Easy Autumn Treat: Roast Pumpkin with Nuts, Berries, and Maple Syrup
Great for a camping trip, a bonfire, a Halloween party, or a new Thanksgiving dessert tradition, this easy autumn treat uses local ingredients and tastes wonderful! Try it at your next fall gathering. You might even want to make two or three.
What You Need
- A pumpkin. Get one of the small ones, the size and type for pies.
- A whole lot* of walnuts. You can shell them yourself (lots of work) or get them pre-shelled.
- A bunch of dried cherries.
- A bunch of dried cranberries. They look a lot like dried cherries, but they’re much more tart.
- About a quarter stick to a half stick of butter, depending on how much you like butter.
- Maple syrup galore. Get real maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup.
*As always, my amounts are deliberately vague. There are no standardized pumpkin sizes, after all, and you may want a more nutty mix, or more cherries than cranberries. Have fun with this, and don't sweat the proportions.
What You Do
Step one: kill your pumpkin.
Save the seeds and separate them from the guts. You can
spread them on a lightly greased cookie sheet, sprinkle some salt on them, and bake them for a while, and
you'll have crunchy roast pumpkin seeds, too! Be sure to only remove the seeds and the stringy pumpkin guts. Don't scrape out the pumpkin's flesh; it's an important part of the dessert.
Once your pumpkin is emptied out, start filling it up with the ingredients. Mix the berries and walnuts together in a bowl to get them more or less evenly distributed. Then spoon them into empty pumpkin. When it’s about half full of berry-nutty goodness, put in the butter. One big chunk in the middle is fine. Fill in the gaps with more berries and nuts, but make sure the top of the pumpkin will fit snugly when you’re done.
I like to put a notch in my lid, so I know where it fits best, like this:
When you’ve got your pumpkin just full enough of your
butter-berry-nut combination so the lid fits snugly, pour in the maple syrup.
You’ll want to use about half a cup. That will seem like a lot, but trust me.
Put the Lid on Your Pumpkin and Roast It
If you’re making this dessert at a bonfire or camp-out, the best place to cook the pumpkin is in the fire. You don’t want to do this in a roaring fire with leaping flames; that will ruin your pumpkin rather than roast it. You want a bed of coals. Scrape the coals to one side of your firepit. You might want to spread some ash on top if the coals are still really really hot. Set your pumpkin directly onto the bed of coals. Scrape some more coals up around the bottom of the pumpkin. Don’t bury it, just kind of build a collar around the base so it won’t roll around. Now wait about 45 minutes to an hour.
If you’re at home, you can do this in the fireplace (if you have a wood-burning one), or you can just put your pumpkin in the oven at about 350°. Set it on a pie tin if you use the oven.
When the time is up, get some oven mitts and very carefully remove the pumpkin from the fire. The sides of the pumpkin will have become quite soft by this time, so you will need to take care not to use too much strength. Otherwise you might smoosh your delicious dessert before you get to taste it. You may even need to slide a spade under the pumpkin to get it out of the fire. At home, just use the pie tin to lift the pumpkin out of the oven.If everything goes as it should, when you lift the lid off your roast pumpkin, the pumpkin flesh will be soft and easy to scoop out along with the rest of the stuff you put in there. Use a long-handled spoon to mix the pumpkin with the nuts and berries, being careful not to pierce the pumpkin skin from the inside. Scoop the mixture into bowls and serve plain, or with whipped cream, or with vanilla ice cream.
You can prepare your pumpkin ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for about a day. I wouldn’t risk leaving it in there any longer than that.
One medium-sized pie pumpkin (4-5 pounds) can serve about four adults. If you want to get super fancy, choose the smallest pumpkins and make one for each guest. Make sure you'll have enough space in your oven for all of those pumpkins, though.
can also make this dessert with coarsely chopped apples instead of the dried
berries. If you do this, you can get away with using less syrup. The apple chunks will provide the needed moisture. The apple option works well with a ground up cinnamon stick
in the mix. Some nutmeg might give your roast pumpkin more of a
pumpkin-pie-taste. You can also experiment with cloves or ginger. Don't be afraid to experiment!
As always, for the best, freshest ingredients, get them at your local farmers’ market.