We’re only in October and already the Christmas holiday decorations are showing up on the shelves in the big box stores. I’m not quite there yet, but each year the seasonal products come earlier. Case in point, pumpkin spice everything. This year Starbucks brought back their Pumpkin Spice Latte on Aug. 27, the earliest date so far and Dunkin’s was even worse on Aug. 21. That’s still summer, people.
More pumpkin spice products followed, including White Claw’s Pumpkin Spice Hard Seltzer, pumpkin spice chocolate truffles from Godiva and Green Mountain’s Keurig-ready Pumpkin Spice coffee pod. SPAM made a pumpkin-flavored meat in a can, Bailey’s has a pumpkin spice Liqueur.
I get it. Companies saw how much we clamored for and liked Starbuck’s PSL since they launched it in 2003 they decided to put a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves, aka pumpkin pie spice, whether natural or a food chemistry approximation, in all the things.
We’re to blame, or thank depending on your stance, too. Many of these products are here only for the season, that scary “limited time only!” so our fear of missing out (FOMO) kicks in. There might also be a bit of American psychologist Jack Brehm’s Reactance Theory in play here, or at least one aspect of it. “An unpleasant motivational arousal that emerges when people experience a threat to or loss of their free behaviors” kicks in and darn it, if you’re going to restrict when we can have pumpkin spice products we are going to buy them even more.
We also like it when the seasons change, bringing us those colorful leaves, fun weekends on local farms, a chill in the air and a hint that the holidays are coming. There’s a celebratory aspect to enjoying pumpkin spice, a comforting ritual.
In New England we get to enjoy pumpkins more than people in other areas of the country and in our more dialed back version of pumpkin spice mania, all of our local breweries have released their perfectly seasonally-appropriate pumpkin ales. The Kane’s Donut team is even using Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale in the glaze of a donut this month. Up at City Tap Room in Boston, you can drink a Harpoon and Clown Shoes brewery collab beer from a 300-pound pumpkin on Oct. 19. A pumpkin as a keg. I have to try that at home.
I love the flavor of pumpkin spice in my pumpkin pie and I’m not averse to enjoying it in lattes and other forms of tasty food and drink. Torani Italian syrup company has a pumpkin spice syrup with is great with seltzer. Put a little vodka or rum in it if you like.
For a crowd, try this Pumpkin Spice Latte made in a slow cooker or the slow cooking setting on your Instant Pot. Instead of the three spices I include here, you can use a ready-made pumpkin pie spice mix or experiment and adjust the spices to your own liking, altering with cinnamon, clove, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice.
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spice Latte
Makes 6 servings
6 cups coffee
5 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh and cooked (see recipe below)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon clove
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add the coffee, milk, and heavy cream to the slow cooker.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, vanilla, sugar, and spices then combine the ingredients in the mixing bowl until fully mixed.
Whisk the ingredients into the milk and coffee in the slow cooker and cook on high for two hours. Dial the heat down to warm and serve.
Another pumpkin spice delight I make is pumpkin hummus which can be made with canned pumpkin puree. I’ve included my recipe for easy pumpkin puree below, This hummus recipe has a bit of a smoky flavor from dried chipotle powder available in the spice aisle at the market.
1 15-ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 cup canned pumpkin puree or fresh (see recipe below)
1/4 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon agave
1/2 teaspoon smoked chipotle chile pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
Vegetables, chips, pita bread for dipping
Place all the ingredients except for the pumpkin seeds into a food processor and blend until smooth Add more agave if it’s too thick or drizzle in some olive or sesame oil.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with a sprinkle of smoked chipotle powder and the toasted pumpkin seeds.
Easy Pumpkin Puree
Pick up some small baking pumpkins from the farmers market to make this pumpkin puree. Pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins are the best.
Makes about 5 cups
1 5 to 6-pound baking pumpkin
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Rinse and dry the pumpkin. Cut the squash in half from the end to the stem.
Scoop out the seeds and the stringy parts.
Season the inside with sea salt and place cut side down on the baking sheet.
Bake until tender, about 50-60 minutes.
Let cool, then scoop out the inner “flesh” into a food processor or place in a bowl and use a hand blender to puree until smooth.