In Celebration of Pumpkins: Methods and Recipes

Merri Ann and I fell in love in Fairbanks, Alaska—the land of the midnight sun.   All five of our children were born there.  We lived on a three-acre plot overlooking the Tanana Valley and the University of Alaska, a plot that backed up to old mining claims.  With the kids, we wandered those mining trails and explored old diggings.  On our lot, we cleared off the birch trees for a garden where the slope was banked into the summer sun.  We hauled in a truckload of peat and tilled it into the soil making it rich and thick.  And then we read everything we could about gardening in the far north.

With banked beds, ground cover to capture the summer heat, and over-ambition, we were awash with summer produce.  We had beans and peas and broccoli.  On the deck in planter boxes, we grew tomatoes—ripe by the Fourth of July.  Potatoes thrived.  We built a room to store potatoes, squash, and canned goods.  But we never grew pumpkins.

That didn’t mean that pumpkins didn’t thrive in the valley.  Prize winners at the fair were over 50 pounds.  But these were show pumpkins, not the sweet little meaty pumpkins that you want for pies.  These we bought at the farmer’s market.

In this post, we’ll celebrate the beginning of the pumpkin season.  We’ll tell you about pumpkins, how to choose them and puree them.  We’ll introduce you to a couple of favorite pumpkin recipes—from way back in our days in Fairbanks, Alaska.

How to Choose and Use Pumpkins

Don’t try to bake with those big—jack-o-lantern type pumpkins.  Find the little, sweet meaty pumpkins.  The sugar content in the flesh is much higher and they’re more tender and tasty.

Can you use fresh pumpkin in place of canned?

Yes.   We prefer fresh but we suspect that we’re biased. Quite frankly, in many recipes, we have a hard time telling the difference. And we often use commercially canned pumpkin for the convenience. But here’s how to use those little pumpkins from the farmer’s market or your garden.

  1. Cut a sugar or pie pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds.
  2. Place the halves in a baking pan, flesh side down with 3/4-inch of water in the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees or until the flesh is tender. (For small quantities, you can cook the pumpkin in the microwave.)
  3. Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it. Scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin and place it in a blender, mill or food processor. Process until smooth.

Often, especially from smaller or immature pumpkins, the puree will not be thick enough—a spoon should stand upright in the puree. To thicken, place the puree in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the puree becomes thicker.

Use as you would canned pumpkin. Extra puree freezes well.

Pumpkin and Corn Fritters

We’ve been making these fritters for a long time.  These make wonderful breakfast fare but we’ve served them often on chilly fall evenings alongside a soup.

We serve them hot, drizzled with syrup. A maple syrup works well but buttermilk syrup is perfect. The corn in these fritters complements the pumpkin well.

Pumpkin Fritter Recipe

You deep fry these pumpkin fritters just as you would French fries. The fritter batter mixes together quickly so this is a quick dish to put together for those evenings when you just don’t have a lot of time. It’s also very economical.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
3 cups grated, raw pumpkin
1 cup frozen or drained canned corn kernels


  1. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until mixed. Add the pumpkin and corn kernels.
  2. In a deep fryer or heavy pan, heat enough vegetable oil for deep frying. The oil should be very hot, 375 degrees.  Use a deep fry thermometer or candy thermometer to monitor and maintain the temperature.
  3. Drop three or four large spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Let them cook for three or four minutes, turning once, or until they just start to brown. Remove them to dry on paper towels. Serve immediately drizzled with syrup.

October Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Pumpkin makes a wonderful addition to bread, adding color, nutrition, and flavor.

There are two ways to add pumpkin: grated or pureed. If you add grated pumpkin, you will have flecks of deep orange color and the bits of pumpkin tend to give the bread a chewier texture. The other way is to add pumpkin purée. The following recipe uses pumpkin purée.

This is wonderful bread. Be prepared to adjust the amount of flour that you use to accommodate different moisture contents of the pumpkin purée. If you like, you can substitute up to three cups of whole wheat flour for the white bread flour. (The picture is of bread with whole wheat flour.) We like golden raisins in this bread but suit your own taste.

This bread is not sweet like a dessert bread. You can add more sugar if you like. You can also add one cup of chopped walnuts. And if your kids don’t like raisins, you can leave them out.

The pumpkin in this bread makes it very moist. Pumpkin has a very mild flavor and acts as background for the spices and this has a mild bread combination of spices. Add more spices if you like.

Incidentally, try this bread toasted with Red Currant Jelly. It is terrific!


5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups white bread flour (you can substitute up to 3 cups whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 seven-gram packet of instant yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water, 110 degrees
2 teaspoons good quality cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup puréed pumpkin or canned pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups raisins, golden raisins, or currents


  1. Place half the bread flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the warm water and beat with a dough hook until it is partially mixes. (The purpose of this mix is to hydrate the yeast.)
  2. Add the rest of the flour, the spices, the pumpkin, the salt, and the butter. Knead with the dough hook at medium speed for four minutes. When the dough comes together, add the raisins and continue beating for the remainder of the four minutes or until the gluten is developed. You will likely need to adjust the moisture level either by adding flour or water. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once, and cover. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow it to double in size.
  3. Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Form two loaves, cover them, and let them rise until doubled and puffy.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. The internal temperature should be at 190 to 200 degrees. Remove the loaves from the pans and let the bread cool on a wire rack.

Dennis Weaver

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