As the weather cools, they appear. They pop up on stoops. They take over the produce section. They overflow from farm markets. They star in seasonal decorative displays. And they materialize on menus all over. The gourds! They’re here!!
When the wide array of pumpkins and squashes arrive every fall, they’re used to make pumpkin pie, pureed into creamy soups, and….well…many people stop there. But they shouldn’t! These marvelous, versatile ingredients boast plenty of natural sweetness. That flavor profile makes them incredibly exciting to pair with Pennsylvania wines, whether you’re trying to play up the honeyed character or provide a contrasting punch.
Below is a list of creative gourd-centric dishes, paired with PA wines. We hope we can inspire you to think beyond soup and pie.
Pumpkin Chutney, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Canapés
Paired with: Sparkling wine
Up your appetizer game with a pumpkin chutney cooked down with sugar, vinegar, spices, and hot peppers, paired with fatty, smoky bacon and funky blue cheese. This snack is going to hit every point on your palate. Pair this smorgasbord of bold flavors with a bottle of dry PA bubbly — the acidity of the wine will bring out the zing of the chutney while the crisp fruit flavors provide contrast with the rich pork and cheese.
Roasted Squash and Radicchio Salad with Maple Vinaigrette and Pepitas
Paired with: Riesling
These days, shoppers have increasing access to enticing heritage squashes such as Honeynut and Kuri. The former is a smaller, more flavorful, and the more nutritious version of the old standby, Butternut squash. Even better: the skin is tender and completely edible. It’s a great choice for this dish which involves hard roasting squash in quarter inch half-moons, and then tossing them with bitter greens, maple-sweetened dressing, and toasted squash or pumpkin seeds. With a dish this bitter, it’s important to choose a wine with some residual sweetness. Riesling will balance out the Radicchio and accentuate the caramelized notes of the squash.
Fried Chicken on Pumpkin Waffles
Paired with: Lemberger
You can put pumpkin puree into almost any batter — pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin blondies — and waffles is a winner. Top your crispy, slightly sweet pumpkin waffle flavored with warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, with fried chicken and maple syrup (maple and pumpkin are a match made in heaven) for the ultimate comfort food supper. Pair this sweet-savory masterpiece with an earthy, spicy red such as Lemberger to bring out the black pepper in the chicken and the spice profile of the waffle.
Pumpkin Pierogies with Brown Butter Onions
Paired with: Pinot Noir
This dish is a riff on the Italian classic squash ravioli, but with a Pennsylvania twist (plus, for the home cook, pierogi dough is more forgiving). Stuff your tender pockets with a well-seasoned mash of squash or pumpkin. Then melt an unreasonable amount of onions in a pan until they are brown and soft. When the onions are where you want them to be, add a large pat of butter and cook it off until you smell the signature nuttiness of brown butter come through. Serve this rich dish with a fruit-forward red such as Pinot Noir. The wine will brighten up the dish while also bringing out the latent earthiness of the vegetables.
Thai Pumpkin Curry
Paired with: Traminette
Pumpkin is actually a traditional ingredient in Thai curries. It can be used as a supplement to meat or tofu, or take on the starring role itself. Choose a squash that will keep its shape once tender — kombucha is a great option — and add it to your base of curry paste and coconut milk. The squash does a great job absorbing the aromatic flavors of the sauce while also adding sweetness to balance the heat. When pairing spicy dishes, seek out a wine with some sweetness. Traminette is an appealing option — with its intense honeyed notes and floral aromas, it can stand up to intense flavors.
Squash Tacos with Chipotle Crema
Paired with: Grüner Veltiner
Use roasted or breaded-and-fried pieces of squash as the base of a vegetarian taco that is sure to please even the most devout carnivore. Play off the sweetness of the squash with a smoky, spicy sauce made by blending chipotles in adobo with Mexican crema or sour cream. Some thinly sliced cabbage and a squeeze of lime will take things to the next level; the choice between corn and flour tortillas is up to you. A wine that is crisp and refreshing will offset the sweet and smoky flavors of the tacos. Grüner Veltiner, with its high acidity and citrus zip, is a versatile white wine that will shine in this situation.
Paired with: Port-style wine
Trifles are the seven-layer-dips of desserts — tasty, customizable, and ridiculously easy to put together. A couple suggestions for your striated masterpiece: spiced pumpkin purée, salted caramel sauce, toasted nuts, crumbled ginger cake, vanilla whipped cream. Wait! Here are a few more ideas: egg nog-inspired custard, cream cheese icing, candied pepitas. Long story short: do what you like, as long as you have something pumpkin-y, something creamy, and something crunchy. Pair your frankendessert with a bottle of Port-style wine. These rich fortified after-dinner sippers typically boast notes of stewed dark fruit, caramel, cinnamon, and chocolate, perfect for bringing out the complexities in the trifle.
This article was previously published by the Pennsylvania Winery Association. Find PA wineries, wine trails, events, and more at PennsylvaniaWine.com.