Do you remember the pumpkin patch?
I remember walking into that carnival-esque wonderland each fall. I remember everything having this sort of shimmering golden glow to it. I don’t know if the experience was simply altered and intensified as it filtered through my child’s eyes but the pumpkin patch was certainly magical.
Where else could I romp around on teetering piles of hay bales? I’d emerge dizzy, a sloppy sort of grin on my face and stray pieces of hay sticking every which way from my hair like an unfortunate, neglected scarecrow. A sight to see I’m sure considering my parents dressed me in flannel shirts and stiff, straight legged jeans every day of my childhood.
There were petting zoos, big slides, and a country store where you could buy those sticks of colored flavored honey. I also recall having this strange irrational fear of the hay rides, refusing to step foot onto the wagon until assured that the ride would not present any scary, sudden changes in motion.
But mostly I remember picking out my pumpkin. Thanks to my dad’s neuroticism, a trait he passed onto me, the search for the perfect pumpkin was exhausting. It needed perfect roundness, symmetrical plumpness, a broad flat front for carving ease, and a good sturdy stem with a with a twisting curved handle. Back at home we’d make a day of mucking up the kitchen with strings of pumpkin goo and then giving funny faces to our new gourd friends. I always gave mine buck teeth. Always.
I went to the pumpkin patch this past weekend with some friends hoping for transportation into childhood. Instead we were asked to pay ten dollars to take a hayride to the patch, pick out the pumpkin, return, and then pay for the pumpkin. Oh, there was a four-foot high corn maze too. Disappointed, we turned around and went home deciding a pumpkin was not worth that price. Yet I worried, was my older age casting a gloomy cloud over the once-relished pumpkin patch? Had I lost all sense of my child-like imagination and exploration?
Had I turned into a dependent of modern-day entertainment no longer impressed by the simple pleasures of a pumpkin?
After long thought, I decided no.
Though that wonderful pumpkin patch no longer excited me in the ways it used to, it is now things like simply cooking that transforms me into that childlike being with heightened senses and emotions. It’s the thing that puts that golden glow to my world. That can make a pumpkin seem like the best thing in the world.
That answer came about as I remembered the quart of pumpkin ice cream I had sitting in my freezer. A creamy and intensely rich frozen treat I concocted from a baby pie pumpkin I meticulously selected from the farmers market, liberal amounts of pumpkin pie spices, brown sugar, and honey, and handfuls of crumbled gingersnap cookies. The pumpkin flavor was pumped up to extreme levels as it slow roasted in the oven for nearly an hour. I then pureed the caramelized flesh into such creaminess it flowed like orange ribbons from my spoon. I devoured the leftover puree by the spoonful, feeling ridiculously like I was eating baby food, delicious baby food at that. And finally, after the warming scents of spice were expelled into the air as the concoction churned, I took my first taste of the freshly frozen dessert and it was a shock to my entire system. The ice cream, in contrast to any other artificially pumpkin-flavored thing I’ve eaten, was so intensely fresh. So real. It was the entirety of fall spirit and the reminiscence of childhood glee all compacted into one spoon.
Pumpkin Ice Cream
makes about 1 Quart
adapted from Jeni Britton Bauer
This is a slight adaptation of Jeni Britton Bauer’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home so it uses her ingenious method of replacing eggs in the ice cream with cream cheese. This actually works really well for the pumpkin ice cream because the slight cream cheese flavor pairs like heaven with the pumpkin. And again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use fresh roasted pumpkin. The canned stuff just won’t compare.
I small pie pumpkin
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbs. cream cheese (full fat)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup honey
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¾ cup gingersnap cookie crumbles
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half and deseed the inside. Place it on a baking sheet cut side down and roast it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Remove the skin and place the flesh into a food processor. Puree until velvety smooth. Measure out ¾ cup of puree for the ice cream and save the rest in the refrigerator for another time.
Mix 2 Tbs. of the milk with the cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.
Whisk the cream cheese and the salt in a large bowl until it is smooth. Add in the honey and the pumpkin puree and stir until well combined.
Prepare a large ice bath.
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the rest of the milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch and milk mixture. Place back on the heat and boil for one minute until thickened somewhat.
Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the pumpkin and cream cheese mixture and stir until combined. Pour everything into a gallon zip-lock bag, seal, and place in the ice bath for at least 30 minutes or until well chilled.
Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When done churning. Pack the ice cream into freezer safe storage containers, layering with the gingersnap cookie as you go. You could also simply fold them all into the ice cream if you want. Freeze for four hours before eating.