It seems like holidays are merchandised earlier and earlier every year; I really do believe Christmas stuff will be sold in mid-June sometime soon. Anyway.. Halloween is next on the calendar, and even though I haven't seen any pumpkins on doorsteps or poly-cotton cobwebs festooning trees, but when Hellmart starts selling it's animated, headless corpses and tons of Halloween candy, you know it's right around the corner... even if it is only September.
Since Hellmart has begun making pumpkins available to the populace, I decided to go ahead and get mine early again this year. The past few years, I've gone with friends to a pick-your-own pumpkin patch where such interesting things as Fairytale Pumpkins grow in profusion; while the quality of the fruit found at this place is excellent, the prices are pretty high... further proof that Hellmart undermines mom-and-pop businesses, I know. I think I paid about $20 for the pumpkin I got there two years ago. Granted, it was a pretty huge pumpkin, but it was a featherweight compared to the beast I bought at Hellmart yesterday.
In a bin labeled "Gourds", there were numbers of huge crook-necked squash, fairytale pumpkins, Jarradale pumpkins, and several other types of interesting things. Most of the fairytale pumpkins were large, but since none of them had stems, I left them behind; after rummaging and heaving things out of the way in my search for a pumpkin with a stem, I found it. After pulling it out of the bin, I put it in the cart... there was no way in hell I'd be able to put it in those dinky little scales that only go up to ten pounds. The young man who happened to be working in the produce department offered to take it to the back to be weighed, and came back very surprised. Why? Because it was more than their 30-lb scale could handle, which also meant it was probably more than the scales at the register could handle.
Several CSMs and other assorted members of management were summoned to mull over the problem, and in the end they decided to pretend it only weighed 30 pounds. That still ended up being about $12, but for a 35 pound pumpkin (approximately, since my little kitchen scale only goes up to three pounds and would surely die if I tried to put El Monstro on it) it seemed like a bargain. Especially considering how much pumpkin puree I'll get out of it... which means that half the town will probably be gifted with pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies and... and.. you get the idea.
The nice thing about fairytale pumpkins is that they're excellent for cooking with; conventional pumpkins have a huge amount of string inside, and the flesh is pretty watery, so when you cook it down, you're left with something about half the size of what you began with. Fairytales have dense, relatively dry flesh, and are reputed to be unrivalled for making pies. While I've never made a pie from scratch, I did use one for making soup, which I certainly plan to do again this year. So say it with me: All hail the Great Pumpkin!
And he sure is a big un.
Here's a link to a lot of awesome pumpkin recipes and info on different varieties and how to prep them for cooking: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art5466.asp