Let’s get mushy, pumpkin lovers

pumpkin mush

Pumpkin Mush is homey and hearty, and you won’t bump into it coming and going. I added some dried cranberries to this version. (Photo by Laura Groch)

We’re not even into November, and already people are professing to be sick of pumpkin. The ever-lovin’ merchandisers of the world are putting it into everything but deodorant and detergent (and can those be far behind?). Pumpkin breads, cakes, cookies, pies, risottos, soups, coffees, pancakes — no wonder we’re sated with this squash.

At the risk of adding to the pumpkin parade, I’ve got a recipe that you probably haven’t seen everywhere yet. It’s a little out of the mainstream and yet very basic, natural and down-to-earth.

The name’s not fancy, not really even appetizing: Pumpkin Mush.

But it’s a simple, satisfying cold-morning breakfast food, from famed chef Marion Cunningham’s “The Breakfast Book” (1987).

“Mush” is a not-fancy word for polenta, or at least for ground cornmeal, cooked into a porridge.

Basic mush is spooned up with milk and sugar. Or you can pour it into a loaf pan and refrigerate it until it sets up firmly. Then slice it, fry it and enjoy with a drizzle of  pancake or fruit syrup.

I’ve never tried it that way, because frankly, Pumpkin Mush doesn’t last that long in my house. We pretty much demolish a potful in one sitting, it tastes so good.

The pumpkin adds a bright color, plus beta carotene and fiber. I’m more generous with the ginger, and stir in some cinnamon too. Tinker with the spices as you like. We eat it with brown sugar and a splash more of milk.

I think you’ll find Pumpkin Mush a homey, hearty way to restore pumpkin to its rightful place at the autumn table.

Here are Cunningham’s notes on this recipe:

This Pumpkin Mush, adapted from a recipe by Eliza Leslie in her 1852 cookbook, “New Receipts for Cooking,” is, as she says, “an excellent and wholesome breakfast dish.” It combines pumpkin puree, yellow cornmeal and milk, and has a slight ginger flavor. Served hot, with a pat of butter and a spoonful of brown sugar, this is good.


2 cups milk

1 cup pureed pumpkin

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup cold water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Put the milk and pumpkin in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid. Heat, stirring to blend, over medium-low heat.

Put the cornmeal in a small bowl and stir in the cold water (always wet cornmeal with cold water before adding to a hot liquid — this prevents it from getting lumpy). Stir the cornmeal mixture into the milk and pumpkin, and add the salt and ginger.

Cook until thickened, stirring every minute or two to keep the mush from burning. (Like all mush, when the mass gets hot it begins to sputter and spurt, so keep the pan  partially covered when cooking and remove the pan from the heat to stir to protect yourself from burns.)

The mush will be done cooking in only 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and spoon into bowls. Serve hot. Makes 3 cups.

(c) copyright 2015 Laura Groch


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