Plentiful pumpkins: Oct. 26 is National Pumpkin Day

Try using a hollowed-out pumpkin to serve soup. (Photo by Emily Ryan)

On a beautiful fall weekend, about 3,500 people visit Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs. They take hayrides to the pumpkin patch. They try the corn maze.They pose for pictures with the animals. But some regulars head straight for a tree near the springhouse. At its base: a pile of crookneck pumpkins with a sign for pies $5.

A crookneck pumpkin is a cousin to a butternut squash, explained Melba Matthews.You use the neck part. Probably a 4-to-5-inch section would make enough pumpkin for a pie or a recipe.

I took a crookneck pumpkin from last year out of my basement in September. It was in perfect condition, she added. You can use it for decoration now and eat it later.

Matthews keeps a crock pot filled with samples for curious customers to taste. She also gladly shares family recipes.

The pumpkin pie, which is my grandmothers recipe, is a favorite, she said. Its a custard, and it doesnt have a lot of spices in it.

One thing it does have is brown butter.

That brown butter just gives it a little different flavor, Matthews described. We all like it (the pie) with honey on top.

Another favorite: Pumpkin Soup.

Thats a very good recipe, not too difficult to make. We like that, she said. Use a crookneck pumpkin to make it, and you can serve it in a regular pumpkin shell. Its quite festive!

After hollowing out that pumpkin, remember to save the seeds.

You always use the seeds, bake the seeds. You want to slow roast them, said Matthews, who recommends rinsing the seeds and spreading them on an oiled cookie sheet. Roast at 200 to 225 degrees for 45 minutes.

Salt them when they come out of the oven, she suggested.

Like Matthews,Elizabeth Weaver of Weavers Orchard in Robeson knows all about preparing pumpkin. Living on a farm with three young children, its not uncommon for her to find little pumpkins hidden in the sofa cushions.

Its just a great symbol of fall. Its a bright color when everything else is drying up and dying, she said. Enjoy the pumpkins while theyre here.

The Weaver family grows eight acres of pumpkins. Two years ago, the fields were flush with the fairytale variety.

We had so many; the kids kept dragging them onto the porch, she recalled.

So Weaver baked Fairytale Cookies.

I absolutely love the fairytale pumpkins for making these cookies, she said. They give them a really good color and flavor. The fairytale pumpkins are generally sweeter.

Looking for more sweet treats? Try her Aunt Debs Pumpkin Sheet Cake.

Its something that always reminds me of her. I asked for the recipe and thought this is so good, we have to share it, Weaver noted.

I like quick and easy recipes that look like you spent all day baking.

My Grandmas Pumpkin Pie

1 1/2 cups prepared pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

9-inch pie crust

Put prepared pumpkin in mixing bowl. Combine the sugar and flour. Add sugar mixture to the pumpkin. Add the eggs and milk to the pumpkin mixture. Melt butter until it browns and add to the pumpkin mixture. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Sprinkle cinnamon on the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees until pie is firm. Excellent served with honey or molasses on top of a slice of pie.

(Courtesy of Milky Way Farm)

Pumpkin Soup

1 large onion

1/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

2 cups prepared pumpkin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

Saut onion and butter. Add curry powder. Heat together pumpkin, salt, cream, chicken stock and onion mixture.Serve warm. Looks festive when served in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Serves six.

(Courtesy of Milky Way Farm)

Aunt Debs Pumpkin Sheet Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil or canola oil

4 eggs

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix sugar, pumpkin, oil and eggs together. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cloves; gradually add to pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Pour into greased baking sheet (I used my jelly roll pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Frost with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (I only used 2 cups because I dont like my icing to be too sweet. So add gradually and taste as you go.)

Mix together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually add sugar; mix until desired consistency. Spread over cake and sprinkle with cinnamon.

(Courtesy of Weavers Orchard)

Fairytale Cookies (Pumpkin)

1 cup fairytale pumpkin (canned or neck pumpkin also works)

1 cup of shortening (Crisco)

1 cup of white sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon rum extract

Cookie frosting:

3 tablespoons butter

4 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

Cream together shortening, sugar, pumpkin and egg. Add rum extract and spices. Mix in flour, soda and salt. Drop from a spoon onto a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

While cookies are baking, make icing: Cook butter, milk and brown sugar until dissolved. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread icing on warm cookies just as they come out of the oven.

(Courtesy of Weavers Orchard)

Pumpkin puree 101

Wondering how to prepare pumpkin for baking? Elizabeth Weaver offered these easy steps:

1.Cut the pumpkin into wedges; remove any seeds.

2.Put the pumpkin wedges into a large pot with about an inch of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer until pumpkin is soft. (If you have a large steamer, you can also place the pumpkin in that to cook; it doesnt need to sit in the water to get soft.)

3.Scoop the soft pumpkin out of the skin and place in a blender. Puree.

Try pumpkin in your favorite recipes

Add 1/2 cup prepared pumpkin to basic pancake batter.

Add 1 cup prepared pumpkin and cinnamon (to taste) to favorite blueberry muffin recipe.

Add 1 cup prepared pumpkin and cinnamon (to taste) to favorite nut bread recipe.

Source: Milky Way Farm