Pumpkin Moon

Last night’s Hunter’s Moon rising like a big yellow pumpkin in the night sky reminded me that it’s now officially fall bulb-planting time. Tulip bulbs will have to compete for garden space with the garlics I am currently breaking up into cloves and getting ready to plant. I’ll soon be making the annual raid of the compost pile in search of nourishment for these ground dwellers who will sleep cozily in the earth all winter and emerge first thing in the spring.

Over Thanksgiving, we brought in the squash harvest, one of the best ever. I attribute much of its success to the happy arrival two years ago of a neighbour with a passion for horses and a small front-end loader. What a great morning that was last June when I heard her tractor grinding up the driveway, its bucket brimming with beautiful aged manure. The squash had already been planted, and her aim was perfect as far as they were concerned—these gourds look like they’re on steroids!

I grow a kind of heritage pumpkin known as Galeux d’Eysines, a big, creamy cheese wheel of a squash with a few harmless warts on its skin, and a dense, flavourful flesh that is wonderful in soups, muffins, loaves, and pies. I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s description of how her pioneering family used cooked pumpkin as a butter substitute during lean times, without sacrificing any of the richness of the dairy spread.

Then there’s this happy childhood memory from her log cabin childhood: “The attic was a lovely place to play. The large, round, coloured pumpkins made beautiful tables and chairs…. Often the wind howled outside with a cold and lonesome sound. But in the attic Laura and Mary played with the squashes and the pumpkins, and everything was snug and cosy.”

Every coffee shop in North America is serving up extra-large helpings of Pumpkin Spice Lattes these days, rich with the warming flavours of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Instead of sending your Jack-o-Lantern to the green bin two weeks from now, why not give it another chance on your winter toast with this recipe where you can use as much or as little pumpkin as you wish? It's marmaladeish, with the addition of citrus, with a mellow warmth.

Pumpkin Preserves

Peel and dice a small to medium-size pumpkin (or a part of one!) into small pieces. Measure out an equal amount of white sugar (cup for cup) for the amount of pumpkin you're using. Wash, seed, and dice two lemons, preferably organic, and add them to the pumpkin and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add a dozen whole cloves to the pan. Bring everything to a boil over medium heat until pumpkins pieces are glazed. Spoon into clean, freezer-safe jars.

Because of the low acidity and density of pumpkins, I don't recommend canning this preserve. To be safe, it's best to keep it in the freezer.