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Too Many Pumpkins by Aliensouldream

Author: Aliensouldream
Title: Too Many Pumpkins
Rating: G
Theme: Sweet
Elements: Creamy
Summary: A pumpkin glut leads the hobbits to get creative.
Word Count: 2000



It was all because of the glorious summer that year in the Shire. A long, warm, fragrant, golden summer, with just enough refreshing rain to keep the garden green and succulent and 'growin like weeds', as Sam said. Which meant bumper crops of just about everything - strawberries, gooseberries, peaches, cucumbers, taters and now, in early autumn, pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins, of every shape and size. Yellow, green, gold and orange, bursting from huge dark green curling leaves like bags of treasure. Some tiny ones you could hold in the palm of your hand and some giant ones were as big as ...

'Sam's head!' puffed Pippin, lugging a stout specimen onto the hand cart. 'That's about the size of it!'

'More like his belly,' said Merry, hacking away at a stubborn stalk. 'And almost as solid.'

'Here!' said Sam. 'Less teasin, more lumpin veg. That's what 'helpin' means. Or some folk will be wearing one of these ON the head.'

'What on earth are we going to do with them all?' asked Frodo, staggering under a basketful of medium-sized ones, which he plopped down on the garden bench for a rest. 'We can't use them all ourselves. And almost everyone in the village has plenty of their own.'

'We can take them to town next market day. Or we'll just have to eat stewed pumpkin for a fortnight,' said Sam. 'Or bottle most of it for winter'.

'Let's have a feast!' cried Pip, for whom the word 'feast' had magical properties only partially wrapped up in the eatables involved. 'We can invite all our friends and ... and challenge them to a pie-eating contest! Pumpkin pie! And we can have pumpkin-everything. Soup, bread, pasties, puffs, it'll be gorgeous! Much better to use the stuff all up at once. With prizes!' He sat down, shrilling with excitement, and drummed his heels on the grass.

'He's got a point,' grinned Merry, looking from one to the other. The Birthdays were weeks past, and Yule was such an age away. 'It'll make a grand end to our visit.'

Frodo considered. 'It'll have to be at the Green Dragon. It's too chill now for the Party Field.'

'Cracking!' said Merry, rubbing his hands.

'And we'll need lots of help with the baking. Sam, will Meg and Daisy be free to help out?'

'If you're the one that's asking.'

'We need to plan this thing out!' said Pip. 'There's loads to do!'

'Hold on, you all better help me get these pumpkins out the ground or you'll be eating pies full of hot air,' said Sam.

They all groaned but set to with more energy, now that there was a happy purpose in store and the time passed in betting who would eat the most pies, with Sam being the favourite, which he wasn't displeased about.


***


The next couple of days were a whirl of activity, with many friendly hands roped in to help. A long line wound out of Bag End kitchen, with many chattering hobbits scraping out pumpkins and carrying the mashed pulp into the kitchen, where it was stewed, strained and cooked up into a rich sweet paste with all sorts of delicious spices and added ingredients. Some was bottled and stored for winter comfort but most was baked into pies with golden flaky crusts, wafting smells so amazing that mouths were watering all the way down the Row. Nothing else was talked of but the coming Pie Party. Breeches were let out, ribbons were ironed and first dances were awkwardly requested. Those who could carve were set to making the decorations and carved the empty pumpkin gourds into fantastical shapes to hold candles inside. Boughs of russet autumn leaves and stalks of pussy willow were tied into bunches and placed in jugs, ready to give the tables a festive air.

When it was the night of the party, the four friends were gathered in Bag End kitchen. Merry said, 'Now, we must make a special drink to mark the occasion!'

'I'll second that!' said Pip. 'What goes with pie?'

'Anything!' they all chorused.

'But we don't just want plain ale,' said Merry. They couldn't have pumpkin beer either. The Cotton brothers had tried brewing some last year using leftover gourds and found it a strangely combustible mixture.

'Brandy wine?' said Sam, who was fond of it.

'I know!' said Pip. 'Eggnog! I had some at cousin Periwinkle's last year and it was like drinking a whole field of buttercups!'

That sounded nice. 'It does have spirit in?' checked Merry.

'Of course! But other lovely things like egg and cream and spice and - we can put pumpkin in! It'll be delicious!'

The others hadn't tried it but liked the sound of it. It suggested a cheering and warming atmosphere.

'Right! Let's do it!'

Sam raided the party-stuffed pantry for the ingredients Pip had mentioned while Frodo and Merry found the biggest round copper pans, which were more like basins you could bathe a large dog in.

When all was assembled, they handed the wooden spoon to Pip.

'Off you go, Pip. You're the only one of us who's had this before. You call the ingredients and we'll put them in.'

'Oh ... eh, well, I'm not sure I remember them that well. I've never actually made it.'

