Pumpkins, native to North America, have always played an important part in Thanksgiving meals. Evidently, the first settlers were not dazzled by the American Indians’ gift to them of pumpkins. But after scourge, pestilence and death, the colonists who survived the first harsh winter here changed their tune. Pumpkins became an important food source.
Backyard planting alert for next season: Grow pumpkins, beans and corn like the Native Americans. Called “The Three Sisters,” these plants have a symbiotic relationship. The corn stalks support the bean vines while the pumpkin leaves shade the roots of the corn. This gives moisture to the corn, while the bean plant provides nitrogen to the soil.
Supposedly, the first pumpkin pie was made in the 1620s by Plymouth Plantation’s settlers who filled hollowed pumpkins with milk, honey and spices and then cooked them in burning ashes. In 1653, pastry crust was added to the pie by a French chef, Francois Pierre la Varenne, whose cookbook was the first French cookbook translated and published in England. (Ooh-la-la, the French and their butter!) In 1796, an American cookbook was published, and it featured a pumpkin pudding recipe that was more like what we enjoy today as pumpkin pie. Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe, found on the back of the can of their 100-percent Pure Pumpkin, is my go-to recipe when making pumpkin pie. In my opinion, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Lately, besides pies, cakes, cookies, breads, soups and dips, pumpkins have found their way into coffee and lattes. Or maybe not.
It seems Starbucks, along with copycat latte retailers, are missing a key ingredient in their Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Apparently, they left out the pumpkin. Natural and artificial flavors are among the ingredients, but pumpkin is not.
Oh, and how could I have forgotten pumpkin beer? It seems the Pilgrims were the original beer geeks – making the likes of our currently popular pumpkin beer/ales. A poem dating to the 1630s tells it this way.
“If Barley be wanting to make into Malt
We must be contented and think it no Fault,
For we can make liquor to sweeten our Lips
Of Pumpkins and Parsnips and Walnut-Tree Chips.”
Consider that Cinderella got to where she wanted to go using a pumpkin. You can share your magic by making a Pumpkin Spice Latte using real pumpkin, too. You won’t need your fairy godmother or Starbucks, et al, either. If you plan to enjoy the brisk days ahead sipping a pumpkin latte, the following recipe is easy and provides you a significant savings. Replace #psl and instead tweet #homemadepsl. It isn’t even necessary to say “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”
HOMEMADE PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE
2 cups milk
3 Tbsp. canned pumpkin
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbsp. vanilla
½ cup hot brewed coffee
Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice
-In a 2-qt. saucepan, heat milk, pumpkin and sugar over medium heat until tiny bubbles BEGIN to form around edge of pan. Watch pot carefully. Heat until hot but DO NOT BOIL.
-Remove from burner and stir in the pumpkin pie spice, the vanilla and the hot coffee.
-Pour into 2 large mugs. Top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with additional pumpkin pie spice.
If your spice rack does not include PUMPKIN PIE SPICE, you can make you own.
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves or allspice (optional)
If you make Pumpkin Lattes on Thanksgiving morning, consider making the following pumpkin cream cheese spread. It’s delicious on toast, English muffins or bagels. It is also a good way to use any leftover canned pumpkin.
PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
6 oz. light cream cheese (neufchatel) softened
1½ Tbsp. brown sugar
¼ cup canned pumpkin
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
-In a small bowl, beat well the cream cheese and brown sugar.
-Add pumpkin, spices and vanilla and beat well.
-Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)