Smoky Bacon Pumpkin Soup

Fall harvestWe’ve recently discovered a picturesque town east of LA in the San Bernardino foothills called Oak Glen where apple orchards and red barns line the curving mountain roads. Nestled next to cider presses and piles of fallen autumn leaves are patches with pumpkins still attached to their vines. Some gourds are striped green while others are white and the rest are Halloween orange. Allowing my two young boys to actually pick their favorite pumpkin from the vine is a good lesson in respecting crops and being certain about their choices.

I picked a few extra pumpkins for the soup I’ve been craving since the heat of this summer got the best of me. And since Halloween is the gateway to winter, I’m taking my first chance to make a velvety soup with Niman’s delicious smoky bacon. If roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins seems too daunting, don’t skip a beat, and substitute the canned version.

Niman Ranch Smoky Bacon Pumpkin Soup

Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

2 pounds roasted pumpkin or 2 15-ounce cans pumpkin purée
Garlic cloves, as many as you want
1 thick sliced yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, as desired
8 cups chicken stock, as desired
8 ounces Niman Ranch Bacon, cut into small pieces
Grated fresh ginger, as desired
Cinnamon, as desired
Puréed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, as desired
¼ cup lime juice
4 tablespoons minced fresh sage
Crème fraîche, optional
Pine nuts, toasted, optional

Cut the stem end out of the pumpkins like you would if carving it into a jack-o-lantern. Carefully cut the pumpkins in half, then quarters. Remove the seeds and strings. Score the pumpkin flesh and insert garlic cloves to preference. Sprinkle with onion rings. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast pumpkins on baking sheets or foil in a preheated 400-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on how thick the pumpkin flesh. Lower heat if pumpkins are caramelizing too much before they’re tender. When pumpkins are very tender, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from skin into a food processor. Add 2 cups of chicken broth, a little at a time, to make a very smooth puree.

In a soup pot, render Niman Ranch bacon over medium heat until very crispy, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Drain most of the fat and transfer the pumpkin purée into the pot, stir in the remaining chicken broth and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and purée a second time in small batches in the food processor. First pulse the processor on the lowest speed, and then gradually increase the speed until the soup is smooth. Repeat the process until all of the soup is puréed to the desired consistency.

Pour the soup back into the soup pot and return to low heat. Stir in the ginger, cinnamon and chipotle pepper purée to taste. Stir in the lime juice. Ladle the soup into individual bowls or serve in a tureen. Garnish with the crème fraîche, toasted pine nuts, and chopped fresh sage before serving.

Note: The soup can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated or it can be frozen for 3 to 4 weeks. If you make it in advance, stir in the lime juice when reheating.

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