Pumpkins destined for carving can be any old shape or size.
Pumpkins picked for food projects, though, need to be exactly this, that and the other — in other words, size, shape and weight all have to be taken into consideration, and all three need to be right on the mark.
For today’s pumpkin purposes, don’t even think about going lighter than 5 pounds. Better yet, keep selecting and weighing until the scales hit the 7-pound line or at least come close. One will do for either/or, two if you plan to make both the entree and the dessert.
For the main-dish pumpkin, we’ll rely once again on the tremendously popular meat, mushroom and rice stuffing shared by Lynnwood cook Bonnie Teeters.
She first ate it at daughter Cindy Wilson’s home, liked it so much she asked for the recipe, then handed it to us so we could all enjoy it, too.
“Everyone who has eaten it loves it,” Bonnie told us. “It really is delicious, and spooning some of the baked pumpkin out along with the filling is a must. Oh, it is just so good.”
Now, before you ask — no, the filling is not too dry. It’s just perfect, as is.
For the dessert pumpkin, we’ll make this sumptuous, time-honored custardy filling shared by Everett cook Jody Harnish.
“The pumpkins are in the stores now,” she says, “so it’s a great time to try one of George Washington’s favorite desserts. It’s delicious and really easy to make.
“I used to have a dog named Isabelle who loved this dish. Whenever I had a bowl of it, she would sit patiently and drool on my foot while I ate my half. When she decided I’d had enough, she’d put her front paws in my lap and scarf down the rest. I always got a big slurpy kiss afterwards.”
Bonnie’s dinner in a pumpkin from Cindy
1medium pumpkin, at least 4 pounds, preferably 5 to 7 pounds
1 1/2pounds lean ground beef
1/3cup chopped green pepper
3/4cup chopped celery
3/4cup chopped onion
1/4cup soy sauce
2tablespoons brown sugar
1can (4 ounces) mushrooms, undrained
1can cream of chicken soup
2cups cooked rice
Optional decorations: olives, steamed carrot, whole cloves, fresh parsley
Wash, dry and cut lid from pumpkin; set lid aside. Scrape out the inside of the pumpkin well, discarding all seeds and membrane; set pumpkin aside.
In a large skillet, brown hamburger, green pepper, celery and onion. In mixing bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms, soup and rice, then add to the hamburger mixture.
Mix well and turn into the prepared pumpkin. Put lid on, place pumpkin on foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 11/2 hours.
To serve, be sure to scrape up some of the inside of the cooked pumpkin along with the hamburger mixture.
To decorate the pumpkin, use toothpicks to attach black olives for eyes, steamed carrot for the nose and whole cloves for the mouth. For hair, use fresh parsley around the top.
Isabelle’s favorite baked whole pumpkin
1pumpkin, 5 to 7 pounds
2cups whipping cream
1/2cup brown sugar
1/2teaspoon ground nutmeg
Wash, dry and cut the lid off the pumpkin just as you would for a jack-o’-lantern. Remove the seeds and save for toasting later.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, whipping cream, brown sugar, molasses, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger; fill the pumpkin with the custard mixture and dot with the butter. Cover with the pumpkin lid and place pumpkin in a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 11/2 hours, or until the mixture has set like custard.
To serve, scrape some of the meat from the pumpkin and top with the custard.
Makes eight servings.
The next Forum will appear Friday.