Sunday, October 25, 2009

Come here, pumpkin.

I am prone to using gratuitously sweet terms of endearment. Names like snuggle buns, honey dumpling and schnoogie pots come too easily for me. In fact, I called Eric “little sugary monkey” this morning. Sorry. But over the years I have realized that most people don’t like to be called those names, so for the most part I try to keep them reserved for pets and small children. I call my niece little bacon.  So far she’s fine with it.

One of my favorite terms of endearment, and a name that I’ve found goes over the most favorably with adult subjects, is pumpkin. My mom used to call me pumpkin. It’s sweet and huggable, but not over the top. Pumpkin sounds smiley like a jack-o’-lantern, and useful. “Come here, pumpkin.”

But I am reminded every fall that despite their sweet earthy flavor, pumpkins are actually quite a pain to cook with. Peeling a whole pumpkin hurts my hand, and the flesh is solid and hard to cut through. This year, I decided to get it all out of the way at once. I bought two, five pound sugar pumpkins from Alm Hill Gardens, and peeled, cubed and froze the whole lot. Now I am set for pumpkin treats for the next couple of months.

My first recipe from the bounty was pumpkin mostarda—an Italian relish that can be made out of most any kind of fruit. It’s sweet and salty, with a spicy mustard after taste. We had it for breakfast it on toasted baguette with ricotta, salt and pepper. I’ll try it with roasted pork and as a filling for ravioli.

Pumpkin Mostarda
This recipe was adapted from a recipe I found on La Cucina Italiana.

2 ½ pounds fresh pumpkin, peeled and cubed (whew!)
1 ¼ cups water
2 ½ cups sugar
1T lemon
3T dry mustard
4T white wine
1 t salt
  1. Dissolve the sugar and water in a large, heavy bottom pan by bringing it to a low boil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the pumpkin and lemon juice, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft but still keeps its shape.
  3. Remove the pumpkin from the syrup.
  4. Add the mustard, wine and salt to the syrup and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Put the pumpkin in a heat proof storage container (I use canning jars or glass tupperware), cover with the mustard syrup, cover and refrigerate.
  6. Let the mostarda sit for a few days. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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