The Sweet Meat of Pumpkins

Courtesy Shannon Graven

It’s probably an overstatement to say that fall is my favorite time of year, because I’m sure I say that with the arrival of every new season.  But, it is a pretty amazing time in the Pacific Northwest ―especially this year, with the absolutely spectacular display of fall colors awash everywhere you look.
Out in the fields, farmers are busy taking advantage of the warm sunny days and chilly nights; this perfect scenario has set them scrambling to take full advantage of optimum harvest conditions. 

A recent visit to support local Herrick’s Farm inspired me to take a step beyond selecting my usual generic pumpkin carving variety and to venture into lesser known heirloom territory. The farm was abuzz with the activity of screaming school kids all in the throes of Halloween excitement. Their holiday spirit was so infectious I joined in the clamor and proceeded to wrestle down my own gnomish looking pumpkin. 


Based on its sheer ugliness―and high baking praises―I trundled off with a 10-pound prize, a warty blue/green affair affectionately called Sweet Meat (a gourd in some circles).  Only at Halloween would something this creepy appear even vaguely edible.    

By early the next day I had serious plans for this pumpkin.  Armed with my largest chef’s knife and a  glint in my eye, I tackled the gnarly behemoth.  I stabbed through its thick reptilian-like skin and hazily hacked it into manageable pieces.  I pulled out its slimy seeding system and set it aside.   Then I placed its meat in a deep roasting pan, poured in a thick layer of steaming hot water, sealed it with foil, and baked it until fork tender, about 1-1/2 hours.   

 Meanwhile, I sorted through the plump seeds, gave them a good cleaning and dispatched them to a solitary brining solution for later roasting.  Finally, I gathered up the assorted pumpkin detritus and stealthy eliminated it ―all into that vast pumpkin graveyard. 

 Once out of the oven and cooled, the meat easily peeled away from its skin and was ready for a quick turn in the food processor.   In short order, the processor’s pulsing rhythm had this mass whipped into an astonishingly elegant, creamy, deep golden elegant puree.  Did I mention elegant?    

 Verily, thou art true to thy name. O, great pumpkin, thy meat is sweet. 


Pumpkin Bread

Most pumpkin breads can require up to 1 cup or more oil or butter.  With the addition of the moist Sweet Meat pumpkin pulp, I’ve used decisively less fat here.  If necessary you can even reduce the amount of granulated sugar. 

The agave nectar provides a sweet caramel flavor that enhances the pumpkin, but honey will work, too.  After it cools, wrap it well.   If you can let this tender loaf rest a few hours before cutting, it will slice like a dream.   As a variation, I sprinkled about 2 tablespoons streusel between the layers of batter and added a bit more on top of the loaf before baking. 

1/4 cup softened butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. agave nectar (or honey)
1 cup Sweet Meat pumpkin pulp (or other)
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. each ginger and allspice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line and spray a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until light; beat in the agave syrup, then the pumpkin; when combined beat in the eggs one at a time.

In small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and gently stir into the pumpkin mixture.Spread into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes or longer; until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is cooked.
Cool on rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan. 
**Stay tuned for possibly unfolding episodes of Pumpkin Passion.

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