Historic Deerfield rings in fall with pumpkin-themed cooking

  • Pat McChesney, an open-hearth cook at Historic Deerfield, peels and cuts a sugar pumpkin during a pumpkin-themed cooking demonstration on Saturday. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Ingredients for a pumpkin-themed open hearth cooking demonstration in Historic Deerfield on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Historic Deerfield offered a pumpkin-themed open hearth cooking demonstration on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

For the Gazette
Published: 10/3/2017 9:57:34 PM

DEERFIELD — While it may have been cold outside on Saturday, Pat McChesney stayed warm by the fire, diligently peeling and slicing a bright orange sugar pumpkin.

Keeping with the spirit of fall, McChesney led a pumpkin-themed open hearth cooking demonstration at Historic Deerfield, while visitors popped in and out observing her work.

“They didn’t have potato peelers, so this may take me half the day,” McChesney said, looking up from peeling.

McChesney’s demonstration harkened back to an era before modern ovens, before canned pumpkin was available at any grocery store. But pumpkin, she said, was used frequently in Colonial dining.

Throughout the day, McChesney worked to make bannock, which she compared to scones, as well as a pumpkin pie. For authenticity, she cut the pumpkin by hand, stewing it in a pot for about 30 minutes to soften it, then forced the pumpkin through a sieve to remove seeds and strings.

“Doing this kind of cooking is hard work,” she said. “It’s heavy lifting because so much of it is cast iron.”

Of course, it also involves working closely with fire and coals. McChesney said it’s essential to use wood that will burn long enough to produce coals. For example, she said making a pumpkin pie involves placing the ingredients in a covered dutch oven on a trivet, and covering the lid with coals.

Open hearth cooking demonstrations will continue Saturdays at Historic Deerfield, focusing on tavern fare throughout October, and pies in November, according to Historic Deerfield’s website.

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