Three pairs of expectant eyes fixed on him.

'But you must,' said Merry. 'You've got us all worked up now. Just start and it'll all come back to you.'

Pippin was doubtful, but what could he do? 'Oh alright. Eggs, you start with the eggs, beaten.'

Merry started breaking eggs into a copper. when he had done about twenty, Pip yelled 'Wait! I think you're supposed to separate them. Yolks to one side, runny stuff to the other. I'm pretty sure.'

Merry's eyes narrowed, suspecting mischief, but he rolled up his sleeve and dug his hand into the sloppy mixture to fish out the yolks one by one.

'How many beaters do we have?' asked Frodo, separating more eggs.

'Two,' said Sam. 'Shall I nip down the Hill for more?'

'Yes please, we'll all need to pitch in.'

While Sam went off to fetch the extra beaters, they continued separating eggs and debating how they would eventually add the pumpkin and what sort of spirit would be best. Pippin carried the basket of shells out to the compost heap.

When they had separated a hundred eggs, Sam came back with the beaters. 'One of them's this ratchet job,' he said. 'Here,' he said, handing it to Pip. 'It's probably the easiest.'

They all stood back while Pippin gamely stuck the beater wheels into the egg white mixture and briskly turned the handle - spattering himself from bib to eyebrows with goo to a burst of cousinly laughter.

'Eurrghh!!' Pip backed off dripping.

'Go get cleaned up, out by the pump,' grinned Merry. The others took their whisks and began attacking the mixtures. Sam, who was a dab cook and baker, soon had the yolks running creamy and pale. After a spirited go, Merry got tired and let Frodo finish the whites to a frothy foam. Pippin wandered back, looking damp, when he judged there would be no more whisking to be done.

'What's next?' they asked him.

'Erm, sugar.'

'In which?'

'Um, split it between them?'

They did this, perspiring at the effort it took to whisk it fully into the mixtures. Even Pip did not get off taking a turn.

'Better be worth it, Pip,' said Merry.

'It is,' puffed Pip, hoping it would be.

'Now pumpkin,' said Frodo, opening the hinge of one of the reserved jags. 'I take it this goes into the yolk batter, since it looks more cakey?'

'Of course.'

'But don't we soak it brandy first?' said Merry.

This was an important question and they discussed it a while.

'Yes, yes, now I remember,' said Pip. 'Half a bottle of brandy into the pumpkin, and that soaks it up, and then it goes in.'

They eagerly followed this direction, using Tolpher Hissop's special reserve brandy and stirring it into the mixture in batches.

'Starting to smell good,' said Merry. 'Spice next?'

'Yes, just use lots of everything,' said Pippin, starting to enjoy himself. 'You can't have too much spice in an eggnog!'

Bilbo's treasured spice drawer was raided. The exotic smells from the imported powders and roots was intoxicating. At least a handful of everything was added to the mixture, including one labelled intriguingly, 'Chilli'.

'It's a gorgeous colour now,' said Merry, stirring the sunset coloured soup.

'Looks just right,' said Pip. 'Now the cream, and of course more spirit.'

This was the delicate bit. They added the cream slowly, whisking thoroughly in between.

Then Frodo fetched a bottle of the Old Winyards. 'There's not that many left,' he said, although in truth no one but himself knew how many. 'But I think this is a special occasion and Bilbo would want us to use it.'

'To Bilbo!' they all solemnly said, as Frodo stirred the special wine into the mixture. Now the smells arising from it were truly delicious and they were all eager to have a taste.

'Not yet!' said Pip. 'We have to put the egg whites in now.'

It required lots of patience to finish off by slowly incorporating the whites but it did give the resulting eggnog a lovely pale and frothy texture. Frodo hurriedly fetched the punch cups and they all dipped one in.

'And now ... your good health, friends!' They all took a deep mouthful and swallowed.

The effect was like a thunderclap. They all stood looking at each other with widened eyes, rooted to the spot. They all gasped.

'Flame and trumpets!' said Sam.

'Dragon's breath!' said Merry.

'What did I tell you?' asked Pip.

'My eye!' wheezed Frodo. 'That'll make your foot hair curl.'

They all burst out giggling. 'It's delicious!' said Pip. 'Isn't it?'

'It's like being kissed by a Mermaid,' said Merry.

'And smacked with a wet haddock,' said Sam.

'I can feel it in my toes,' said Frodo. 'Warm and jingly.'

'Pure nectar!' Pip smacked his lips, delighted with himself. 'Let's test it out properly.'

They finished their cups and dipped in for more. As they got used to it, the heady sweetness made it easier to drink. The thunderous effect mellowed to baby's breath and the world became delightfully cosy and mellow.

'Let's call it Buttercups!' yelled Pip.

'The Silky Haddock!' said Merry.

