The Patience of a Pumpkin

How to make your own fresh, canned pumpkin for Grandma’s Pumpkin Roll recipe in just a few easy steps!

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Step one– cut small sugar pumpkin in half (each pumpkin makes about 2 cups of puree). Remove all of the seeds and stringy parts from the inside.

Step two– place each half on a cookie sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes at 425°.

Step three– Scoop out all of the soft, baked flesh and puree in a food processor.

Step four- If you don’t have a food processor, make sure to use a blender (which won’t actually puree anything) and drop the plastic piece of the lid into your puree and let the plastic mix in, adding a zesty texture to your fresh pumpkin puree!

Hold on…that doesn’t sound right.

“Just use the can,” my boyfriend Kyle says.

“No, I want fresh pumpkin. It will taste better,” I replied.

As we are walking down the aisles to pick out ingredients for my pumpkin roll, I spy little orange cans with pictures of pumpkin pie on it and intuition hit me.

“I’d better grab some canned pumpkin just in case since this is my first time,” I added.

Everything was going wonderfully! It only took me two hours to prep the fresh pumpkin! I had to grab the biggest knife I could find in the kitchen (a machete would have been more useful) and sliced the pumpkin in half. One down, three to go! Kyle saw me struggling and walked over with his manly aura and strong muscles and said, “Here, let me do it.”

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(A picture of my manly man)

I let go of my pride for a second to let him slice the next one. His look of confidence turned to one of surprise and eventually of struggle. My inner feminist chuckled but we both ended up laughing over how ridiculously difficult this turned out to be. After using my Viking muscles to cut the rest in half, picking out the million baby pumpkins inside, and deciding which parts were too stringy to leave inside the pumpkin, I looked inside them nervously as there was not much left after my scavenger hunt inside its guts. I put the pumpkins in to oven anyhow and when I pulled them out 45 minutes later, the smell was enchanting. The only thing left was the final step-step four.

“Honey, do you have a food processor?” I ask Kyle.

“I have a blender.”

“That’ll work”

Then I actually tried it.

“Honey, can you come look at this? I tried blending it but it’s just getting stuck in the blades.”

He comes over and smashes some buttons and I rest my hand on the lid, as if I could use my wishing powers to make it puree my pumpkin. I rested my hand a little too far down and just as he hit the ON button, I felt the little plastic knob from the lid fall.

“Wait! Stop!” I say in vain.

CRUUUUUCH!          

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And that’s how you waste two hours of your life and end up using canned pumpkin anyway.

My boyfriend can’t understand why making the pumpkin roll out of fresh pumpkin is so important to me and, for some time, I didn’t know either. In the past few years, baking has become something that I do quite often. I will spend an entire day making chocolate chip cookies or my favorite strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese icing while listening to Frank Sinatra and licking batter off the egg beaters. When my boyfriend wants to make cookies, he buys premade packages of cookie dough, sticks them in the oven on a baking sheet, and fifteen minutes later we have cookies. The end result is the same, isn’t it? Cookies. But to me, it’s not the same.

When I find a new recipe to try, making my grocery list is so exciting. I take a relaxing, ten minute drive to the grocery store and when I walk in and grab my cart with the broken, squeaky wheel, I finally feel like an adult who is taking charge and putting my skills to the test. I love walking around the store and picking out the exact type of flour, eggs, chocolate chips, and so on that I want to use. When I finally get home and get to it, the most fun part is making adjustments to the recipes and adding my own personal touch. The recipe becomes unique and something that I can own. I can add the extra vanilla to make the taste of my cream cheese icing stronger, add more flour for puffier cookies, mix chocolate chips with chocolate chunks for a gooey chocolate kick, add fresh strawberries or blueberries to my favorite cupcake recipe, or make my own pie crumbs with just two ingredients. That’s something I can’t do with premade dough, packaged cookies and cupcakes, or frozen pies. When I arrive home, I lug my new toys into the kitchen, set them out onto the table, and begin to play.

Frank Sinatra sings smoothly in my ears as the kitchen becomes a mess and a familiar smell is sent in waves from the oven, wafts through the house, and climbs up the walls to reach even the attic.

It smells like sitting by a warm fire on a cold rainy day, seeing family you haven’t seen in years, falling in love for the first time, or drinking hot chocolate after coming in from playing in the snow. It is a warm, familiar scent that can attach itself to at least one memory in anyone’s mind.  Whether it is cookies, cupcakes, pie, or my newly crafted pumpkin roll, there is something so exciting and unexpectedly soothing about having fresh baked goodies in the house. For a few hours, I lose myself in the craft and in Frank’s voice and something magical is created. An experience. It’s an experience that can’t be compared to oven heating premade dough. Learning how ingredients mix together to create something entirely new speaks volumes about how baking mixes with me and has created something new inside of me. Baking gives me time to think, relax, and reflect on myself and my life. I pick myself apart while I mix things together and the outcome is always the same; a new discovery about myself. It is always something I never would have thought about in the busy commotion of a typical day. I would go as far as to say it is therapeutic. I learn to enjoy the here and now. It has never been just the dessert that I look forward to. I also see my future.

I was never taught to bake and have always longed for memories of baking goodies with mom or grandma but these memories aren’t mine to have. They are, however, mine to give. I now long for the days where there will not just be flour all over the floor, but little foot prints in it and little hands to help roll the dough into circles or mix the batter. I want my children to have those memories that I did not. I want them to smell cookies or pies and think of their childhood when they are grown and remember me and my essence when I am long gone.

And what does this all have to do with making pumpkin roll from fresh pumpkin? Great question from the back of the room. There is much to be learned from making foods from scratch with as much scratch as possible. My pumpkin roll turned out great from the can but actually taking apart that pumpkin, scraping out the guts, and smelling the fresh product after it baked in the oven is a more gratifying experience than buying it in a can. Even if it is just one thing, you learn something about the world. And if that one thing is how wonderful freshly made pumpkin smells, then I consider that success. More than that, you learn patience. It takes the patience of a mother with seven children, three dogs, two cats, and a husband to cut a pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds and strands, and wait for it to bake in the oven. About two hours of patience specifically. But patience is something that we all in this busy world are sorely lacking. We simply do not have time to be patient anymore, but we must.

That is why teaching my children to make foods from scratch is important to me. Not only will they learn patience, they will feel the personal gratification of creating something all their own and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. I can only hope this carries over into other aspects of their lives and teaching them how, through making food, is the most memorable way to do it. I hope baking can teach them something about themselves as it has for me.

So now, I would like to revise step four in my process of how to make fresh pumpkin.

Step four– If you don’t have a food processor, purchase a food processor.

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