The Native Americans contributed a lot of things to our modern diets, including things such as pumpkins, squash, beans, and corn. Often, we forget our debt to their early agricultural endeavors and contributions to American farms.
I was given the original recipe for the stuffed pumpkins a long time ago, and it uses as many native American products as possible. This year, we started off with a much fancier pumpkin than the usual pie pumpkins we use. (Jack O Lantern pumpkins have a high water content, and while they will work–they are a less-desirable pumpkin to use. They are also often quite large.) We selected a “Cinderella” pumpkin. These pumpkins have thick meaty walls and a relatively small seed cavity, along with far fewer seeds, than the pie pumpkin.
For serving, whether you opt for small “baby” pumpkins, a Cinderella pumpkin, or a pie pumpkin, it offers a dramatic presentation as the cooked pumpkin takes its place on a platter at the dining table. It’s gorgeous! Served alongside roasted ears of corn, corn cakes, and other fall-ish foods, it’s sure to make an impression as well.
The “stuffing” is composed of vegetables, meat, seasonings, and wild rice (which isn’t really a rice at all, but rather is an aquatic grass with large, edible seeds. The wild rice is cooked, then combined with the other cooked components of the stuffing, ensuring everything is well done as soon as the pumpkin itself is done.
The meat can be ground or cut into match stick sized slivers. I generally prefer the match stick slivers, but this year…I used ground turkey, which is an economical choice. Ground or sliver sized turkey, pork, beef, or chicken. Equally acceptable is game meat, since it is all pre-cooked until done, any meat will work!
The pumpkin is prepared much the same way that you’d start off preparing it for carving, but don’t forget to WASH the pumpkin first! A “lid” is cut from the top of the pumpkin, the stringy fibers and seeds are scooped out and the interior is scraped clean, and then the stuffing is packed tightly into the pumpkin. The pumpkin is then put into the oven at about 350 degrees F. until tender. (The time varies because of the type and size of pumpkin varying so much.) For single serving sized stuffed pumpkins, just use the “baby” pumpkins sold for decorations. Small squash can also be used and carved in much the same way.
Stuffed Pumpkin filling
- 1 1/2 c. wild rice
- 4 c. water
- 1/2 tsp. sage
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
Bring water to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Let sit for 1 hour.
- 4 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 c. celery, finely chopped
- 1/2 c. thinly sliced or shredded carrots
- 1/2 c. fresh or dried huckleberries or blueberries
- 1/2 c. pecans, hickory nuts, or chestnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1/2 c. coarsely chopped bacon
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. sage
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary
- 1 tsp. liquid smoke flavoring
- 1 lb. slivered or ground meat
Saute bacon in heavy skillet until brown and crisp. Add sugar, salt, chopped celery and carrots. Saute until tender. Drain wild rice, and combine liquid with ground meat. Add liquid smoke to meat mixture. Stir meat mixture into onion mixture and cook, stirring often, over medium high heat until meat is done and most of the liquid is evaporated.
In a large bowl, combine wild rice with meat mixture, stirring to mix well. With large spoon, stuff pumpkin firmly with stuffing mixture and replace lid. Bake on baking sheet in oven until pumpkin is tender. Reserve excess stuffing for serving with pumpkin. (Reheat in microwave for serving, refrigerate until then.)
Serve by cutting wedge of pumpkin from whole pumpkin and topping it with stuffing. Whole cranberry sauce and corn cakes make an excellent accompaniment.
Make ahead hints: prepare stuffing the day before and refrigerate until ready to stuff the pumpkin. Pumpkin can also be prepared the day before, but will need refrigeration until it is cooked.