Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year here in Sonoma County. The air is crisp, days warm and nights cool.
Colors are changing with the temperature. In our orchard, leaves are beginning to turn and drop, a sure sign fall is here. After we have planted our cover crop, we will move into pruning the orchard. It is a big job for it is every branch of every tree.
It is also a time of great abundance — squash, root vegetables, pomegranates, pears and so much more. Go to the market and tables are overflowing with bountiful fruits and produce.
As we move into October, pumpkin patches sprout up all around us, even causing traffic jams along Highway 101. Myself, I go to farmers markets, where I can get a real pumpkin and many other items I need for the week like salad greens, vegetables, eggs, bacon, sausage, chocolate, bread and so much more.
Of course, this is the time of year to pull out those fall recipes and to start working with pumpkins. I hope my mother doesn’t kill me but I am sharing her pumpkin chiffon pie recipe. Growing up she would make it every Thanksgiving and Christmas and she would always make a few extra for our neighbors, too. In particular, the Shahood family that lived next door — Margueritte was a phenomenal cook but not a baker. It was a ritual. So here goes, I hope you make it and like it, too. Try it out early so you can decide if you want to serve it for Thanksgiving. I start here with a pumpkin puree recipe first, but you can also use your favorite canned.
• 4 to 6 pound baking pumpkin, sometimes called sugar pumpkins
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Remove stem and slice pumpkin in half, spoon out seeds and fibers, use knife if you need
• Place pumpkin halves flesh side down on parchment lined baking sheet
• Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until flesh is soft
• Cool completely, an hour or so
• Remove flesh and process in blender or food processor
Pumpkin chiffon pie
• 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
• ¼ cup cold water
• 1 ¼ cup pumpkin puree – made or canned
• ½ cup milk
• ½ teaspoon ginger
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 3 eggs, separated
• ½ cup sugar
• dash salt
• 1 baked 9-inch pie shell
• whipping cream if you like
• To slightly beaten egg yolks, add brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, spices and a dash of salt. Cook until mixture thickens in a double boiler over boiling water, stirring constantly.
• Soften gelatin in cold water, then add to pumpkin mixture.
• Mix thoroughly and then cool.
• When it begins to thicken, fold in stiffly beaten egg whites to which ½ cup sugar has been added.
• Pour into baked pie shell and chill for several hours.
• Garnish with fresh whipped cream if desired.
There are many savory pumpkin options, too. On a cold day, there is nothing better than pumpkin soup. Or how about a roasted squash salad, with bitter greens, bacon and an excellent cheese. It’s a great way to start a meal or it can be meal itself. And of course, when you cook your pumpkins, don’t forget to roast the seeds, they make a great snack and add a nice crunch to any dish. To roast pumpkin seeds: wash and clean your seeds thoroughly and let dry overnight. Then coat with olive oil and salt, roast in a 325 degree oven for 20-plus minutes or until crisp and golden. Tada!
Next month: Persimmons
Gayle Okumura Sullivan is co-owner, with husband Brian, of Dry Creek Peach & Produce in Healdsburg.