Pumpkin spice invasion begins at home

DIY recipes to turn America’s favorite decorative gourds into actual food and drink

Photo: Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons With a little work, you can use that Jack-o-lantern to spice up your latte.

Photo: Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons
With a little work, you can use that Jack-o-lantern to spice up your latte.

Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly

As Heidi Håvan Grosch taught us last week, pumpkins aren’t a huge part of the Norwegian fall experience. A cursory internet search for Norwegian pumpkin recipes confirms this; one of the themes I’ve noticed is American transplants to Norway bemoaning the lack of pumpkin spice lattes and their pumpkin spice cousins from every major food group.

For those of us who live in the U.S., fall is the season of the pumpkin, whether we like it or not. Their leering faces are staring at us from most porches as tonight children use them like hobo signs to choose which houses they’ll hit up for candy. They’ll sit there through the month of November, slowly deflating and withering until they’re either smashed by teenagers or thrown out.

National Pumpkin Pie Day (otherwise known as Thanksgiving) may be almost a month away, but we’ve been living in a pumpkin world since the beginning of October, when despite unseasonally warm temperatures (at least here, in the Pacific Northwest) that made it feel more like Labor Day than Halloween, everything turned “pumpkin spice.”

Pumpkin spice has been a divisive topic this fall, with vocal haters clashing with the flavor’s die-hard fans. But whatever side you’re on, no one can deny that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes are not exactly a steal at several dollars per drink. With a little work, it is possible to create your own pumpkin spice flavors from an unlikely source: actual pumpkins. Who’d have thought?

Full disclosure: I have never done this. Maybe I will someday, but I’m certainly closer to the “hater” end of the spectrum than the other thing. If you use one of these recipes or processes and it turns out well (or horribly), please let me know!

The main ingredient in pumpkin spice everything is pumpkin puree. In the States we’re lucky to have this uniquitously available in canned form, but the internet tells me that this isn’t the case in Norway, where it’s harder to find. So if you want to spread a little cultural imperialism while in Norway, or if you’re just into DIY cooking, you can make your own (techniques for this are below).

From there, you can pumpkin up most anything just by adding a little of this to your regularly scheduled recipe: cakes, cookies, even Norwegian waffles and pancakes? Why not?

To make the leap to latte, you’ll need to further refine this pumpkin into a sugary syrup. I found the following recipe, in almost identical iterations, in various places on the internet. There seems to be widespread agreement that this is how to mimic the classic Starbucks PSL.

Photo by Evan Swigart / Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Evan Swigart / Wikimedia Commons.

Pumpkin puree

You can make pumpkin puree by following any of these three methods. In any case, wash your pumpkins first to rid the skin of any residual dirt, and dry well with a clean towel. Cut the pumpkin into pieces. Remove the seeds and stringy fibers with a metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Save the seeds for toasting, if you like, and discard the innards.

The final step using any of these methods is to puree the pumpkin in a food processor, in a food mill, with a hand-held blender, or by hand with a potato masher, then to let it drain for about two hours in a sieve or colander lined with a coffee filter or paper towels. Each pound of pumpkin usually yields one cup of puree.

You can freeze the puree once it’s cooled completely. Place in freezer containers or ice cube trays, leaving room at the top (headspace). Label, date, and freeze for future use.

From goodhousekeeping.com.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub the cut surfaces with oil. Place them, cut side down, in a roasting pan, and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Bake in the oven until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife. This takes approximately 90 minutes.

When tender, remove from the oven and place on a flat surface to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, but not cold, scoop out the pumpkin flesh.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

Cut the pumpkin into evenly-sized smaller pieces and peel. Add to the boiling water and cook for about 25 minutes or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife.

Bring a pot of water to a boil that will hold a vegetable steamer or colander.

Cut the pumpkin into evenly sized smaller pieces and peel. Place the pumpkin pieces in a steamer or metal colander and over the boiling water. Cover and let steam for about 50 minutes or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a knife.

Pumpkin spice syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 – 3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree

In a medium saucepan, add water and both sugars. Simmer on medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, about four minutes.

Turn the heat down to low and whisk in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin puree. Simmer for eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow to come to a boil.

Remove from the heat and strain through a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth or a very thin, clean tea towel. Here are some tips from themessybakerblog.com:
• Do not boil the syrup once you add the pumpkin puree.
• Strain the mixture while it’s still hot.
• It’s crucial that you use a very thin, clean tea towel or a cheesecloth to strain the syrup; paper towels and coffee filters will not work for this recipe. If you’re using a tea towel, you can help the mixture along by gently twisting and squeezing the towel to force the mixture through.
• This syrup requires a bit of surface area in order to strain properly. I use a 7-inch in diameter coarse mesh strainer. If you use anything smaller, you’ll risk the pumpkin clogging your strainer because it’s too small.
• The mixture will remain thin after straining—that’s normal. Simple syrup is not meant to be thick like maple syrup.
Store in a mason jar or airtight container. The syrup will last for one month at room temperature or three months in the refrigerator. Yields two cups.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.