With a harvest of 20-some pumpkins from our garden, I became acutely aware that I can only eat so much pumpkin pie. After being coaxed into hitherto unappealing sounding pumpkin soup by Chef Betharoni, I realized I had had a limited view of pumpkin, particularly freshly cooked and pureed pumpkin. I began to consider it as a potential ingredient for more common recipes. Where I had once purchased sweet potatoes as a side for steak, I now whipped up some pumpkin, to still be dotted with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar, of course. Fresh pumpkin doesn’t come in specifically sized cans, but we can pre-measure the cooked amounts and freeze exactly what we will want for a recipe, of say, pumpkin muffins in the future. It doesn’t take that long to thaw a little block of pumpkin mash. And everything made with fresh pumpkins tastes much better, unsurprisingly.
My favorite ham and bean soup, or stew, occurred to me a few days ago, as the snow fell and the wind howled. I half-absentmindedly went over the list of ingredients by memory and noted that mashed pumpkin might be a good substitute for the mashed potatoes originally in my recipe. The results were even better than expected, so here I share with you how I went about it!
32 ounces of dry white beans (I used great northern beans)
1 large onion, diced into 3/8 to 1/2 inch pieces (around 1.5 cups diced)
1 (one) 6.5 pound ham with bone in (I used what is called the butt portion. I might want less ham next time, but I like something more than the things they sell called “soup bones.”)
1 teaspoon celery seed (I don’t happen to do well chewing celery….)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (I would experiment with a little more next time, just because hubby likes it)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of beef base (I get mine at Costco)
20 cups of water
1.5 teaspoons of minced garlic
4 cups freshly pureed pumpkin
Everything EXCEPT the pumpkin went into a large pot at about noon. The pot contents were brought to a boil, then reduced to a simmer. While that was cooking, I cleaved the pumpkin in half, just the way Chef Betharoni taught me. Well, maybe not exactly, because it took me several timid tries to cut it in half. It wasn’t in just two halves when I was done. It’s not the first pumpkin I have cloven, but I’m not very good at it yet… I baked the pumpkin in the usual 1/2 inch of water, cut sides down, in a glass baking dish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 hours, or until soft. I put the halves on a cutting board to cool for a few minutes before scooping some into the food processor. I whipped it until it had the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes.
The beans were tender by about 5:30 PM. That’s when I took the ham out and let it cool some, before taking the meat off of the bone and cutting it up to more bite-sized pieces. This was a good time to add the pumpkin and stir it in. Once the ham was back in, it was ready to serve.
There was only a slight hint of pumpkin flavor. It did impart some mild sweetness to the soup, much as carrots do. It also thickened the soup some, just like the mashed potatoes would have done. It may have taken all day to cook, but it was easy. It saves well and makes a great winter lunch. I think I have a new favorite variation of ham and bean soup!