'The Dancing Dragon!' said Sam.

'The Fire Lantern!' said Frodo.

'The Toasty Tickle!' said Pip.

It wasn't long before they were dancing round the copper, linking arms and spinning each other round. After a few more cups each, Merry stopped their carousing with a finger to his lips and a huge 'Ssshhh!' They all looked at him.

'We have to take this stuff down to the Green Dragon for the party.' They all blinked. They had forgotten about this.

'We'll load it on the cart,' said Sam. 'Can't be that heavy and you can all help.' They all agreed but were a bit sad to let all their hard work go to the general merriment. By agreement, they all had one more full glass each. Then Sam brought the vegetable cart around to the front door and the other three lifted the copper basin by its handles and walked carefully and not too steadily with it outside. The mixture sloshed around the sides as they lowered it into the cart.

'Right, lessgo.' For some reason, the enterprise struck them all as hilarous. Tramping down the Hill with a trundling cart of secret pumpkin thunder liquor, an invention which they were sure would be the delight of the party. This was an occasion for song and they sang out joyfully. It was all going so well when ...

'Look out, Pip, keep a grip on your side.'

'I am keeping a grip. It you that's pushing too fast.'

'I'm not, its the steepiness. Watch what you're doing!'

'Here! Keep it balanced!'

'Watch out!'

As the gradient of the hill changed, they began running, the weight of the still half full copper pulling the cart away from them. At a bend in the road, it hit a bump and tore away from them, careering down the hill faster than they could run. As they run to a horrified stop, they could only watch as the cart with it's liquid cargo went smashing through the front gate of a hobbit house, tangled in some washing lines and crashed with a resounding coppery boom, followed by a scream.

'Oh no!' said Frodo, covering his mouth.

'It's the Sackville-Bagginses!' said Sam.

'Let's get out of here!' said Merry, and they scattered, suppressing roars and tears of laughter.

There was a very fine Pie Eating Party in the Green Dragon that night and everyone wondered at the absence of the four founders of the feast. Everyone except Lobelia, who considered the acquisition of a fine copper washing pot no compensation for her ruined gate and dirtied washing and plotted to get back at that whipperscamp Frodo if it was the last thing she did.


- the end -

Recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Eggnog

Ingredients

8 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups dark rum or brandy
Whipped cream (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg


Procedures

1
Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and, watching carefully, beat until they are about the consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Reduce speed to medium. With mixer running, add half of sugar and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Transfer whites to a large bowl. Do not wash bowl.

2
Add egg yolks and remaining sugar to now-empty stand mixer bowl and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow and ribbony, shutting off machine and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as necessary, about 2 minutes total. Add pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and allspice and mix on medium-low speed until homogenous, about 15 seconds. Add milk, cream, and alcohol and mix on low speed to combine.

3
Using a rubber spatula or handheld whisk, fold the whipped whites into the egg yolk/milk mixture until completely incorporated. Serve by ladling into goblets and garnishing with whipped cream (if desired), grated nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick if desired.

From: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/12/spiced-pumpkin-eggnog-recipe.html


Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
kayleelupin
Oct. 28th, 2014 03:16 am (UTC)
So funny! And I love eggnog, though I can't have it alcoholic - I wonder how it would turn out if I left the rum out? I loved this story from start to finish, though. :)

Kaylee Arafinwiel
talullahred
Oct. 28th, 2014 08:01 am (UTC)
"That'll make your foot hair curl." lol

The whole fic was so funny and sweet and full of thoughtful detail that made it so real. Lovely stuff. :)
karri_kln1671
Oct. 28th, 2014 02:18 pm (UTC)
Lovely! Very entertaining!
mrowe
Oct. 28th, 2014 02:33 pm (UTC)
Ooh nice - and I'm well familiar with the pumpkin problem, albeit with courgettes:-) One has to get creative...
shirebound
Oct. 28th, 2014 03:06 pm (UTC)
The Toasty Tickle! Oh, I love tipsy hobbits more than almost anything. You've got me grinning so big!
blslarner
Oct. 28th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, but this does sound good! Heh! Poor Lobelia, not that she doesn't deserve it, of course. But she did get a new copper boiler out of the enterprise. As for our dear lads--they didn't make it to their own party? Why am I not surprised?

Hilarious!
kimby1967
Oct. 29th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Oh yummy-I love egg nog-and the story is perfect. I love simple, homey, family stories like this one. Well done.
dreamflower02
Oct. 30th, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
That's hilarious! I love the way it is treated as some great experiment, but such a shame they didn't get to serve it at the party--I am certain that Lobelia did not appreciate it!

I haven't made scratch egg nog in several years. But I might have to give this one a try, sans alcohol.
lindahoyland
Oct. 30th, 2014 05:16 am (UTC)
Delightfully amusing!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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