I’ll be heading over to the Israel Crane House
again this coming Sunday (Dec. 4) to do some
more hearth cooking. I was just there exactly
four weeks ago (Nov. 6), but I tell you, it sure
seems like it was much longer! In any event,
I’m eager to return to the Crane kitchen.
Now, as you may recall, one of the dishes
I made last time was a pumpkin pudding.
When all was said and done, I found that
I had a small amount of leftover cut-up and cooked pumpkin. So
rather than make yet another pudding, I decided to dry it and
use it as a demonstration of preserving food for the winter. But,
wait a minute. In order to dry pumpkin, wouldn’t it normally be
cut up into little pieces, threaded on a string, and then hung
up to dry by a hearth or some other place? Just as is done
with apples or squash?
Why yes, that’s correct! And so unfortunately, I had a slight problem.
You see, the pumpkin in question had already been cooked slightly
AND mashed, as well as cut up. Oh no! There’s certainly no way
to string squishy pumpkin. So, I guess I was out of luck. There’d
be no drying of any pumpkin for me.
Ahhh, not so fast, dear readers! There IS another historic method
of drying pumpkin (or any squash, for that matter). All anyone need
do is follow the instructions Mrs. Lydia Child gives in the Appendix
of her cookbook The American Frugal Housewife (1833; 12th edition).
Some people cut pumpkin, string it and
dry it like apples. It is a much better way
to boil and sift the pumpkin, then spread
it out thin in tin plates, and dry hard
in a warm oven. It will keep good all
the year round, and a little piece boiled
up in milk will make a batch of pies.
So that is what I did! Of course, once again, I did this at home,
using my modern equipment. In fact, I used my toaster oven,
as I didn’t want to fire up my stove’s huge oven just for a little
pumpkin drying. I did two batches. Both were done the same
way, except that one was strained through a sieve, and then
the other was put in the sieve merely to allow all the water
to drain out (it was then immediately spread out into the pan).
Time-wise, each took roughly seven to eight hours to dry.
Of course, the REAL trick will be trying it out by making a pie
or two. Supposedly, “a batch” can be made by boiling just
a piece of the dried pumpkin in milk. I’ll have to try it and
let everyone know how well (and if?) it works!
after hours and hours…
and hours and hours of drying:
the second batch, which remained in one piece: