Most Americans do not realize that, without the humble pumpkin, the early settlers to this country would have died away well before the Revolutionary War ever took place. Pumpkin consumption was so high that an early colonial poem contended that it was eaten at every meal and that had it not been for the pumpkin that they would have all died.
Naturally, the settlers got their pumpkin seeds from Native Americans who routinely planted pumpkins, pole beans, and corn together – which is most commonly referred to as the “Three Sisters.” These three foods provided all of the essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. that a person needed to live. Each tribe had their own varieties of squashes, pumpkins, beans, and corn that they used.
Today, it is rather sad to think that we have an unusually large variety of pumpkins, probably more than at any other time in human history, and pumpkin-based recipe innovation is at a near record low. It would seem that, unless it’s in a pie or used as a flavoring, most Americans only see a pumpkin as a decorative item.
As a culturalist, it is my hope that some of these recipes will help change your mind about this autumn treat. Its reputation has been sullied far too long by the uninspired. It is my hope that , by revisiting old timey recipes using this American gastronomical icon, and tweaking them just a bit, that you too will become inspired in how you see this wondrous vegetable in the future.
Contemporary Cherokee Pumpkin Fry Bread
4 cups Baby Boo Pumpkin (Peeled, de-seeded, cooked, mashed, and chilled)
3 cups Self-Rising Flour (Plus reserve)
¼ tsp Mexican Cinnamon (Ground)
¼ tsp Allspice (Ground)
¼ tsp Nutmeg (Ground)
1 cup Dry Milk
1 cup Milk (Plus reserve)
Confectioner Sugar (Optional)
In a large mixing bowl slowly incorporate the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and dry milk. Now, mix in the pumpkin. Slowly add in the milk. Knead the dough until it doesn’t stick to your hands. Add reserve flour if you need to. If too dry, add in some reserve milk a tablespoon at a time in between kneading. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 30 minutes. Take reserve flour and spread out on a flat surface. Place the oil in a fryer or Dutch oven and bring to about 350-375°F. Break off golf ball sized portions of the dough and pat it out flat on the floured surface until they are discs about a quarter of an inch thick and uniformly round. Place the dough into the oil and cook two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown. (NOTE: Pushing the fry bread into the oil while cooking helps it to puff up.) Place the fried bread onto a sheet tray lined with paper towels to drain.
Once cooked, you can either use it to make a twist on “Indian Tacos” or make a dessert out of it. To serve it as a dessert, you will just want to dust the fry bread with the confectioner sugar and serve hot. To make into a savory “Indian Taco,” you will use the bread like a tortilla. To that add chili, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and sour cream as you wish. Keeping the dough in a warm oven allows you to serve the fry bread as both an Indian Taco and as a dessert – you can never have too much fry bread!
1 medium Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin (Peeled, de-seeded, and halved)
4 cups Self Rising Flour
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 cup Milk
¼ tsp Ground Allspice
Honey, Syrup, or Confectioner Sugar (Optional)
Cut the pumpkin halves into 1 ½ to 2 inch cubes. In a zip top bag, mix the flour and salt together. In a bowl, mix together the milk and the allspice. Toss the pumpkin chunks into the zip top bag, close the bag, and shake vigorously to flour the pieces. Remove the chunks and put them in the milk and coat them all over with it. Now, place the milk-covered chunks back into zip top bag, close the bag, and shake vigorously again. Let the pumpkin sit for five minutes, routinely shaking up the pieces in the bag so that they do not stick. Heat the oil to 350°F and place the coated pumpkin carefully in the oil. Cook the pumpkin pieces until they are all golden brown and floating to the top. Retrieve them with a slotted spoon or brass spider. Let the hot pumpkin drain on a sheet tray lined with paper towels. This is usually served with fried salt pork, hominy, and biscuits as low country fare with some people desiring to put honey, syrup, or confectioner sugar on their pumpkin.
