Kathy Long in Blue Hill stores her homegrown pumpkins in her spare bedroom, a great and comforting thing to learn because I, too, store pumpkins, along with acorn, butternut and Delicata squashes, anywhere in my house that is cool and dry. Right now there are some in the unheated front hallway and more in a corner of the dining room. This way, I pass them several times a day and can spot signs of spoilage right away.
The history of storing pumpkins in this fashion dates back well over two to three hundred years. Aside from keeping them whole well into winter to use fresh, early cooks also dried pumpkins and reconstituted them to make pumpkin pie even in summer.
Historically, by the way, apples got the same treatment.
This week, as it turned out, one of my pumpkins showed black freckles and I whisked it into the kitchen along with a pumpkin bread recipe Kathy sent me. She got the recipe 40 years ago from Evelyn Gibbs, “a dear coworker at M.D.I. hospital.”
Over the years, like Kathy, I’ve made my own pumpkin puree for pies, cookies, pumpkin waffles and, of course, bread. After I steam chunks of peeled pumpkin, and run them through my Grandma’s Foley food mill, I set the puree in a sieve to drain until it doesn’t drip anymore. The texture is similar to canned when I am done with it.
When I tried out the recipe, I used pumpkin water in place of the plain water the recipe calls for. Kathy reports her puree is a little looser than canned so she adjusts the water amount down a little.
The other thing Kathy reported is that she has successfully substituted no-gluten flour — she mentioned Bob’s Red Mill brand — to make a gluten-free pumpkin bread, good news for folks avoiding wheat flour.
I usually increase spice amounts and did here, too, up to a whole teaspoon of cinnamon. I used butter in place of vegetable shortening. Chopped nuts is an option and I left them out because I don’t like bones in my pumpkin bread.
When she wrote me, Kathy still had 10 more pumpkins to use. At last count, I only had seven, but it is late February, so I better get on the stick and cook those babies to freeze in one cup quantities for pumpkin bread later.
Now, this pretty sweet pumpkin bread seems like cake to me. Next time I might make cupcakes and swirl them with lemony cream cheese frosting.
P.S. Ruth Thurston in Machias recognized the Hot Water Chocolate Cake recipe we offered here a couple weeks ago as essentially the same recipe called “Double Scrub” that a neighbor gave her a while back. Ruth wondered if any of you had ever heard of this. Apparently, the neighbor used to whip it up for her husband’s lunch. If this sounds familiar, Ruth and I would love to hear from you.
Evelyn Gibbs’ Pumpkin Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1 2/3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup water
½ cup chopped nuts, optional
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and cover the bottom with a piece of greased parchment paper. Flour the pan for easy loaf removal.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and set aside.
Cream the butter or shortening then beat in the sugar.
Add vanilla and beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in pumpkin until well incorporated.
Sift the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture alternately with the water, mixing until you have a smooth, but not loose, batter.
Fold in the optional nuts.
Spoon into the loaf pan and bake for an hour and ten minutes.
It is done when a shallow split appears along the top and a tester inserted comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then turn out to finish cooling.