Cheer up! It is October 2016, and again Halloween is coming with all its mysteries and magic. Noiseless, they will creep into our homes. The goldish glow of jack-o’-lanterns will light our rooms, and the cool October air will bring the delectable smell of a home-baked pumpkin pie.

Indeed, today it is completely impossible to imagine this fall holiday without its, probably, the brightest and most symbolic attribute. Pumpkins of all sizes and diverse colors are known to successfully serve both as quite a multifaceted festive home decoration and a multifunctional cooking ingredient.

So let us see how this wonderful fruit has appeared in Halloween traditional celebrations.

How Did Irish Immigrants Contribute to American Halloween Traditions?

The long history of this holiday takes its tangled roots from ancient Irish pagan festival, known as Samhain (pronounced as sah-win or sow-in). The literal meaning of this Gaelic word is the end of summer. It is said that for the ancestors of Irish people, Samhain festival marked the end of another harvest year and the beginning of winter. Also, it was believed that during the time of Samhain celebrations souls and spirits of the dead could cross over into the world of the living.

In order to keep the fairy spirits away from homes, the Irish made special lanterns and set them next to gates. They carved turnips or beetroots into the simplest faces and lit them with candles.

This custom, and the holiday itself, came to the United States in the mid-1800s, when millions of Irish people were emigrating from their motherland, striving to flee severe potato famine. Irish immigrants replaced original turnip Halloween lanterns with those made of pumpkins, the native fruit of North America. Although nobody knows for sure when the first American pumpkin was carved to make a lantern for the Halloween celebration, this tradition has been accepted successfully.   

Who Is Jack O’Lantern?

No Halloween party can go without various pumpkin carvings, lit by neat candles from inside. These decorations are widely known as jack-o’-lanterns as well. Such term originates from one of old Samhain legends about a man called Stingy Jack. This story has a few different plot variations, but generally it tells how Jack tricked the Devil and made him promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul after his death. The Devil kept his word. However, Jack could not be allowed into Heaven too. His soul was sent back to the world of people and given a small burning coal to light its way through the dark.

Ever since it has been wandering the Earth with a small lantern made of a turnip and lit by a small and dimly glowing piece of coal. This is the spirit that the Irish people began to call “Jack of the Lantern” and just “Jack O’Lantern”.

All Halloween legends and creepily captivating stories would go especially well when they are told at the holiday table covered with delicious Halloween treats.

Now let us explore some delicious recipes with a special pumpkin zest, because Halloween is a perfect chance to try this fruit in completely unexpected culinary ways. Below you will find some nice Halloween pumpkin ideas for your original and delectable holiday menu.

 

Pumpkin, Charred Kale and Onion Tacos

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Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 3 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1/2 tsp, divided
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 small bunch kale, stemmed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh whole milk ricotta
- corn tortillas

Directions:
1. To make the balsamic drizzle, pour the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and let simmer until it has reduced by about 1/2 and has a slightly syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 425F. On a lightly oiled baking sheet toss the cubed pumpkin with 1 tbsp olive oil, smoked paprika and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread pumpkin evenly over the baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin is soft and brown in spots, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer pumpkin to a large bowl and set aside.

3. Set your oven to broil and set an oven rack about 3 inches below your broiler. Toss the kale leaves onto the same baking sheet you used for the pumpkin. Massage 1 tbsp of oil into the kale leaves and season lightly with salt. Spread evening over the pan and then top the kale with slices of onion. Place kale and onion into the oven and broil for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is starting to brown and the kale is blackened in spots. Remove from oven and transfer to the bowl with the pumpkin. Gently mix the pumpkin, kale and onions together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. To assemble, spread a dollop of fresh ricotta onto a corn tortilla, top with the pumpkin and kale mixture, a drizzle of the balsamic glaze and sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds.

 

Pumpkin Fritters

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Ingredients:
- 1½ cups canned pumpkin
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- finely ground black pepper, to taste
- olive oil, for frying

Directions:
1. Place the pumpkin puree in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork and stir them into the pumpkin with a wooden spoon or spatula. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the puree mixture, along with the grated cheese, the parsley, and a pinch of black pepper. Use the wooden spoon or a fork to combine all the ingredients into a light batter; be careful not to overmix it.

2. Heat 1/2 inch olive oil in a heavy saute pan. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into the oil, flattening them slightly and turning them when they are golden brown. Fry in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes per side.

3. Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve hot.

 

Baked Pumpkin Fondue

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Ingredients:
- 1 whole squash or pumpkin (choose a size to match the number of people you want to feed)
- small roasted or boiled potatoes, to serve
- crusty bread, to serve
- breadsticks, to serve
- chicory leaves, to serve

For 300ml of Fondue:
- 100g Emmental, grated
- 100g Gruyère, grated
- 100g mature Cheddar, grated
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 100g Crème Fraîche
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Start to prepare your pumpkin as you would for carving: cut off a ‘lid’ and scoop out all the seeds and membranes. Put the lid back on and sit the whole pumpkin on a sturdy baking tray. Bake following our size guide.

2. Mix the grated cheeses with the cornflour until completely coated and no excess flour remains. Remove the pumpkin from the oven, discard the lid and increase the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas

3. Layer up the cheese, Crème Fraîche, white wine, shallot and garlic inside the pumpkin. Lift back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the fondue is melted and bubbling.

4. Eat with spoons, scooping out chunks of soft, roasted pumpkin with the melted cheese.

 

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

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Ingredients:
- 4 oz. sweet Italian sausage
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1 pumpkin
- 1/2 c. chopped apples
- 1/4 c. white wine
- 1/4 c. dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 4 small pumpkins

Directions:

1. Make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Decase and crumble the sausage meat and place it in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the sausage until it is almost done – about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan, increase heat to medium, and add the onion and 2 cups of the chopped pumpkin. Sauté until the pumpkin begins to soften – 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped apple and sausage and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the wine, cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside. Combine the dried cranberries, olive oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add meat mixture to the bowl and toss to combine.

2. Bake the pumpkins: Evenly fill the hollowed-out pumpkins with the stuffing mixture and place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 10 more minutes.

3. Serve immediately.

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake

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Ingredients:

For a Single Layer Cake:
- 1 box yellow cake mix, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1¾ cup pumpkin
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 cup sugar

For the Cream Cheese Filling
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp vanilla

Icing:
- 3½ cups powdered sugar
- 5-6 tbsp milk
- red and yellow food coloring

Optional: real pumpkin stem.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a round bundt pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine cake mix, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar and whisk to mix well. Mix in eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla. In another bowl beat cream cheese, sugar, and egg until creamy. Mix in cinnamon and vanilla.

3. Pour half of cake batter into prepared bundt pan. Next, spread on cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining cake batter. Bake 50-60 minutes or until inserted knife comes out mostly clean.

4. ! To make full pumpkin, you will need to make the above cake twice. Do not double the recipe and split between two cake pans. Make the cake two times. Flip one cake upside down, set second cake on top.

5. Make the icing by mixing together powdered sugar and milk in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in 1/2 tsp yellow food coloring. Add red coloring 2-3 drops at a time until desired shade of orange is reached. Warm icing in microwave (20-30 seconds) until pourable consistency is reached. Pour icing over cake. Allow to cool and set.

6. Top with optional pumpkin stem. Slice and serve at room temperature.

Happy Halloween to everyone!