Pumpkin Seed Brittle
1 cup Sugar
½ cup Water
1 stick Butter (Sliced and room temperature)
1 tbsp Baking Soda
1 ½ cups Pumpkin Seed (De-hulled)
Take about two tablespoons of the butter and grease a non-stick cookie sheet with it. Using an electric skillet or large, heavy bottomed saucier, add in your sugar and water. Using a wooden spoon, cook the two together, stirring constantly, until the sugar begins to caramelize and turn a light amber color. Pour in the pumpkin seed and cook for about two to three minutes. When the sugar takes on a dark amber color, add in the butter and stir quickly. Next, turn off the heat, add in the baking soda, stirring vigorously until it is incorporated, and carefully pouring the mixture onto the sheet tray. Using your wooden spoon, carefully even out the brittle on the pan. Let the brittle cool for no less than two hours. When cool to the touch, take a wooden spoon and strike the brittle until it breaks up into shards that are about half the size of the palm of your hand. Place these shards into a container and serve whenever you want a sweet, crunchy treat.
Hearty Fall Soup
1 pound Nut Meat (Hickory Nut or Pecan pulverized into a paste – Optional)
1 cup Yellow Hominy (Cooked)
1 cup White Hominy (Cooked)
1 cup Red Kidney Beans (Cooked)
1 cup Black Beans (Cooked)
1 Serrano Pepper (Finely chopped)
1 Onion (Coarsely chopped)
1 Bell Pepper (Coarsely chopped)
1 medium Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin (Peeled, de-seeded, and cubed)
6 Cherry Tomatoes (Peeled and cubed – Optional)
2 Red Potatoes (Cubed)
1 Turnip Root (Peeled and cubed – Optional)
1 pound Meat (Venison, Beef, Rabbit, Turkey, or Whatever Desired)
1 tsp Ground Allspice
½ cup Lard
Salt & Black Pepper (To taste)
In a sauce pan, take the nut meat paste and water until it has the consistency of skim milk. Simmer for 30-45 minutes being sure to add water as is needed to keep the milk-like consistency. Strain this mixture through a sieve and store the nut milk in the refrigerator. (NOTE: This is called conuche, sometimes pronounced as kenuche, in Cherokee when done with hickory nuts. Since pecans are more prevalent in Northwest Florida, and other parts of the South, some Cherokee natives now use pecan rather than hickory. This step is totally optional.) In a stock pot, heat up the lard. Brown the meat in the lard on high heat. Remove the meat and add the peppers and onions to the oil. When the onions are translucent, add in the optional tomatoes and let them cook down. Add in about two quarts of water and pour the meat, the allspice, and the rest of the veggies into the pot. Cook the soup on medium heat for 30 minutes before adding in the salt and black pepper. Cook the soup another 15 -20 minutes. Insert a fork into the potatoes, turnips, and pumpkin to make sure that all of the veggies are done. (NOTE: The fork should easily go into hard vegetables when they are fully cooked). At this point you may add in the nut milk and cook for an additional five to ten minutes or you may skip this step and serve as-is. Fried cornbread or pumpkin fry bread are usually great accompaniments to this Native-American inspired stew.
Steakhouse Pumpkin Fries
1 medium Hubbard, Lakota, Boston Morrow, or Seminole Pumpkin (Peeled, de-seeded, and halved)
1 tbsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 tsp White Peppercorns
1 tsp Pink Peppercorns
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Allspice
1 tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Cumin
Pour oil into a fryer or Dutch oven and bring the temperature to 225°F. Take a knife and cut the pumpkin into strips that are about ½ inch thick by about an inch wide by no more than five inches long. Take the peppercorns, coriander seed, allspice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin seed and put into a spice grinder and pulse until finely ground. Pour the seasoning blend into a bowl for later use. When the oil is at proper temperature, take a handful of the pumpkin fries and carefully put them in the grease. When the fries turn a yellowish orange and begin to float to the top, take a brass spider or slotted spoon and dip out the fries. Place the cooked fries on a sheet pan lined with multiple layers of paper towels to drain properly. Keep repeating this cooking technique until all of the pumpkin is cooked. Place the sheet tray into a freezer to help with the cooling process. Now, bring up the temperature of the oil up to 375°F. Retrieve the chilled fries from the freezer and put a handful of them carefully into the grease. Retrieve them with a brass spider or slotted spoon when they are golden brown. Take the hot fries and put them in a mixing bowl and dust them with the seasoning blend. Carefully toss them and serve hot as a side dish to a hearty main entrée.
