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Pumpkin possibilities

The versatile orange fruit is a star in the kitchen.

(Page 3 of 3)

This recipe is slightly adapted from one in "From the Cooks Garden" (2003), by Ellen Ecker Ogden. "Pumpkin cheesecake recipes abound, but this one is outstanding." writes Ms. Ogden. "Considering the praises it receives, it is a very simple recipe, and for several years in a row has won prizes at our local harvest festival."

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I went out and bought a spring-form pan several years ago to try it. So, if you don't own a 9-inch spring form pan, or can't borrow one from a friendly neighbor, it's well worth the investment for this recipe alone.

Although the original recipe uses freshly cooked sugar pumpkin, and fresh is always better, it works well with canned. So if that little sugar pumpkin on your mantle is just collecting dust, take it down, dust it off, and make a pie out of it. (See note on how to cook sugar pumpkins following the recipe.)

For the crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

For the filling:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 cups cooked, or canned pumpkin purèe

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the crust:

Mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar in a bowl until combined. Press firmly and evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Refrigerate until cool and firm, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For the filling:

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar on high, scraping down the sides as necessary, until smooth.

Beat in the pumpkin purèe, spices, and salt. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Spread pumpkin mixture evenly over graham cracker crust.

Bake until the filling seems almost completely set when given a gentle shake (the center will seem a little moist), about 50 to 55 minutes.

Remove cake from oven. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Mix sour cream, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over the top of the cheesecake.

Return to oven and bake until topping looks set, about 8 minutes.

Transfer cheesecake to a wire cake rack and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.

Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan and remove the sides of the pan. Slice with a hot, wet knife. Serve chilled.

Cooking sugar pumpkins

Most canned pumpkin consists of just that, pumpkin. Nothing else. Some, however, do contain sweetener and spices. These are especially processed for pumpkin pies. Avoid these. It's always best to add your own spice blend.

For purists, only freshly cooked pumpkin will do. It's a simple process, and with pumpkins readily available this time of year, it's the way to go. A 3- to 4-pound sugar pumpkin will yield between 2 to 3 cups of purèed fruit.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove and discard stem from pumpkin. Cut pumpkin in half. With a large spoon, scrape out seeds and stringy pulp. Pour about 1/2 inch of water in a baking pan. Place pumpkin, cut side down in pan, and bake for about 1 hour, or until pumpkin is soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove pumpkin from oven, and scrape out flesh with a spoon. Discard skin, and purèe pumpkin in food processor until smooth.