We all do so much to fight aging. The wrinkles, the brown spots, the softening and sagging. And yet we never complain when our once hard peach or persimmon softens. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why can we not see that we, like the fruits and vegetables of harvest are perfect when we mature?
I’m as guilty as anyone in my quest for eternal youth. But spring never was my favorite. I much prefer autumn to summer or spring. Something in the smell of the leaves and the chill in the air gives my life a poetry that I don’t find in the humid haze of July. The long days of summer are much like the long days we toil in our twenties, thirties, forties. Though we may think we are at our peak, I doubt it. I look forward to autumn, to retirement and enjoying the bounty of my hard work. I look forward to my older years because I know that even if my mind loses it’s edge, I will have far greater wisdom and all the books I have read, the recipes I have learned, I will take with me into my autumn. I will be more than I was in summer, even if there is a crinkle at the corner of my eye.
In the autumn, at Halloween, we all make haste to carve our pumpkins. But this year, this autumn, my pumpkins were eaten not carved. Pumpkins, like squash, just need a little roasting to become tender and sweet. A roasted pumpkin though can be elevated to something to look forward to year after year with the addition of some stale sourdough, Swiss cheese, kale, and sausage. And yes, the pumpkin is for eating along with all of that. A clarification I had to make for a few people. Pumpkin from a pumpkin is much better than pumpkin from a can and was made for eating.
This recipe has some flexibility and can be adapted to any size of pumpkin. Once the crown of the pumpkin and the seeds are removed, a little salt and pepper line the inside of the pumpkin. A mixture of good things: kale, stale sourdough bread, browned sausage (I used bratwurst removed from its casing), Swiss cheese, garlic, thyme, and a bit of salt should fill the pumpkin almost to the top as it sinks down during cooking. Simply pour in half and half so the mixture is just a bit moist, if you have a smaller pumpkin it may be less than a cup in the recipe. Simply pop it into the oven and in about an hour and a half, dinner is ready in your little pumpkin. Adding a bit of dried cranberries adds a touch of sweetness, the pepitas give it a little texture.
Remind yourself how whether you are living in the spring, summer, or autumn of your life, that life is beautiful. That autumn sometimes has the most to offer us, and that like this pumpkin stuffed with savory goodness, should be savored.
- 6-7 pound pumpkin
- salt and pepper
- 8 ounces stale sourdough chopped into ½ inch pieces (6-7 slices sandwich bread)
- 4 cups medium to fine chopped kale
- 5 ounces Swiss cheese, chopped into ⅓ inch pieces
- 8 ounces sausage (I used 2 bratwurst with casings removed)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Several grinds of fresh black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 cup half and half
- Dried cranberries
- Roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 and place rack lower in oven to allow for pumpkin to fit inside. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
- Using a large, sharp knife at a 45 degree angle carefully remove top of pumpkin. Clean out seeds and strings inside pumpkin. Liberally salt and pepper sides and bottom of pumpkin.
- In a large bowl, mix chunks of stale sourdough, kale, and Swiss cheese. Brown sausage, breaking apart into small pieces and drain excess moisture. Cool for a few minutes before adding to bread mixture. Add thyme, garlic, salt. and several grinds of black pepper. Mix so that spices are evenly distributed but be careful to not break bread apart too much.
- Add stuffing to pumpkin. Pumpkin should be mostly full, if there is a lot of extra space, go ahead and add some extra bread and cheese. Add half and half so that mixture is a little moist, if you have a smaller pumpkin you will not need the full cup. Mix around stuffing so that it is uniformly moist (your hand or a spoon will work).
- Cover pumpkin with pumpkin top. Place on prepared baking sheet. Place in oven. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours, until pumpkin is tender when pierced with a knife. For the last 15 minutes or so of cooking, you may want to remove the pumpkin lid to allow any excess moisture from pumpkin to evaporate.
- Cut into wedges, and garnish with dried cranberries and roasted pepitas or hazelnuts.