Pumpkin Patch Ale
1 medium Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin (Peeled, de-seeded, and cut into cubes)
1 Bottle Malta
4 White Peppercorns (Coarsely crushed – Optional)
½ cup Dark Brown Sugar (Firmly packed)
¼ Florida Naval Orange
2 tsp Apple Pie Spice
1 stick Mexican Cinnamon
1 tbsp Allspice
1 gallon Spring Water
1 packet Ale Yeast
3 ounces Hops
Toothpick or Needle
Kite Rope, Twine, or Duct Tape
Homebrew Beer Bottles
In food processor, pulse the orange slice (with rind) until it is nearly liquefied. Now, placing the grating attachment to the food processor, grate the pumpkin. Pour the orange and pumpkin mixture into a large stock pot along with the malta, brown sugar, apple pie spice, allspice, and Mexican cinnamon. Cover all of this with the spring water (save the plastic jug) and bring to a rolling boil. Once a rolling boil has been reached, keep the ingredients going for three minutes and then cut the temperature down until a light boil has been achieved. Add in 2 ounces of hops, stir well, and cover with a lid. Cook for an hour and a half making sure to stir frequently. The last five minutes of the cooking, add in the remaining ounce of hops, along with the white crushed peppercorns, and stir in well. Using a sieve, strain the mixture into a large bowl – this is called the wort. Once strained, cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place into a refrigerator to chill for no less than two hours.
Once the wort has been properly chilled, take about a cup of the wort and put it in a microwavable bowl and heat it up until it is just barely at 75°F. Pour in half a packet of the ale yeast into the container and stir well. Let this mixture set for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Take the remaining yeast, fold up the packet well, place folded packet into a sandwich bag, remove all of the air you can from the bag before sealing, and place said bag in the refrigerator for later use. Using a funnel, pour the wort and the wort/yeast slurry into the gallon water jug – making sure to leave about two to three inches of space at the top. Place the cap on the jug and shake well for no less than one minute to incorporate as much air as is possible. Take the cap off and put a clean balloon over the mouth of the jug. Using a toothpick or needle, puncture the balloon at the tip so that there are about two to four small holes in it. Wrap the base of the balloon with kite string, twine, or duct tape so that it doesn’t come off the jug. Place the jug in a dark area that keeps a constant temperature of about 69°F. After 21 days, retrieve the jug, take off the balloon, and siphon the liquid into a sterile container making sure not to suck up any of the dead yeast and sediment at the bottom of the jug. Cap this container off and place it in a refrigerator for seven to fourteen days.
Again, siphon off the liquid into a new sterile container – making sure not to get any of the sediment. This liquid you will then let set for another seven to fourteen days in the refrigerator. Taking the siphon, pour a little of the liquid into a container and microwave it until it it is just barely at 75°F. Pour in the other half packet of the ale yeast into the container and stir well. Let this mixture set for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Siphon the rest of the liquid into a new sterile container – making sure not to get any of the sediment. Pour in the yeast slurry, cap the container off, and shake well for a good minute to incorporate as much air as is possible. Using the siphon, pour this liquid into the beer bottles, leaving about an inch from the top, and seal the bottles off. Place the bottles in a dark area that keeps a constant temperature of about 69°F. After about 21 days, you can then serve the ale as you would any other beer. (NOTE: The malta is used in place of taking 4 cups of malted barley, grinding it, and then cooking it in water for 90 minutes. It is a shortcut only. Traditionalists, please feel free to make your wort with ground malted barley.)