Thursday, September 29, 2022

On Cooking Southern: Great Pumpkin Teases Our Tastebuds

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SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Git ‘er dun: Taking a leaf from the book of Jeff Foxworthy’s Southern Redneck lore, this means definitively, y’all need to get in gear and accomplish what you’ve been talking about or hankerin’ to do all this time.


Put out the big orange pumpkins, everybody, and stockpile some pumpkin purée. It’s that time of year when the coffee bistros offer pumpkin spice latte and specialty ice cream joints push pumpkin-flavored desserts.

The familiar orange pumpkin is a member of the squash family. A native of North America, pumpkins are known to have been grown in Mexico as early as 7,000 to 5,000 BCE.

Pumpkins are now grown worldwide and are known as a rich source of Vitamin A. Even the seeds, leaves and flower blossoms are culinary delicacies. They appear in iconography in remote places ranging from Africa and South America to China.

But it’s in the United States and Canada where the pumpkin reigns supreme during Fall harvest time. Pumpkins also are a common motif in our American folklore – from the Jack-o-lantern and Washington Irving’s headless horseman, to the Peanuts cartoon series annual holiday favorite, The Great Pumpkin.

We’re still waiting, Charlie Brown…


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PUMPKIN CAKE
This cake is easy to make and freezes beautifully, so make up several to have one in reserve.

3 c all purpose flour

2 c white granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

4 large eggs

1 c butter, melted and cooled

15-oz can of pumpkin pulp

1 c fine-chopped, roasted pecans

8 oz pkg cream cheese

1 stick (8 T) butter, room temperature

1 c confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

roasted pecan halves

Prepare a 10-inch Bundt pan by greasing and lightly flouring it. Heat oven to 350˚F. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and blend completely with wire whisk. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl, gently mixing in the melted butter last. Add dry ingredients in three parts, mixing until just blended. Do not overbeat. Carefully stir in chopped until until blended. Ladle or pour into Bundt pan, smoothing top with spatula. Place on center rack of oven and bake 45-50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in top comes out clean. Cake will rise above the pan. Remove from oven to rack to cool.

While cake is cooling, make frosting by mixing cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla. Carefully mix in the confectioners sugar until smooth. Cream cheese frosting benefits from lengthy mixing, so mix for about five minutes until glossy.

When cake has cooled enough to release from pan, shake it to release from bottom and turn out onto cake plate. Cover with glaze or with cream cheese frosting. Decorate top with roasted pecans.


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PUMPKIN PUDDING BARS
I adapted this recipe from my Appalachian in-laws’ fabulous persimmon pudding recipe. The cream cheese frosting puts it over the top. The pudding freezes beautifully.

2 c pumpkin pulp

3 eggs

1-3/4 c whole milk

2 c sifted all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1-1/2 c white granulated sugar

3 T butter

8 oz pkg cream cheese

4 T (half a stick) butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c confectioners sugar

Mix pumpkin pulp, beaten eggs, and milk. Sift dry ingredients together. Blend in liquid mixture. Stir in melted butter. Pour into a pan two inches deep. Bake at 325ºF until firm (toothpick comes out clean). Cool on rack. As pudding cools, it will shrink from sides and lose its puffiness, becoming dense.

While pudding is cooling, make classic cream cheese frosting. Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add in the sugar and continue beating about five minutes until smooth.

Frost cooled pudding with classic cream cheese frosting. Chill, covered, overnight or at least four hours before cutting into bars. Decorate individual bars with candy toppings such as candy corn, candy leaves or candy pumpkins.


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PUMPKIN FLAN
I usually make this recipe in a single 9-by-5-inch loaf pan when serving it at a family gathering. But it adapts well to mini-loaf pans and ramekins.

4 (7-oz ramekins) plus a 4-mini-loaf pan

1/2 c white granulated sugar

8 large eggs

2/3 c sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Two 13-oz cans of evaporated milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c canned pumpkin

Heat oven to 350ºF. In a heavy saucepan heat a half-cup of sugar over medium heat until melted and golden brown. Pour this caramelized sugar evenly into the ramekins and mini-loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2/3 c sugar, salt, evaporated milk, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix just until blended but not frothy. Carefully ladle the pumpkin mixture into each container over the caramel layer.

Set the dishes or pan into a larger baking or roasting pan. Pour boiling or very hot water into the large pan so the level of water reaches 1 inch up the sides of the filled dishes or mini-loaf pan.

Bake for one hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Chill until cold, at least three to four hours. Just before serving, run a metal spatula around the edges to loosen flan from the sides. Place inverted platter over the flan and while holding both pans, carefully flip to turn out the flan. The caramel should form a sauce dripping down the sides of the overturned flan. Slice the loaf flan.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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