Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snowbound Pumpkin Stew

January in Indian Valley is not the most auspicious time of the year, by my calculation at least. Indian Valley is prone to inversions & (frozen) fog in the winter, & can get quite cold & snowy, tho how cold & how snowy can vary pretty significantly from one year to the next. This year so far: colder & more snowy than a lot of them.

This has resulted in a few days of being “snowbound”—snowed-in, driveway too big for either of us to shovel & our fellow who plows is very reliable, but can only get to everyone just so fast. Yesterday’s 1 to 3 inches of predicted snow managed to triple at the high end, & there you have it. A driveway impassible even to our reliable (but relatively low clearance) Subaru Outback.

Of the many activities you can undertake while snowbound, cooking is one among the most
enjoyable, & so yesterday afternoon, Eberle & I decided to whip up a batch of her wonderful pumpkin, black bean & sausage stew. Doesn’t that sound great? Well, we’ll get to the details in a moment, but first some back story.

As anyone who’s read this blog at all knows, both Eberle & I are music teachers in a very rural area. This has led us to some creative solutions in terms of payment: to make a long story short, at this point, we’re getting eggs, milk, yogurt, butter & blue cheese(!) all farm fresh/handmade, & we recently came into some homemade, farm fresh sausage & some lovely pumpkins. I think you can see where this is leading—lots of fresh ingredients in this recipe & the follow-up one that will appear next Wednesday!

OK, so whether you’re ingredients come from a local farmer or the supermarket, here’s what you need:

1 pie pumpkin. As Eberle says, pumpkins are easy to grow, easy to store, & once cooked, can be frozen. They used to be a staple food, &
not just the seasonal jack o’lantern or pie filling. My taste buds actually prefer pumpkin to most winter squash.
1 cup dried black beans, or one can of same. Soak your black beans overnight if you’re using dried beans.
sausage or bacon—I don’t give a weight because there was no weight on the package of homemade sausage we used; as you can see, it was a pretty substantial amount. If using bacon,
probably about 6 strips would do.
1 dried hot pepper—we like the smoky chipotle
1 onion, roughly chopped
about ¼ cup of either cooking wine or red wine vinegar. In our case, we used Eberle’s homemade
vinegar. She made her own mother of vinegar a couple of years ago from our homegrown pears, apples & plums!
a dash of orange juice—you can use lime juice instead or in addition to
a dash of BBQ sauce—the secret ingredient!
1-2 tsp of chili powder; we used two, but you can make it milder if you prefer.
¼ tsp cayenne—again, this is to taste
¼ tsp cumin
1 pinch of cinammon

Pre-heat your oven to 350, then start in on the pumpkin (this is assuming the beans have been
soaked, or that you’re using canned beans). Knock the stem off the pumpkin using the handle of a large knife. Then, using the tip of the knife to start, cut the pumpkin in half & scoop out the seeds & string with a large spoon. Place the pumpkin face down on a baking dish & cook for approximately 25 minutes—the real test is that the pumpkin is done when it’s just a bit more firm than fork tender. Let the pumpkin cool before working with it further! Once the pumpkin is cool, cut it into slices, & peel it by cutting away the flesh (as Eberle is demonstrating in the photo.)

Simultaenously with this, you can cook your black beans until they’re tender, about an hour. When the beans are done, reserve the bean stock—
you’ll be using it later. Begin to sauté the sausage—it will be sautéed until brown. Soak your dried hot pepper in water (about 15 minutes should do the trick), & chop that onion. When the sausage is brown, add the onions. Sauté the sausage & onions together for a few minutes, then add the cooking wine or red wine vinegar, the orange (&/or lime) juice, the BBQ sauce & the spices.

Now it’s time to work with the pepper—be sure to wear latex or rubber gloves! Remove the stems, slit & wash out the seeds as Eberle is demonstrating in the photo, then add the pepper
to the sausage & onion, & finally add the sliced pumpkin. Sauté all these ingredients together for several more minutes. Then, cover the sautéed ingredients with bean stock & cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes. This operation may involve transferring the ingredients first to a larger pot or skillet if, like us, you began with a relatively small skillet! Then add your cooked beans & gently simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

This stew goes well with cornbread (of course) & would also be complemented, I think, by a spinach salad topped with real blue cheese dressing. Just the thing for a snowy winter’s afternoon or evening!

Stay tuned, because next Wednesday we’ll have more snowbound cooking adventures!


  1. Love the way Eberle wields that knife. She looks like a pro, oh yeah!

    The stew sounds delicious!!

  2. Mmm. Yum! Yes, she does look like quote the pro! I love that great blue pot.

  3. Hi Reya & Willow

    Reya: Eberle is a really good cook, for sure, & the stew was great!

    Willow: We love that pot--a Creuset!

  4. them pumpkins are soooo hard to cut - eberle looks as if she knows the technique.

    pretty snowy here today and I think I'm now inspired to make a stew with that big butternut squash that's been hanging around. as to everything else in the recipe think I have close equivalents - although my vinegar isn't homemade ;(

    stay warm and keep on cooking!

  5. Dear Reya and Willow,
    thanks for the lovely compliments! What could make a secretly Pirate-Goat girl (as revealed on Platypuss-in-Boots!) happier than a compliment on how she wields a knife!

    Dear Mouse,
    the easiest way to use pumpkin in a stew is to cook the halves until the skin simply peels away - no cutting! Sometimes I do this. But sometimes I want to see pumpkin pieces in the stew, and then I just cook the pumpkin until it's at a point where a knife can cut it easily although the skin does not peel away- give it a try! I find cooking with real pumpkins oddly therapeutic...

  6. It sounds yummy, but I'd have to leave out the sausage. The spice combo is what gets my tastebuds perked up. That is really neat, that Eberle makes her own vinegar. You could sell that, I bet!

  7. Hi Kat:

    If you & Kevin still eat poultry you could try turkey sausage, but I think it will also be fine as a strictly vegetarian dish!

  8. Your pictures are so wonderful! Such vivid indoor colors for a snowy day! You look quite warm and snug.

  9. Looks good. Sadly, we're down to bread rolls and veggieburgers here! I'll have to brave the elements and treck to the shop again...

    And it looks a bit complicated to cobble together on the igloo stove. :)

  10. Hi Audrey & Dominic

    Audrey: My new Canon Powershot rules--it's so nice to take indoor pix without a flash. We did have a cozy time that day!

    Dominic: Ah, well-we're having veggie burgers for supper ourselves tonight!

  11. This does look delicious! Isn't there something rewarding about taking such disparate ingredients and creating such an enjoyable meal?

    I think cornbread or warm fresh wheat bread. Yum.

  12. Hi Karen: Yes, some good homemade white bread would hit the spot!

  13. I think it's pretty neat to be paid in produce. I am also intrigued by the vinegar you made yourself. Very inventive!

    Since you're using homegrown ingredients, would you like to enter this post into our Grow Your Own roundup? Full details at


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