During Christmas all self-respecting Estonians feast on black pudding, roasted pork, sauerkraut and roasted potatoes. These are accompanied by lingonberry jam and pickled clove-scented pumpkin. At the end of the feast we nibble on piparkoogid (that's Estonian gingerbread cookies) and caramelised almonds and sip copious amounts of hõõgvein (mulled wine/glühwein/glögg). And then we're off to do some cross-country skiing in the midst of our beautiful pine forests to burn off all those calories. Well, some of us :)
I must admit this was the first time I pickled my own pumpkin - usually we have my mum's or grandmother's pumpkin on the Christmas table. I'm not even particularly keen on pickled pumpkin per se, but couple of yellow chunks alongside another portion of black pudding is kind of semi-required. My university friend Piret dropped by the other day and brought me a small pumpkin from her parents' country home. When trying to think what to do with this beauty of a pumpkin, somehow, this year, I really wanted to make my own pickled pumpkin. Here's the recipe I came up with. And it's not half as bad, believe me..
Pickled Yellow Pumpkin, Estonian Style
Makes 3 half-litre jars
1 kg prepared pumpkin/winter squash (see below)
1 L water
200 g sugar
1-2 cinnamon sticks
5 black peppercorns
1 whole cloves
5 allspice berries
fresh gingerroot, about 2-3 cm, peeled and sliced (optional)
2 Tbsp vinegar (30% strenght)
Cut the pumpkin into wedges, then peel, remove the soft bits and seeds. Cut the flesh into small chunks or sticks (even julienne, if you can be bothered). You need about 2 pounds or 1 kilogram of pumpkin chunks/sticks.
Mix water, sugar, cinnamon stick, gingerroot, black peppercorns, allspice and whole cloves in a large saucepan. (You may add a teaspoon of salt to the marinade, but it's not necessary). Bring to the boil, then add the vinegar and then your pumpkin.
Simmer on a moderate heat until pumpkin pieces have become translucent, but not too soft and mushy.
Transfer the pumpkin with a slotted spoon into sterilised jars, then pour the hot marinate over.
Close and keep in the fridge or very cold larder. Wait for about a week before eating, so the flavours could really mingle.