No, I am not retracting my comment on pumpkin spice everything. But what can I say? It’s that time of year. When you’re buying local produce in Niagara in October, there is a gloriously obvious bounty of pumpkins and squashes to be had. Rich in fibre and vitamin A, and useful in everything from soups to sides to dessert, they really are a fabulous food to take advantage of.
I can explain. Some years ago I came upon a cookbook, simply titled “The Thanksgiving Cookbook,” by a woman named Holly Garrison. It has no pictures. Not a one, save for a few rudimentary drawings of how to carve various meats and set a table. It does, however, have what I love. Stories. Each recipe has a little story with it. No more than a paragraph, but enough to draw me in. I pull it out and read it cover to cover every October (bearing in mind again, dear readers, that Thanksgiving in Canada is this weekend). It covers everything, from appetizers, soups and salads, to sauces, pickles, chutneys, sides, mains… There are breads and desserts, too. And each with a little story.
Can someone explain this?
Having read this book many, many times, I am no closer, however, to understanding some of the salads, sauces and sides. This is an American cookbook, so obviously it will represent aspects of American culture. But what is the deal with sweet things with the meal? Jellied salads, candy-sweet poached apples, MARSHMALLOWS? I will never, ever understand adding marshmallows and/or copious amounts of sugar to a starch that is already plenty sweet. That said, the condiment section has always intrigued me. Spiced seckel pears, gingery apple relish, curried peaches, and pumpkin pickles.
I decided to go beyond the “safe” recipes that I’ve already tried and test out this interesting option. We bought a pumpkin on the weekend (*note – when buying pumpkins to eat, get one that’s heavy for it’s size, lest yours be dry and stringy like mine) and I knew I wanted to make some puree for other recipes. But I also knew that I’d only make a small batch of these pickles anyway. So about a third of a 5lb pumpkin went into the pickling liquid. The rest went into the crock pot, peel and all. A few hours later it was perfectly tender and peeled very easily. Score!
This recipe is an adaptation of the one in the book. I found that I used far less pumpkin and all of the liquid. I also changed the spices a little, adding…. yep, coriander. And black pepper, and omitting the orange zest, which would probably be lovely, but I had none.Half a small pumpkin, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
1 2/3 cups sugar (I opted for dark brown)
3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
8 whole cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
6 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Combine the sugar, vinegar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. If you’re smart, you’ll put the whole spices into a spice bag, or square of cheesecloth. I didn’t. Be smart. Add the spices to the liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the pumpkin.
Remove the pumpkin to a bowl and bring the sauce back to a boil. Reduce until about one cup remains. Let it cool to room temperature and pour it over the pumpkin, tossing to coat (it will be thick, and don’t forget to remove the spice bag which you wisely opted to use).
Ladle into a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. The pickles will keep for about a month. Their sweet/sour spiciness pairs well with cheeses or in a salad with nuts and mixed greens.