Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

From one year to the next, I keep a few cans of my favorite Libby’s 100% pumpkin in the pantry. Thanks to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan (who spent years in grocery management), I know that “old” pumpkin makes for better pumpkin pies. I see no difference in pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin martinis but pie — oh yes. The pie filling is darker, feels richer-thicker though still silky, and sports a deeper flavor profile with the aged cans. This year, I’m very glad I kept those few and a couple more because when I put in an order for pumpkin, my King Sooper’s app indicated zero, nada, zip, nil, nought, nothing, though it allowed as there were a few cans of the organic variety left. I don’t like those for pie (ewww), but I’ll take them in a pinch for baked goods and so tapped the icon. When I went to pick up my groceries, I didn’t even get the organic cans. Yikes. What was the story? Should I be grabbing a few pie pumpkins out of the produce section and getting out the roasting pan? Consider a Thanksgiving featuring sweet potato pie? While I have nothing against sweet potato pie as my parents were both southerners, I like pumpkin pie so much better. What’s a baker to do?

Jump to Recipe

Grandson Rhyan at the pumpkin patch with his Dad about 16 years ago.

I clicked quickly on amazon to find I could get six or eight somewhat more expensive cans of Libby’s, but not until mid-October. Bad news for a big pumpkin lover like me. (And would they really ever arrive?) A little googling indicated there had been a pumpkin blight — hence the shortage was sounding real. Blight? What blight? Most of the articles I could find were dated October, 2020, except two or three. One of those indicated there truly might be a shortage this year; another agreed and then gave good advice about making your own pumpkin purée. Well that sounded fun to me and I am, after all, an avid cook. Of course that’s counting on your finding pie pumpkins, but for then I decided to stop worrying and just get my soup made. I had a blog to write. Bread to bake. Dinner to eat. The next day I made a run to our local Safeway and did score a few cans of Libby’s there. That store had a large display of fall baking ingredients (you know the one) that included organic pumpkin. The Libby’s was in a box –a box? — containing maybe 12 cans down on a nearly hidden bottom shelf in the vegetable aisle. Thinking it over, I realized I did have a bit of pumpkin and would wait and see what PRIME brought in a couple of weeks before I panicked. Meanwhile, I’d be careful with my stash.

Scroll down to TIPS to read up on the story. By the way: canned or fresh pumpkin purée freezes easily, so if you use half a can, you can freeze the other half for the next time you make soup or muffins.

Maybe you’ve got some pumpkin squirreled away in your garage, too. I sure hope you do or that you find a can or two somewhere. (If not, scroll down to TIPS and CHANGE IT UP for easy pumpkin subs.) However you figure it out, please try this inexpensive, simple, filling, healthy, and yummy soup:

Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

One of the best things about lentil soup is that it’s done so quickly compared to soups made with beans plus there’s no soaking! If you do all the vegetable chopping with your food processor, it comes together in truly just a snap. By the way, there’s no “pumpkin spice” here. Just lovely herbs like thyme, bay, and sage for a rich-tasting, but oh-so-healthy fall-ish soup. For a vegan version, replace the ham with an extra diced turnip or potato and use vegetable instead of chicken broth. Cornbread is a nice accompaniment or make my Pumpkin-Pepita muffins, which also uses just a cup of pumpkin!
10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) smoked ham cut into fine dice
  • 2 each: large carrots and stalks of celery cut into small dice
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into small dice
  • 1 small turnip trimmed, peeled, and cut into small dice (can sub parsnip or rutabaga or potato)
  • Handful chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon rubbed sage
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 4 plump cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine, can sub broth or water
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups 32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
  • 15- ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin
  • 1- pound brown lentils, well-rinsed

Instructions

  • In an 8-quart soup pot, heat the oil over medium high heat for a minute and stir in the ham, carrots, celery, onion, turnip, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, sage, and crushed red pepper. Sauté, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Add garlic and cook another minute.
  • Pour in the white wine and cook for several more minutes until the wine has reduced by at least half. Pour in the water, broth, tomatoes, and pumpkin. Stir and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to a good simmer. Cook another 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are just done and all of vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Purée if you like or take out a cup or two and purée or mash that and return it to the soup just to thicken it a little bit. Store well-covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer 4-6 months.

Notes

Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.

My Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins use one cup of pumpkin. So if you opened a 15-ounce can to make the soup, you can also make the muffins or freeze the other near-cup of pumpkin for another day. You’ll need to add 2 tablespoons of applesauce to the leftover pumpkin as a 15-ounce cans contain nearly 2 cups of pumpkin, but not quite. (Remember when cans were 16 ounces?!)

or you could also make my Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread:


TIPS:

STUFF TO READ about the pumpkin shortage:

How does the 2021 pumpkin season look?  

