really all about not burning the fingerprints off of your hands during the next step.
peel the skin off of the pumpkin and either mash the pulp, or put it into a food processor or blender just to break up the big chunks. add the pulp and chicken stock into an appropriately large pot, and bring to a very light boil. go easy on the chicken stock at first (after the first cup or so), adding as the soup cooks to the consistancy you are looking for. add the onion, garlic, and spices. once it's boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer. remember:
boiling pumpkin pulp is like lava. avoid splatters, because they will burn for hours. and also be aware this stuff will scorch if you leave the heat on too long. pumpkin is not forgiving when it comes to too much heat.
let it simmer 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how hungry you are. thin if necessary with chicken stock, or water.
while you are waiting, cut the top couple of inches off of the 2nd pumpkin, and gut it. this is going to be the serving bowl. the audience will love it!
pour into a food processor or blender, in small enough batches to keep it from exploding when you turn on the machine. puree each batch and pour into the pumpkin shell. if you don't have a machine to puree this in, just pour it through a sieve/strainer, and force the pulp through using a rubber spatula. on the table, ladle soup into the bowls, and add a tsp (or more depending on how much cholesterol you can tolerate) of sour cream. and eat!
this is my very favorite pumpkin soup recipe, and it has never turned out exactly the same twice. for a little different taste, add a bit of ground or grated ginger, or even toss in a dash or two of ground cloves. the possibilities are limitless. it really is very simple and uncomplicated, except for the puree part. but most of us have that figured out already, right? and if not, now's the time. enjoy