Continuing the theme of “Can you smoke this“? This round, it’s pumpkins!
Inspired by a friend who posted on Facebook his stuffed pumpkins, it got me thinking: can I smoke something like this?
So, first I had to find recipes. I didn’t want to do my friend’s recipe as it called for water chestnuts and to me, they have the texture of Styrofoam. Not my thing.
Then I recalled a chili, tomatillo pork stew I make in the crock-pot and thought this was perfect. It uses pumpkin seeds as a topping, so I thought why not add pumpkins itself as well.
I don’t actually have the original recipe anywhere, so here’s one of the few times I provide the recipe & instructions here:
Chili, Tomatillo Pork Stew
- 6 tomatillos, husked and quartered
- 1 can of chipotle peppers
- 2 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pork shoulder, 3-5 lbs
- 1 large Texas 1015 onion
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, divided into small sprigs
- 1 cup toasted and salted pumpkin seeds
- 1 block queso fresco, crumbled
- Corn Tortillas, warmed
- Warm up & line crock-pot
- Combine tomatillos, chipotles, and 1/4 cup of chicken stock in a saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the tomatillo begins to break down and get soft.
- Remove from heat.
- Heat a large, cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add grape seed oil.
- Add pork to hot pan and brown well on all sides.
- Remove pork from pan.
- Add tomatillo, jalapeno, onion, and garlic to food processor and puree until smooth.
- Add puree to the crock pot and season with cumin and salt.
- Add the rest of chicken stock into pot with puree and stir to combine.
- Nestle pork back into the pot of puree and stock.
- The pork should be covered about 3/4 of the way. Add more stock if needed. Cover and set the crock-pot on low and cook for 8+ hours, until pork is tender and falling apart
- Using two forks, shred the pork a bit and mix it through the sauce to get the flavor incorporated into all the pork.
- Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
- Serve pork stew right out of the pot and top with garnishes (cilantro, queso fresco, pepitas, and hot sauce).
- Serve heated corn tortillas on the side for dipping and scooping.
Now to change it up for the pumpkins, obviously I had to make some changes.
One, I couldn’t use a whole pork shoulder. Too large to shove into a pumpkin (unless I used one of those ‘carving’ pumpkins) So first thing was to cut the pork down into bite-sized meat.
Now, I thought I was being clever and saving time. My local Mexican Food Market offers boneless, cubed pork. I’ve used this before when I make Puerco Pibil (another blog to come) but this round, I got 3 lbs and when I got home I noticed it was incredibly fatty (Yes, I know, fat = flavor, yadda, yadda, yadda) And normally I’d agree, but since the original idea was the pumpkins to be individual serving vessels, that much fat swimming in the stew was just not good. So, I had to trim the fat off, and cut the meat further into bite-sized pieces.
Normally I would be upset how much waste was there, but to me, all I saw was unrendered lard. So, into the oven at 225 and wait a few hours for that golden elixir to get squeezed out for later use.
The other change I made was make the stew…stock? gravy? whatever that liquid is, the day before. I did this as I didn’t want to the temp probes monitoring the stew to give a false reading this is ready before the pork was cooked. So everything started at about 40 degrees and would rise together to about 165.
So, I ladled a few scoops of the stew mixture, and started adding my pork to each of the pumpkins, and topped off with the remaining liquid.
Unfortunately, at this point I realized trimmed 3 lbs of pork and the recipe’s original amounts of other ingredients wasn’t enough for five pumpkins. It really wasn’t enough for 3 pumpkins. I could have easily filled two of them with what I had. But, I did four about half full each, added their lids (TIP: put the lid back on after cutting it out and use a sharpie to make a line, so you know where to line the lids up when placing them back on) Stuck two probes into two pumpkins and placed in the smoker at about 10am.
Shortly after starting the cook, I removed the lids as I feared it would prevent the smoke entering into the cavity to give it some additional flavor.
So, lid off and I stirred the stew in each about every two hours.
About 6 hours into the cook, the pumpkin with the probe, closest to center of the smoker reached the 165 temperature, while the cooler, left side was only at about 158. So, I swapped all four around where the cooler were on the hotter side, and hotter on the cooler (Hence, two temp probes as smokers, and grills, are not consistent when cooking. Always know your cooking instrument’s hot and cold spots. This includes ovens)
Another 2 hours and everything was ready. I pulled the pumpkins and dumped everything into a pot. Then started pealing the skin off the pumpkins and dicing to add to the stew as well.
And here’s another reason to only fill two pumpkins. Adding any more than two to the stew would be overkill. Two was plenty. (More) lessons learned.
So, after the pumpkin was added, I scooped into bowls. Topped with toasted pumpkin seeds (not from the pumpkins themselves, I was fairly sure I wouldn’t have time to do that as well) and cojita cheese.
Results: Family enjoyed it. The pumpkin was an odd addition for some of them (We’re just not used to eating this other than pie) and this was a fun cook. I’d definitely get a boneless pork loin next time as it’s a very lean meat and I’ll need to cut it up regardless. And I’d stick to just two pumpkins. Maybe three and increase the amount of ingredients.