Pumpkin or squash is typically hard even when it is ripe, making it necessary to cook it first before eating it. There are many ways to cook pumpkin or squash by itself, and one of the ways to make a soft, delicious, melts-in-your-mouth pumpkin dish is by making a pumpkin confit.
Pumpkin Confit Trivia
- Alejandro Ruiz and Carla Altesor, in the book The Food of Oaxaca: Recipes and Stories from Mexico’s Culinary Capital, wrote: “The pumpkin got cooked confit style in the tacha boiler, so it was then given the name calabaza en tacha.” But make no mistake – calabaza en tacha is not pumpkin confit, but is known in English-speaking countries as candied pumpkin, which has sugar while pumpkin confit has salt.
- There’s a part in the Stella Duffy novel Flesh Flesh wherein the main character Saz Martin was described as enjoying pumpkin confit. “She also ate one and a half servings of couscous with sweet pumpkin confit, a massive chunk of the salmon and an excessive portion of dessert.”
- Part of American chef Marc Forgione’s dish (found in the book Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant) characterized by a blanket of black emulsion covering everything on the plate in black is pumpkin confit. Why did he do what could potentially be an unappealing take on food preparation and aesthetics? “I wanted the whole dish to be completely covered by the emulsion, so you had no idea what was on your plate until you cut into it. I wanted everything to be a surprise; the black trumpet polenta, the squash confit, and the black cod.”
Pumpkin Confit Buying Guide
Pumpkin confit is not commonly mass produced for commercial selling. If you are lucky, you might find a small, local food business making and selling small batch pumpkin confit in local venues like pop-ups or farmers markets. Generally, you have to make your own pumpkin confit, and to do this, you have to buy several ingredients which are available in the market or grocery store all year long.
To make pumpkin confit, buy ripe pumpkins. While unripe pumpkins are also edible, it is better to use ripe pumpkins to be able to achieve that soft texture of a confit.
Pumpkins are sold in groceries, supermarkets, farmers markets, and farm stands. Expect peak pumpkin supply from August to November. When buying a pumpkin, check the surface or skin for any sign of damage during handling and storage, like cracks, holes, discoloration, etc. As a winter squash, it is normal that the squash is hard-skinned.
You also need to buy olive oil and your choice of herbs and spices to flavor the pumpkin confit.
Pumpkin Confit Production & Farming in Texas
Texans love making and eating pumpkin confit, especially since pumpkin is a common crop grown in the Lone Star State.
The hardiness zone spectrum covering Texas ranges from 6 to 9B, which is generally ideal for pumpkins that grow in zones 3 to 9.
Buy pumpkin seeds from a reputable seed store. Make sure to choose the right seed that is suitable for you as a grower – if you have space, you can choose vining or trailing variety, but if your garden is small, you might want to consider choosing seeds for bush-type or compact pumpkin plants.
Make sure to plant after the threat of frost has passed. The ideal soil should have a pH of 6 to 6.5. Make sure you water it with one inch of water once a week. If the weather is unusually hot, watering twice a week is ideal until the weather returns to normal. Pumpkin plants can succumb to root rot as a result of overwatering. Feed them not just with water but fertilizer as well, since pumpkins are heavy feeders.
Pumpkin is ready to harvest after 120 days.
If you are planning to grow companion plants for pumpkins, consider growing corn, Korean licorice mint, lavender, marigolds, marjoram, nasturtiums, pole beans, and sunflowers. The corn helps the pumpkins by fixing the nitrogen in the soil, the same thing pole beans do. The Korean licorice mint attracts hoverflies which feed on pests that attack pumpkins like aphids, mealybugs, and mites. Lavender attracts pollinators that benefit the pumpkins (which sunflowers also do), while marigolds help repel root-knot nematodes, using the bioactive chemicals from its roots to suppress roundworms. Planting marjoram alongside pumpkin makes the pumpkin taste better. Nasturtium also helps with the bug infestation problem pumpkins are known for.
Weeds are detrimental to the crop. They compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients, and as a result, the plant exhibits reduced yields and the size of the fruit is usually smaller as a result of weed problems. That is not all. Weeds also host pathogens, viruses, and insects. Because of these reasons, it is important to rid the weeds around your pumpkin plants.