Pumpkins will potentially be in short supply this year.  

Last year, 50,000 acres of pumpkins were planted across the U.S. Looking ahead in 2021, we are seeing a shortage due to pumpkin blight, a fungal infection that can potentially wipe out crops. The infection is hitting the Midwest, known as “the keep pumpkins growing region” according to information reported by NPR. 

~FWF (Fifth Wheel Freight)

Crop experts in Illinois have indicated that pumpkin yields are down by about 30% due to poor weather conditions.  Illinois is where most of the pumpkins in the US are grown. Canned pumpkin manufacturer Libby says those lower yields will result in a very short consumer supply of both canned solid pack pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling throughout the holiday season.

While not the largest crisis in your life, let’s talk about a very satisfactory and eco-friendly alternative to the problem. That is, make your own pumpkin puree for you pumpkin baking needs. 

  ~"Canned Pumpkin Shortage Ahead...Use Fresh Instead"/Nutritionxpert.com

~“Early Onset of Pumpkin Blight Could Squash our Thanksgiving Pie Supply”/STLPR


CHANGE UP THE RECIPE FOR PUMPKIN-LENTIL SOUP:

  • Mashed sweet potato or butternut squash could be used instead of mashed pumpkin in the soup.
  • You could change the flavor profile of the soup by swapping in curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, etc for the thyme, bay, and sage. A nice pinch of ground cayenne would perk that group up nicely.
  • Green lentils would work instead of the more readily available brown, but the red lentils probably would cook too quickly in this soup.
  • Skip the ham or use ground turkey or chicken for a lower fat meal. As ham is salty, use a bit more salt if you’re leaving it out.
  • A few tablespoons of tomato paste and a cup of water might replace the can of chopped tomatoes.

REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:

  • As noted in the recipe, this soup freezes well. No freezer space? Time to share food with a friend or neighbor. Another option is to organize a SOUP SWAP, which could be done every other month, once a quarter, etc.:

What’s a soup swap? A group of friends gathers for a party, each bringing several quarts of soup. One quart from each person gets heated and sampled that night (along with plenty of snacks and wine, of course). Before going home, everyone trades soups. To show how it works, we threw our own swap using recipes submitted by the best soup-makers we know-you! (courtesy MIDWEST LIVING)

  • If you buy a ham steak to make the soup, it’ll keep about 5 days well-wrapped in the fridge — plenty of time to make a ham and cheese omelet, a ham sandwich, or ham salad for lunch.
  • Reserve ends and peels of onions, celery and carrot trimmings, and parsley stems in a bag in the freezer for making stock. If you don’t roast chicken yourself, save the carcass from a store-bought rotisserie chicken (it freezes) and make stock from that. Lovely for many soups, stock is also wonderful on its own if you or a friend are seriously under the weather. Really ill dogs can drink homemade chicken stock (no salt, spices, or herbs) and made with just carrots and celery. Add a little rice when they can begin eating more.
  • “The Best Way to Store Celery”/KITCHN
  • “How to Store Onions So They Last Longer Than Your Most Recent Relationship”/BONAPPETIT

Read up here about the 9 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin/HEALTHLINE


LENTIL TALK

LENTILS HAVE 15 GRAMS OF FIBER PER CUP (and 18 grams of protein)….SO… If lentil soup gives you a grumbly tumbly, eat smaller portions and only every other day until your digestive system is used to more fiber. Don’t give up. An easy way to increase daily fiber is by adding an apple and a few baby carrots or oatmeal to your intake. Did you know that raspberries have the most fiber of any fruit?

Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day. (Mayo Clinic)


If you liked this, you might also like my:

Curried Lentil Soup with Fresh Greens (below)

Lentil Soup with Flageolet Beans and Sausage (below)

Helen and Alyce’s Lentil Soup — made with bulk breakfast sausage (below)

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato-Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage (below)

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup (below)

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup (below)

Curried Butternut Squash-Lentil Soup (below)


LIFE GOES ON:

In other news, an early birthday present arrived by delivery the other day. The hub, my main squeeze, searched on line until he found a beautiful 2006 Beetle convertible in great shape and with low miles. How about that for grins and giggles? What a guy!

Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen. It means a lot! P.S. Editing this post a few days later, I just checked on my amazon Libby’s pumpkin order. It now indicates a delivery date of October 4 — 8 cans @$1.99 per can. Good news.

I hope you’re cooking and feeling well,

Alyce

below: Just in case you wondered what flowers I put in the vase.

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  1. Pingback: Ham and Blue Cheese Spread for Game Day | More Time at the Table

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