PHYLLIS COULTER Illinois Farmer Today
BEASON — Dave and Gail Appel-Sasse met in a haunted house around this time of year almost 50 years ago. Since then, their lives have been intertwined with the autumn season.
Gail made Dave a pumpkin pie on their first date and together they run Gail’s Pumpkin Patch in Beason. Dave’s parents grew pumpkins, so 18 years ago when they decided to add something to their corn and soybean farm in Logan County, pumpkins were a natural fit.
Their business incorporates both Gail’s love of pumpkins and Dave’s affinity for apples. His orchard has grown over the years from traditional apple trees to also include “apples on the wire,” or trellis-grown apples, Gale said.
The store also showcases the talents of their two children. Abigail Temple, now a mother of four, is still their head baker, a title she started as a teenager. Of course, some of her treats include pumpkin. She also shares winter squash recipes on the family’s website, gailspumpkinpatch.com.
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Their son Nathan is a beekeeper and offers a variety of honey at the Pumpkin Shop as well as various grocers in Central Illinois. They also grow popcorn and sell ears in a popping bag.
“On Sundays it’s the popcorn cart when you can pick your own,” Gail said.
Inside and out, the area is designed for family fun with a variety of fall activities and decor. As the number of their grandchildren grew, so did the activities for the children.
Now’s the perfect time to save some precious pumpkin for pies whenever you want, Gale said. She has some tips on how to do it:
- Wash the pumpkin, then cut off the top and bottom and clean out the seeds.
- Dice and trim the outer skin.
- Place the cubes in a glass baking dish and pour in about ½ to 1 C. of water.
- Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake at 250° for about 4 to 5 hours, until a fork easily pierces the squash cubes.
- Drain and let cool so the squash can be frozen in containers.
- When it’s time to use, puree in a blender.
Although Gail clearly prefers pumpkins, her staff and family enjoy other squash options for making healthy and flavorful meals. Winter squashes are a delicious source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. They are also sources of potassium, niacin, iron and beta-carotene.
Squash can be baked in the oven or, when speed is important, it can be cooked in a microwave on high power, Sass suggests.
Brenda Underwood, staff at the pumpkin patch, is always looking for fun recipes to use that include fall and winter squash. Underwood isn’t afraid to try a more complex recipe, like butternut squash and black bean orzo with sausage and spinach.
Gail’s Famous Pumpkin Pie
- 3 eggs
- 2 1/4 C. cooked pumpkin
- 1 C. brown sugar
- 2 T. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. clove
- 1 can (5 oz) condensed milk
- 1/3 C. milk
- Pie crust
Puree the eggs and pumpkin on medium. Add the sugars and mix. Add the spices and mash. Then add milk. Blend until well combined. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 45 minutes until knife comes out clean. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.
Plain Spaghetti Squash
Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds. Place on a baking tray cut side down. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then add the following to the inside of the pumpkin:
- 1/4 C. Parmesan
- 2 T. butter
- Garlic salt or minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with meat sauce.
Butternut squash and black bean orzo with sausage and spinach
- 2 C. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 T. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 C. raw orzo
- 1 T. olive oil
- 12 ounces sausage, cooked
- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed, drained
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- Fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss diced pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a single layer without crowding it. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes.
Combine 2 C. water and 1 C. orzo in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to medium or medium-low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes in visibly boiling water, stirring often to make sure the orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add small amounts of water if the water is absorbed too quickly.
Once the orzo has reached an “al dente” texture, remove the pan from the heat. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet (such as cast iron or stainless steel) over medium heat. Cut the cooked sausage into coins and add to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes on one side until nicely browned, then flip and cook for about 3 minutes on the other side.
Add the spinach to the sausage and cook over medium-low heat until tender.
Add the rinsed and drained black beans and the cooked orzo (drained from the liquid). Mix to combine. Add roasted butternut squash cubes. Everything is mixed carefully. Season with salt and pepper. Top with fresh thyme.