When harvesting pumpkins, do not pull, twist, or cut too close to the stem-end. Instead, cut it in a way that a portion of the stem remains attached. This ensures that the fruit has a long shelf life. With stems removed, pumpkins tend to spoil faster.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
Beetles, snails and slugs, squash bugs, vine borers, and aphids are some of the common pests that attack pumpkin plants. The use of pesticides is necessary especially if infestation worsens and gets out of control.
- Beetle – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to get rid of beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad. You can also use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides.
- Snails and slugs – Use slug bait or copper tape against slugs and snails.
- Squash bugs – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of squash bugs.
- Vine borers – Use man-made pesticide carbaryl, broad-spectrum, pyrethroid-based insecticides like permethrin, or the pyrethroid insecticide bifenthrin to rid your pumpkins of vine borers.
- Aphids – Kill aphids using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil. You can also use the pesticide malathion, which is the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the United States, or rotenone, a selective, non-specific insecticide typically used in home gardens for insect control.
People in different parts of the world know what pumpkin confit is. There are many ways to make it, as well as many ways to use pumpkin confit in making sweet or savory dishes. A book about Israeli cooking describes how pumpkin confit is used as an ingredient when making vanilla custard.
Warm pumpkin confit is on the menu of the restaurant Jean-Georges in Shanghai, China.
A restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal serves pumpkin confit in phyllo with coconut ice cream.
Sicilian journalist Ada Parisi featured the recipe for baked pumpkin (confit with herbs and spices) in a website dedicated for Sicilian cooking.
If you ever come across pumpkin confit for sale, it will probably be in a disposable food container. It could be a glass jar or a disposable plastic food container. It is common for businesses selling food to use microwavable and disposable BPA-free polypropylene to-go/take out food containers with a separate clear plastic lid or hinged lid.
Pumpkin confit may also be sold in a microwaveable, compostable, disposable biodegradable square hinged clamshell single compartment bento box food container/take out box with lid made of environment-friendly materials like sugar cane fibers.
Enjoying Pumpkin Confit
Can you eat just the pumpkin confit? Sure. But like any other kinds of confit, it is best eaten accompanied by other food or ingredients. Pumpkin confit is great to eat along with meat dishes, pasta dishes, vegetable dishes, or even with bread! If your pumpkin confit is very soft, you can actually just spread it on toast or any kind of bread sturdy enough for a spread made of pumpkin confit. Some people eat pumpkin confit as part of hors d’oeuvres or as side dish.
If, for some health or medical reason, you are not allowed by your doctor to eat pumpkin or oily foods, you should not eat pumpkin confit.
Put pumpkin confit in a food container with a lid and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for as long as two to three months. It is typical for meat confit to be stored in the freezer, but this is not recommended for vegetable confit like pumpkin confit because when you defrost it, the confit’s texture, taste, and appearance becomes somewhat unappealing, different from freshly-made pumpkin confit.
Here is an easy way to make pumpkin confit. Peel your pumpkin and cut it into smaller pieces because putting it in a pot along with herbs and spices of your choice and covering everything in olive oil. Cook the pumpkin in low fire (to avoid burning the pumpkin and allowing enough time to soften).
Should you go looking for pumpkin confit recipe in cookbooks, take into consideration that there could be some variations in how this is called. But rest assured that it is the same thing, except for the chef or cook’s own personal flair applied in the making of the dish. In the book entitled The Nimble Cook: New Strategies for Great Meals That Make the Most of Your Ingredients, author Ronna Welsh called it Confit Zucchini Squash.
You can mix pumpkin confit with wild mushrooms and winter greens, as suggested here, or you can simply explore the many ways pumpkin confit becomes more delicious if you put a mixture of herbs into the picture. Or try pastry chef Pete Schmutte’s Pumpkin Confit & Honey Masala Ice Cream.
Eating pumpkin confit allows the body to absorb the vitamins and nutrients found in pumpkin. Pumpkins provide beta-carotene, vitamin A, Vitamin C, carbohydrate, and protein. It is loaded with antioxidants. Eating pumpkin helps decrease the risk of cancer and improves heart health. It also helps improve eye health and assists in losing weight.
Pumpkin confit is typically made using olive oil. This means the body also gets to enjoy the benefits from eating olive oil, which, compared to other cooking oils, is rich in healthy fats: 73% to 83% of olive oil consists of heart-healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. It is also high in omega-6 and omega-3. These fatty acids not only reduce cholesterol, prevent strokes, improves heart health, but it’s also beneficial to the skin. Not to mention that it’s also an excellent source of vitamins E and K.