It’s that time of year.
For some of my friends, this is the best time of year because of the availability of pumpkin spice everything and other seasonal treats.
I’m not a big fan of pumpkin spice flavored creamers, or other pumpkin spice products, so I generally roll my eyes and look sideways as others enjoy them.
There are plenty of connections between the dairy industry and pumpkins, as well as other seasonal harvest favorites like apples and squash. I’ll venture beyond the near-universal favorite, pumpkin pie, in mentioning a few.
One example of a successful pumpkin-dairy merger is pumpkin spice milk, produced by many of our Pennsylvania milk processors and available in most retail outlets. A routine internet search yields a multitude of recipes for homemade pumpkin milk. I have checked them out, and with a little variation they are made with milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and some form of sweetener.
Note to self: I might actually like pumpkin milk, as well as some of the other recipes such as pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin milk shakes. I might become one of those enthusiasts that I have misunderstood for so long. And I must ask my processor friends to forgive me for not trying their pumpkin spice milk.
You may ask if there is any reason beyond taste to drink pumpkin and milk concoctions, and I am happy to report that there is. Pumpkin is quite nutritious. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, and relatively low in calories. Pumpkin is also high in antioxidants and nutrients known to protect eyesight, such as lutein.
Add these benefits to the nutrition in milk, and I would say that our fall treats made with pumpkin and milk have a lot of health benefits for children and adults alike.
Another fall harvest offering made with milk and cream is butternut squash soup. Like its pumpkin counterpart, it provides a lot of nutrition. And I do like butternut squash soup.
What about our favorite fall fruit, the apple?
Most of us living in the commonwealth are probably aware that Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the US in apple production. I grew up eating an apple with a glass of milk as a snack on many days, never really thinking about the provided nutrition and only about the taste, as most children would. Together, an apple and milk provide many essential nutrients — high-quality protein, dietary fiber, potassium and calcium. What more could parents want as a healthy snack for children.
Another internet search will yield some recipes for what looks like tasty offerings using apples and milk —apple milk shakes and apple pudding to name a few.
Let’s not forget that great central Pennsylvania fall delicacy, the apple dumpling. You may eat it differently than I do, but nothing is better than a warm apple dumpling covered with milk (and a little extra sugar sprinkled on the top).
Apparently, those living in other parts of the country just don’t get it when it comes to apple dumplings. When I’ve tried to explain this simple deliciousness to those living elsewhere, I am often asked, “Why not just make an apple pie and eat a slice of it with milk?”
See what I mean? They just don’t get it.
To me, the answer is simple — It wouldn’t be an apple dumpling if you did that!
Note: I initially described the apple dumpling as “dessert deliciousness,” but soon remembered that in my house we eat them during any meal of the day, requiring a little wordsmithing.
And, of course, we can’t forget the cottage cheese and apple butter. Try explaining that to someone living in another part of the country. The wonderful mix of flavors with cottage cheese and apple butter is not to be equaled, in my point of view. It is also an extremely nutritious snack, especially when compared to many of the processed snacks available today.
Growing up with dairy farming, my family looked for ways to use milk and cream with just about everything we ate. I think I’ve mentioned the whipped cream pies in one of my previous columns. Even though it doesn’t relate to fall harvest, we did have milk added to a great deal of our garden harvest, whatever the time of year. Creamed peas and new potatoes, strawberries and cream or strawberry shortcake and whipped cream, potato soup, and many other items. All delicious.
This is an especially beautiful time to travel throughout Pennsylvania and our states. Our region has a reputation as a place to visit because of changing leaf colors. I ask you to make your normal commutes or take sightseeing drives this fall to also observe the bounty of our fall harvest.
Stop and have some pumpkin ice cream, or visit one of our many small cheese shops. Enjoy a crisp local apple with that cheese, or buy an apple dumpling. Pennsylvania ranks 2nd in the nation in farm to consumer direct sales, and shopping at a farmers market or other farm outlet is one way to support those efforts.
The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board supports all faces of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and our rich dairy heritage. We are always available to respond to questions and concerns. I can be reached at 717-210-8244 or by email at email@example.com.