Stuffed Pumpkin – 1812 era recipe

     This heritage recipe dates back to 1812 and comes from one of the fabulous Gourmet Get Away events that the Kansas 4-H Foundation sponsored for several years. My high school catering students added it to the pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner we prepared for the faculty for several years.  I even included it in a family Thanksgiving meal one year. However, in the past few years, I’ve served it as an entrée for an autumn evening meal.
     This dish makes me think of what life in 1812 must have been like. And, it is a great topic for conversation! Plus it is quite tasty -- the savory flavors of the pumpkin infuse with the other ingredients as they all bake in the oven.
      I’ve scaled down the recipe below to use with a medium-sized pumpkin. For us, I prepared the filling as directed below but just used half of it to fill a 2 lb. pumpkin. (I pulled out half of the cooked sasuage mixture and rice to use in soup.)

Stuffing in a Pumpkin  4 to 6 servings
1 lb. mild bulk sausage
2 to 3 large celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
About ½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon ground pepper
About ½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped or use about 1 tsp. rubbed sage
6 oz. box wild rice mix – cooked according to package directions (I used Uncle Ben’s® w/ a chicken flavored pack) cooked brown and/or white rice (cooked in chicken broth)
About a 4 lb. pumpkin
Butter or oil; salt, pepper & garlic powder for seasoning pumpkin cavity

1.     Preheat oven to 350°.
2.     Over high heat, crumble and cook sausage until well browned. With slotted spoon, remove sausage, and in remaining drippings, cook celery and onion until tender; adding a little water, if needed near the end to deglaze the pan.  Remove from heat and add sausage, rice, walnuts, and seasonings; mix well.
3.     Cut top from pumpkin, creating a hole big enough to add the stuffing. Remove fiborous interior and seeds (I used a grapefruit spoon as a scraping tool.) 

      Rub the inside with oil or butter and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. 

      Fill cavity with sausage and rice filling; place lid on top.
4.     Set pumpkin in a baking pan; add about an inch of water to pan (if you have extra sage leaves, throw them in the water). Bake for 1 hour +  (depending on size or pumpkin), or until dressing is warmed thoroughly and pumpkin is tender. Note: Consider lining pan with heavy duty foil that overlaps pan – after baking, you counld then simply lift out the cooked pumpkin.
5.     Carefully transfer to a platter; serve out of the pumpkin at the table being sure to scrape out some cooked pumpkin along with the sausage and rice mixture.

Addition: 1/2 cup raisins or craisins adds a great flavor to this dish espccially if you are using it as a side dish.
Variation: For individual servings, use mini pumpkins and adjust oven baking time

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