This time of year, pumpkins are very plentiful. They are on doorsteps carved into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. They decorate front yards along with Broom Corn stalks, gourds and mums.
Pumpkins are native to the Southern United States and Northern Mexico. They are one of our oldest domesticated plants having been used for food since around 7500 B.C. There are at least 40 varieties and they are full of Vitamin C, Potassium and Iron. Native Americans roasted them over an open fire or boiled them in water. Like us, they us they ate the seeds, known at Pepitas.
The traditional Halloween pumpkins have been bred for decoration or carving and are not good for baking. When baked they become stringy, watery and tasteless. But there are many pie pumpkins that are great for baking and are creamy with a sweet taste. Some of those varieties are Baby Bear, Cinderella, Small Sugar, Dickenson and Galeux d’Eysines.
The canned pumpkin that you buy in the store is really a blend of winter squashes, which make an excellent pie filling. My favorite kind to use for baking is the Candy Roaster Squash (Cucurbita Maxima). It is a local heirloom variety that was originally cultivated by the Cherokee Indians in the Appalachian Mountains. If you haven’t cooked with a fresh pumpkin or squash, you are in for a treat. The flavors and texture are amazing. Cook it like you would any winter squash and use the creamy pulp as a puree.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a 9-inch spring form pan.
2 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup melted butter
2 1/2 pounds softened cream cheese
1 Cup sour cream
2 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 Cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 Cup flour
1/2 Cup pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
In a bowl combine the Graham cracker crumbs, ginger and butter. Press into the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sour cream and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in pumpkin, flour, maple syrup, spices, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix just until incorporated. Pour into baked crust, smoothing out to the sides of the pan. Bake until top is light brown and the middle slightly jiggles for 60-70 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
Send any questions or comments to Chef Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.