It's the Great Pumpkin (Soup)

Christina Kauffman
For The York Dispatch

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” — Desmond Tutu

Praise be to the spirit of adventure. I brought home the giant pumpkin.

My friend Lindsey grew the beast in her garden in Wrightsville, after sowing a packet of “large squash” seeds from Baker Creek Seed Co. in Illinois.

She fancied a “large squash” to be something between a butternut and a neck pumpkin. What she found hiding on the vine behind her chicken coop was, well, endlessly more mystical.

She recently led me to her garage to survey the table of pumpkins she’d grown, and there it was, as big as her toddler. It had sat there since the initial revel and delight of harvest. Novel as it was, a pumpkin of this size was a serious time commitment.

It was perhaps too much of a good thing for busy, folk-singing parents of three young kids, but I felt mighty attracted to the challenge of preparing this preposterous pumpkin. I’ll make soup, I said.

My partner heaved it to the car. The shocks on my Mini Cooper groaned a bit and we were on our way.

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Christina Kauffman shows off the giant crookneck pumpkin before reducing it to manageable pieces, below, in preparation for roasting. Six cups of pumpkin pieces are enough to make 1 gallon of soup.

I wish I could share a few measurements, some pounds or inches to support these size claims. I was too overcome by the thing to remember weighing or measuring.

Cut down to size: I was mostly just focused on how to make it not so big. A hatchet would have made the most sense for the first few cuts, but that risked gouging my countertops.

An 8-inch chef knife did the trick, when aided by a hammer to pound it through the flesh. (Am I the only one who keeps a hammer in a kitchen drawer? It’s constantly useful.)

Divided into more manageable pieces, the pumpkin filled literally all my big and medium prep bowls with yellow chunks as big as 4 inches squared.

To start prepping an enormous pumpkin for cooking, cut it into manageable slices.

It took all my free time over the next three nights to roast the entire thing, baking pan after baking pan, load after load in the oven.

The soup was inspired by one of my favorites from Panera, a squash puree garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds. I skipped the garnish because there seemed to be few viable seeds inside the giant pumpkin and everyone will want to sow them next year.

Just half the pumpkin made 6 gallons of soup. Weary, I took a break and froze the other half of the roasted flesh for pumpkin pies later this month.

For the sake of your sanity, here’s the recipe for just 8 servings, or 1 gallon of Giant Pumpkin Soup.

The seeds for the giant pumpkin are going to be in high demand for planting next spring, so they won't be used to garnish the soup.

Giant Pumpkin Soup

  • 6 heaping cups of chopped crookneck pumpkin
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups chicken bone broth
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3 tablespoons turmeric (soup will not be orange if omitted)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • About 80 roasted pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove rind and cut pumpkin and unpeeled carrots into 2-inch chunks. In a bowl, toss with olive oil and salt. Set dirty bowl aside for later use. Roast pumpkin and carrot chunks on a baking sheet for 40 minutes or until chunks are tender.

While allowing roasted vegetables to cool slightly, toss pumpkin seeds in the oil and salt remaining in the bowl. Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

In a blender, combine roasted vegetables with broth and apple cider until creamy.

In a large pot, combine creamy blended puree with brown sugar, ginger, turmeric, curry powder, coconut milk, cinnamon and butter.

Simmer on medium heat until hot. Serve garnished with 10 seeds per bowl.

— Christina Kauffman is a former York Dispatch reporter and a York County native.