Halloween pumpkins make delicious breads, soup

Rarely does the ordinary pumpkin make it past the jack-o'-lantern stage, unless, of course, it's to the Thanksgiving table as pumpkin pie. With a small amount of effort this golden prize can be turned into delicious dishes other than dessert.

Pumpkins bruise easily, so handle with care. Select pumpkins that are small and have smooth, hard rinds without blemishes. The large mammoth pumpkins, usually grown in fields for jack-o'-lanterns, lack the quality and flavor of smaller ones.

For all general purposes no clear distinction can be made between winter squashes and pumpkin. Their fruits are eaten when mature or stored for winter use. Their recipes are interchangeable.

Whole pumpkins can serve as attractive, edible containers for soups or stews. To prepare as a serving tureen, wash rind and cut out top to serve as a lid.

Scrape out seeds and fibers, saving the seeds for toasting. Wrap foil around the pumpkin to prevent collapsing and bake at 325 degrees F. for approximately one hour or until slightly tender to the touch. Fill with the cream of pumpkin soup given in the recipe below.

To make pumpkin puree, cut the whole pumpkin in half and scoop out fibers and seeds, then cut into small pieces and peel. Place the peeled pumpkin in a pan, slightly covered with water, and simmer until done.

Puree the pumpkin with a potato masher or put through a sieve. Pureed pumpkin can be frozen or canned, following instructions in a canning book.

Lastly, those waiting pumpkin seeds can be toasted for a nutritious and delicious snack. Wash fibers from the seeds and dry on paper towels.

Spread the seeds in a single layer in a baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Here are some recipes.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup milk

1 cup light cream

1/4 teaspoon marjoram or basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter. Add flour and slowly stir in broth. Heat and stir until slightly thickened. Then add pumpkin, milk, cream and seasonings. Simmer on low, about 15 minutes.

Fill a pumpkin shell with soup and serve soup from the shell, if desired.

Pumpkin Corn Bread

11/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coriander

3/4 cup yellow corn meal

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

2/3 cup buttermilk, slightly more if canned pumpkin is used.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and coriander together into a bowl. Stir in cornmeal.

Combine sugar, honey, and butter and mix well. Add eggs, pumpkin, and buttermilk.

Combined all ingredients and mix until just blended. Do not overmix. Turn into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. 40 to 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm. Serve warm.

Spicy Pumpkin Butter

1 quart pumpkin puree

3 cups sugar

3/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

In a large pan, combine pumpkin puree and sugar over medium to high heat and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, peel, and pumpkin spice, stirring constantly until mixture boils.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 40 minutes or until mixture thickens to desired consistency. To test consistency, drop a small amount of butter onto a chilled saucer.

Ladle hot butter into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe rims with a clean, damp cloth and set sterilized lids on top; screw on ring bands tightly and allow to cool. If lids don't seal, store in refrigerator. Makes 3 pints.

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