It’s a good thing I like to cook, because this week finds me cooking up a storm. Monday I was helping fix Thanksgiving dinner for 3000 at the Evansville Christian Life Center. I got to work the ovens and bake dressing. The ovens hold 40 pans of dressing and it was a fun challenge keeping up with it all.
Yesterday I went back and helped cook big kettles of green beans for T-day, plus help with the usual Tuesday hot lunch program. It takes an army of volunteers to prepare a meal on this scale, and we have many people who even take vacation time so they can come help out.
Today, I’m at home cooking the Long Neck Pumpkin I grew this year. My wife is going to bake one of her wonderful Whiskey Pumpkin Pies with it later this week. It’s been a long time since either of us made our own pumpkin puree, so this will be a real treat.
We are going to experiment with two cooking methods for the pumpkin. First I cut in into smaller sections, and scooped the seeds out of the round, hollow end. Some of the sections were halved and baked with the skin still on. I baked them for about an hour at 350F degrees. When cool, I scooped the flesh out of the skins and mashed it up.
The rest of it was peeled, cut into small chunks, and steamed. From one of my favorite vegetable reference books, The Victory Garden Cookbook, this is chef Marian Morash’s favorite way to prepare it. The 1-2 inch chunks were done in about 15 minutes.
Our neck pumpkin weighed a bit less than 6 pounds, and yielded 8 cups of pureed flesh. That’s enough pumpkin to make 4 pies. The steaming method was a bit quicker, but I think the baked pumpkin has a richer flavor. We will see if this makes a difference in the pies. A quick taste told me both ways were better than pumpkin from a can!
Tonight I’m going to make a big pot of ham and bean soup for dinner, and bake some cornbread to go with it. It sounds like the perfect thing for a cold, rainy day like today.
Then tomorrow my wife and I will go back to the Center and help dish up and package the meals for the many volunteers who will then deliver them. That’s been our Thanksgiving Day tradition for 5 years now, and it’s a nice way for us to give back to our community. The meals are delivered to anyone who requests them, and will go to many who are hungry or house bound.
Then we will come back home and have leftover bean soup, and be thankful for our many blessings. For all of you who celebrate it, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!