March 4, 2010

Smaller pumpkins, better pies

— Fall means mounds of pumpkins -- enormous Halloween jack-o'-lanterns in all sorts of phantasmagorical shapes, and the small ''baby'' or sugar pumpkins, which, because they are sweeter and less fibrous, are a better choice for cooking and eating.

Most sugar pumpkins are in the 3-pound range. Look for pumpkins that are round and smooth, with less defined ridges than the larger Halloween variety, and choose firm ones that are heavy for their size. Whole sugar pumpkins will last for at least three weeks at room temperature -- plus they look cute on the counter until cooked and eaten.


This pickle is a delicious way to preserve a taste of the season. The pumpkin cubes simmer in a spiced vinegar-sugar syrup until tender and translucent, emerging as a toothsome delight that is somewhat akin to watermelon pickle.

Makes about 2 cups.

1 to 11/2 pounds pumpkin

2 tablespoons kosher salt

3/4 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

2 slices unpeeled fresh ginger

1 thick slice lemon peel

Half a cinnamon stick

Cut pumpkin into large wedges, scrape out the seeds, and peel with a vegetable peeler or small paring knife. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

In a bowl, dissolve salt in 2 cups cold water. Add pumpkin, stir to combine well and set aside, covered, for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.

In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, 1/4 cup water, ginger, lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, and add pumpkin. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until pumpkin is tender and translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool the pickled pumpkin in its syrup to room temperature, transfer to covered containers or jars, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or for up to 2 weeks.


Sugar pumpkin roasted this way gets caramelized a burnished deep-rust color. You can peel the skin for a more refined presentation, but I think the skin adds some flavor, and I like the rustic look of it.

Servings: 4

21/2 to 3 pounds sugar pumpkin

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Place pumpkin on a work surface and carefully cut in half with a cleaver or large heavy chef's knife. Scrape out seeds and strings and slice off stem. Cut pumpkin into 11/2-inch slices and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and soy sauce and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.

Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes until tender and caramelized, brushing with pan juices halfway through. Squeeze lime juice over and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently ''Dishing Up Maine'' (Storey Publishing 2006) and ''The New England Clam Shack Cookbook'' (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.

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