Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pumpkins are for Relish, not Pies

When I was a little girl, my daddy told me that all the canned “pumpkin” sold in stores was not pumpkin, but butternut squash.  I spent many years growing  and sometimes buying pie pumpkins and making pies out of them, and very proud of their authenticity I was, though they were different from regular pumpkin pie: lighter colored and flavored, and coarse-textured.  Then I grew butternut squash, and I found that Dad was absolutely right; the baked squash was exactly like what was sold in the cans as “pumpkin” and it made a rich, deep colored, smooth-textured pie.  So now, of course, I use butternut squash for pies.
Our pilgrim forefathers may have baked pumpkin pies at the first Thanksgiving; certainly the traditions built up by advertising tell us so.  But there was an explosion of plant breeding in the 1800’s, and when butternut and other such rich baking squashes appeared, their marketers weren’t going to let little things like a name or a tradition get in the way of marketing superior squash for pies.
The best use I’ve found for pumpkins, be they pie or jack-o-lantern breed, is Pumpkin Relish.  Pumpkin’s light color and coarse grain are perfect for chopping and for carrying the other flavors in the relish without overwhelming them—much like the zucchini for which this recipe was originally made.  This recipe also works well for spaghetti squash, which is even lighter and coarser and chops better.  Other summer squashes can also be used. 
To make this recipe, it helps to have a food processor; otherwise you’ll spend way too much time chopping vegetables fine enough.  Remove the seeds and skin from mature squashes and use only the meat.  Immature zucchini or other summer squashes can be used with the seeds and skin.

Pumpkin Relish
Chop 8 cups raw pumpkin meat, relish fine.  Likewise chop 2-3 large red onions, 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper.  You may also add up to a dozen finely chopped jalapeños or other hot peppers if you want it spicy.  

Mix all vegetables and 5 tablespoons salt in a large bowl; allow to stand for 3 hours; rinse well and drain.  

In a large saucepan, mix 2 ½ cups cider vinegar; 3 cups sugar; 2 tablespoons cornstarch; 1 teaspoon mustard seed; 1 teaspoon turmeric; 1 tablespoon celery seed.  Bring to a boil; boil one minute.  Add rinsed and drained vegetables; bring back to a boil; simmer 20 minutes.  Fill sterilized canning jars with hot relish; seal and label.   Makes 7 to 8 pints.

This makes a really good side dish for many meats.  We’ve also baked chicken with carrots and potatoes smothered with it.  I used to eat it every day with wheat crackers for lunch.

Published 12-4-2010 at Yahoo Contributor Network under Rycke’s Recipes: Pumpkin Relish.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener         541-955-9040         rycke@gardener.com
Gardening is easy, if you do it naturally.