The preface says, "The Early American Society staff examined dozens of 18th- and early 19th-century cookbooks, some from private collections and some from the Rare Book Division of the Pennsylvania State Library." It goes on to say that the recipes were adapted for smaller quantities, tested, and tasted. It is a very small book; I hand-numbered the pages (29). But it has some interesting recipes, like Pickled Shrimp, fregasies, stews, meat puddings, and savory pies.
The one that caught my eye was on page 21, "Baked Stuffed Pumpkin". I have had two pumpkins sitting on my porch since Halloween and really wanted to use them up. At least one! Here's the recipe:
1 small pumpkin
1 pound sausage meat
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped fine (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup celery, chopped fine
(I used apples. I'm not fond of celery and wasn't going to buy some just for this recipe!)
3 cups cubed bread, toasted until dry
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter
Wash the pumpkin, cut off the top, and remove the seeds and stringy pulp.
Place the sausage meat in a heavy iron skillet and fry over moderate heat, breaking it up with a fork. When sufficient fat has collected, add the onion, and continue cooking until the sausage is browned and the onion tender. Drain off as much fat as you can.
|Not quite all the way cooked yet!|
Place the toasted bread crumbs in a large bowl and add the sausage and onion. Add a little hot water to the skillet and scrape up the brown particles, stir until smooth and add juices to the bowl. Add the celery, sage, and beaten eggs. Stir to blend, adding a few drops of hot water if the mixture seems too dry.
Fry a teaspoon of the stuffing in a small skillet, taste and correct seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
Fill the pumpkin with the stuffing -- loosely, for it will swell slightly as it cooks.
Place the lid on the pumpkin and put it in a shallow baking dish with the melted butter and just enough hot water to cover the bottom of the pan.
Bake at 350 degrees until the pumpkin is very tender (about 3 hours), basting occasionally with the water and butter in the pan. Add more water as the pan becomes dry.
When the pumpkin is done, remove it to a heated platter and let it stand for about 15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.
The Verdict: So what did I think? It is an easy recipe to make. Overall it was tasty, although there were a few issues.
My pumpkin was about 8 inches in diameter; I think it should have been more like 6 inches for the stuffing quantity in the recipe. Also, my pumpkin was old; after sitting on the porch for three months it was stringy and, even when cooked until it started slumping, was not all the way tender. There were good pumpkin parts but there were parts I didn't eat because they were tough.
The stuffing was good although I would probably bump it up a notch next time with raisins or currents or cranberries. I guess I just like a riotous flavor to my stuffing!
I ate some when it was first cooked but liked it better the next morning when I ignored most of the pumpkin (too hard) and put a fried egg over the stuffing.
The most important part to note is that this pumpkin had to fit in my refrigerator since I wasn't serving it to a crowd right away. That was a bit of a challenge.
Pumpkins were a big part of the Colonial American diet; they were easy to grow and provided both vegetable and protein (the toasted seeds). I've heard (but don't know for certain) that if you grow pumpkin vines around your corn stalks, you get fewer rampages from raccoons. This could be just a "wives' tale".
Conclusion: It was pretty good and I might be tempted to do it again if (1) my pumpkin was small and fresh and (2) I had more people to serve it to immediately. I think it is a nice taste of Colonial America!