BRITISH COLUMBIA

Instead of composting jack-o'-lanterns reuse in tasty pies or soup

10/17/2014 02:30 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST
VICTORIA - A different kind of pumpkin patch has grown along the streets and trails of Mount Doug Park in Saanich, B.C.

For the past five years residents have been dropping off their old jack-o'-lanterns after Halloween.

According to Jason Fuller, operations manager at Ellice Recycling, nearly 500 pumpkins were collected last year from the Mount Doug Park and Parkway area during the first week of November.

Ellice Recycle Ltd. provides the municipality of Saanich with a free disposal bin, and then Fuller says municipal workers collect the pumpkins and put them in the bin so they can be transported and composted.

While the jack-o'-lantern cemetery in Saanich has been around for nearly half a decade, Frank Leonard, mayor of Saanich, says residents may have been inspired by a nearby community.

"I noticed about a year before it started in Saanich there was something similar happening up near Shawnigan Lake," says Leonard. "People were leaving their pumpkins along the road just after Halloween, and a year later it popped up in Saanich."

Even though the municipality doesn't officially condone the tradition, Leonard says he enjoys it.

"It's one of those nice populace, non-government initiatives," he says. "I rather enjoy those. Sometimes there is too much structured play even as grownups. Just it being this community activity is actually quite wonderful."

The municipality also encourages homeowners to participate in local campaigns that respond to disposing of old jack-o'-lanterns such as the Pumpkin Smash, organized by the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre, which aims to have pumpkins composted rather than thrown in the landfill.

For those looking to make use of their jack-o'-lantern at home, pastry chef Karine Moulin says why not bake with it?

"The frugal side of me says absolutely use it up," says Moulin of Hotel Arts in Calgary. "My only recommendation would be if someone had a jack-o'-lantern with a candle burning inside it, otherwise I'm absolutely in favour of using an old jack-o'-lantern. I would just cut out any of the pumpkin that was a bit dry."

Reusing an old pumpkin means recognizing it has a different flavour, and Moulin says roasting the pumpkin prior to pureeing it will intensify the flavour.

"They have a different flavour," she says. "It isn't as pungent as a sugar pumpkin, so I find I have to add more spices to draw out that pumpkin flavour. It is a bit more muted."

Greg Hook, head chocolatier and owner of Vancouver's Chocolate Arts, recommends cooking pureed pumpkin in a double boiler to gently heat it while also allowing the water to evaporate, which intensifies the flavour.

"Everyone has their own pumpkin pie recipe, but something we do is once we have our puree we will mix in some milk chocolate," says Hook. "What that does is applies a certain amount of richness to the pumpkin without detracting from the flavour. In a pumpkin pie we would add no more than 1.7 ounces to 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate."

Even though pumpkin is most commonly used in pies, Hook says once the pumpkin has been steamed and pureed, the options of what to do with it are endless.

"Everyone does the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, but I've actually got two recipes, one is for an ice pumpkin terrine and the other is for a pumpkin chocolate mousse cake or for a pumpkin mouse," says Hook.

"We like to use it in anything where you can have sweetness, but that being said it can be used for a soup really well. One of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted was from a Trinidadian lady who served a roasted ham and pumpkin sandwich that blew my mind. It had really good Dijon mustard, and was really great."