Like clockwork, when I walked out of my house the morning of October 1st, there was a slight crispness to the early morning air, and as I breathed deeply I smiled and thought, “Yes, Autumn, has arrived!”
As my readers know, last week, I talked about how Fall is my favorite season, and I promised plenty of great articles for things to make the holiday special in Tucson, where we don’t exactly have some of the usual trappings of the atmosphere that people often think of, but one thing that is an all important staple of the harvest season is available pretty much everywhere in the U.S. and Tucson is certainly no exception, that’s right, I’m talking about the season’s star squash
– The PUMPKIN!
You may have seen the funny memes about pumpkin flavored everything coming…
Well, it’s HERE!
And today we are going to be sharing some interesting facts about Pumpkins and some ideas on how to carve and paint pumpkins, and a recipe for a traditional Pumpkin Empanada, an authentic Fall favorite of the Southwest and Mexico.
Let’s get started with a little bit of history and fun facts.
The pumpkin is thought to have originated in North America, with some of the oldest seeds being found in Mexico, and dating back to 5000 to 7000 B.C.The name Pumpkin comes from the greek word pepon, which means ‘large melon’. The Pumpkin is one of the most popular crops grown in the U.S with about with about 1.5 billion pounds produced each year! Eighty percent of the U.S pumpkin crop is available during the month of October and ninety five percent of the pumpkins grown for processing into canned pumpkin are grown in the self proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world – Mortan, Illinois. Mortan is the home of Nestle food’s ‘Libby’s canned pumpkin’ brand. (1)
The pumpkin is a member of the squash family and can be grown on six of the seven continents, the only place it cannot thrive is Antarctica.
Some more fun facts about pumpkin are:
- The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed 350 pounds!
The largest pumpkin ever grown (so far) weighed 2,096.6 pounds.(2)
- the Colonial Recipe for Pumpkin Pie uses pumpkin in the crust and not the filling.
- Canned Pumpkin is recommend by veterinarians as a diet supplement for animals with digestive problems
- The tradition of pumpkin carving comes from Ireland and originally Turnips were used to create Jack-O-Lanterns.
- Pumpkin Oil is considered a delicacy in Austria, and is drizzled on Ice Cream to give it a nutty, robust, flavor.
Now that you know a little more about pumpkins let’s get down to one of the most familiar ways we use them, for Carving!!
Below are some pictures of great carving and painting ideas, from easy to moderate (after all it should be fun not taxing!):
Allow these to get your creativity going and don’t forget the link at the bottom of this article to our Pinterest Page, where you will find all sorts of awesome ideas to enjoy fall in Tucson.
We will wrap this up with a tasty recipe for a traditional Mexican Pastry that is popular in Tucson and the Southwest, that is an Empanada, and more specifically a pumpkin empanada.
Empanadas are a small pastry that usually has some type of filling that is sweet, although savory versions are available. The pastry is very popular in Mexico and the common fillings vary widely by state and region. The flaky dough is usually made out of flour, but can be corn in some areas. There are many restaurants in the Tucson area that offer delicious and authentic versions of this dumpling sized treat!
Pumpkin Empanada Recipe
- For the Pumpkin Filling:
- 4 tablespoon · butter
- 1 ½ cup · brown sugar
- 15 oz · canned pumpkin (not pie filling, I use one Libby’s brand 15oz can)
- 2 teaspoon · ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon · pumpkin pie spice
- For the Empanada Dough:
- 3 cup · all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon · baking powder
- ½ teaspoon · salt
- ½ cup · vegetable shortening
- 2 large · eggs
- ½ cup · whole milk
- 2 tablespoon · white sugar
- For the Sugar/Cinnamon Topping:
- ¼ cup · white sugar
- ½ teaspoon · ground cinnamon
1 Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Don’t let it burn.
2 Stir in brown sugar until it dissolves with the butter.
3 Stir in the pumpkin and the spices. Continue to stir over medium heat for 10min.
4 Remove the filling from heat and let cool down. After it has cooled for 15 min, put the filling in the refrigerator for 30 min before use.
5 Mix the flour, baking powder and salt
6 Cut in the shortening with the dry ingredients, I use my hands to work the shortening into the flour mixture.
7 Add the eggs, milk and sugar, use a spoon at first then continue to work the dough with your hands until all ingredients all fully incorporated and you have a nice ball of dough.
8 Split the dough in half, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
9 Preheat the oven to 350° f
10 Take out half of the dough and split into 12-16 balls of dough (depending on how big you want the empanadas)
11 Using a floured rolling pin, roll each of the dough balls into small round circles about 4-6 inches in diameter.
12 Add a small dollop of pumpkin filling to center of dough.
13 Wet the edge of the dough circle with water and fold the dough over to seal the empanada in half. Seal the edges by using a fork to press into the edge.
14 Brush the top of each empanada with egg whites, then sprinkle the tops with the sugar/cinnamon topping.
15 Place the empanadas on a greased cookie sheet and pierce each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape during cooking.
16 Cook empanadas for 18 minutes on middle rack in oven. If the tops aren’t golden brown, you can switch the oven to broil and cook for a few more minutes until the tops are golden.
I will be trying these Empanadas out myself! Remember that one of the great things about staying with Signature Vacation Rentals while you visit Tucson is that our homes feature all the comforts of your home and more! So you can easily enjoy seasonal baking and activities with the family while staying with us!
For More information visit us at Signature Vacation Rentals
Also, make sure you take full advantage of all the easy and fun Autumn Ideas and Recipies we will be sharing this month by following us on Pinterest and joining our Tucson E-mail updates!