Mmmm… Fall is here! In some places, the temperature gauge denies that fact, but the calendar (and the annual appearance of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte) confirms that Fall is here!
Fall is my favorite season. I don’t know if it’s the changing of the leaves or the crispness that is in the air with it (both of which are not as apparent in SoCal) or just the fact that everywhere you look there are signs of harvest and change and the smells of cinnamon and clover.
When thinking fall, people tend to think about Pumpkins. But pumpkins can be used for more than just decorations; they are great to cook with… and make more than pies! While there are many different varieties of Pumpkin, cooking pumpkins tend to be of a smaller, sweeter version (sometimes called a “Pie Pumpkin or Sugar Pumpkin”) rather than the huge Jack-O-Lantern variety.
Pumpkin is used essentially the same way that you would use any squash: you can boil it, bake it, steam it, or roast it… once you get past it’s tough exterior (HINT: use a stable flat surface and a sharp knife.)
We love all types of squash in our house, but we get particularly excited when pumpkin season is here. While pumpkin is delicious simply roasted and drizzled with REAL maple syrup and sprinkled with pecans or walnuts, the most versatile use of pumpkin is with a Pumpkin puree, which is the basis of the recipe I am sharing with you today!
Pumpkin Puree (makes an excellent baby/ toddler food too!)
Gather 2 small pie pumpkins.
On a flat surface, with a sharp knife, cut off ¼” from the bottom of the pumpkin (gives you a flat bottom of the pumpkin.) Cut ½” of the top of the pumpkin (the stem side.) You should now have a pumpkin with a flat top and flat bottom.
Make a vertical cut down, cutting your pumpkin in half, and scrape out the insides. (Save your seeds to roast if you want!) Some of the stringy stuff will stick around… just get most of it.
Cut each pumpkin half into three pieces (vertically, again) and lay all of your wedges (6 per pumpkin) on a baking sheet. Roast at 350 for 45 min.
After the pumpkin has roasted, peel the skin back (it should have blistered and bubbled up) with a butter knife and place your chunks into a food processor, or blender, or what ever you smash with. Add a wee bit of water (tablespoons at a time) and process until you like the consistency. Repeat until all of the pumpkin has been pureed. Either use right away, or freeze for up to 1 year. (If you freeze, make sure to freeze in small portions, or you’ll have a big ol’ block of frozen pumpkin.) Makes about 6 cups.
Use your pumpkin puree to make soups, stews, ravioli, chili, what ever your heart desires or my favorite… Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes!
Pumpkin spice syrup:
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks or 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp pumpkin puree*
• Cook sugar and water in a small pot over med. heat until sugar is all dissolved. Do not boil. Whisk in the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Again, do not boil.
• Allow mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes.
• Strain syrup through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into a large jar or bottle of your choice.
• Keep syrup in the fridge, it will last a nice long while. (makes 2.5 cups)
*feel free to use canned pumpkin rather than a roasted pumpkin puree. It is more convenient, however you will miss the nutty flavor that roasting gives.
To make a Pumpkin Spice Latte:
Combine 2-6 Tbsp stong coffee or espresso with 6-8 oz. hot milk (watch out that you don’t scald your milk!) Add 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Spice Syrup (more or less to taste) and stir well to combine. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon… I won’t tell.