October in my house means it’s time for Pumpkin Stew! I don’t remember ever not having this stew, even if I do remember that I hated it when I was little. I think the prunes freaked me out, but I’m over it and now look forward to having this every year. According to my mom this is actually a recipe that my aunt used to make for my grandparents because they spent some time every October visiting them. When my grandparents started spending October in Connecticut, my grandma pined for the stew so much that my mom asked her sister for the recipe and we started a new tradition.
Stew served out of a pumpkin? Incredibly fun.
Every October we would have one day where my grandparents would come over at an ungodly hour so my grandma could help my mom make the stew while my grandpa watched baseball or let me help him with crossword puzzles. After hours of cooking, we would all sit down, I would complain about all of the weird vegetables, my brothers would tell me that the prunes were bugs, and I would only eat buttered bread dipped in the broth. The adults would drink wine and ignore us as they ate. Then my grandparents would leave with their own container of leftovers, and we would freeze the rest and eat it throughout the winter.
It’s a good thing I have gotten over my dislike of stews, especially as I just finished a course at school that was focused on braising and stewing. I was excited to go home and attempt all of the new techniques I learned. And also to annoy my family by telling them to do something and using the French term. What can I say, I’m a little sister, I’m suppose to be annoying to them. This post is kind of pic-heavy (I got excited when I found my tripod so I could take flash-free pictures), and the recipe seems long and involved, which is why we always triple it. This way we only have to put forth the effort once a year, and then have many meals to last the winter. This stew freezes well, so it’s definitely worth it. I’m going to put the original recipe here, so it’s up to you if you want to double or triple it.
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 lbs lean beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 Tbsp oil
½ cup brandy
1 cup onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
3 minced garlic cloves
3 cups beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
½ tsp oregano
1½ lbs white potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and slice thick
3 ears corn, cut into 1 inch thick rounds (or 1 cup frozen)
1 lb zucchini, sliced thick
16 dried pitted prunes
10-12 lb pumpkin
½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
Combine flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge meat cubes and shake off excess. In a 4-5 quart pan, heat 4 Tbsp of oil and brown the cubes in small batches. Add brandy to the pan, stirring briefly, then remove meat and juices to another bowl.
6lbs of cubed beef; dredged cubes being seared (don’t crowd the pan!); seared beef removed to make room for more in pan; beef and brandy combined
Pour remaining oil into pan and add onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring until soft and slightly browned. Pour in beef stock and wine and bring to a boil, scraping up bits clinging to the pan.
Stir in beef and juices, tomatoes, bay leaves and oregano.
It’s best to peel and seed your tomatoes before adding them to the stew so you don’t get floating skin pieces. It’s easy, first you cut the core out a little, then put a light X on the other side, blanch in boiling water for about 30 seconds then shock them in ice water. The skin should be easy to peel off, if not feel free to blanch and shock them some more. Then you cut them in half horizontally, and you can gently squeeze them to get the seeds out.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Skim the fat and oil off the top to make it prettier, tastier, and healthier.
Add white and sweet potatoes and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
Stir in corn and cook, covered, for another 15 minutes. Add zucchini and prunes and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.
It might look overwhelming, but the vegetables will cook down
Turn off heat and keep stew covered so it remains warm while pumpkin is being prepared.
*Ours usually cooks for several hours since it’s such a large batch and you want the meat to be as tender as possible.
Preparing the pumpkin:
Heat oven to 375.
Slice lid about 3 inches down from top of the pumpkin, and with a spoon scrape all the fiber and seeds from the inside and the lid. Wash briefly under running water and dry the interior and exterior with paper towels.
Many thanks to Mark for doing this so I didn’t have to. The seeds were quite tasty after they were salted and baked.
Bake for 45 minutes, watching carefully the last minutes of baking. The pumpkin must be strong enough to hold the stew, and the pulp should be somewhat firm when pierced with a fork.
Pour the juices that have accumulated in the pumpkin into the stew and blend well. Spoon stew into the pumpkin shell, replace lid, and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Bring covered pumpkin to table and ladle stew into heated soup dishes, making sure that you scrape some of the softened interior to serve with each portion.
Don’t forget the bit of pumpkin on top! That’s what it’s all about
This can be prepared in advance. Both the stew and the pumpkin should be reheated separately before adding the stew to the pumpkin for the last 15 minutes of baking.