Owned by fourth generation farmer Mike Hirsch, Hirsch Fruit Farm has been growing apples, pumpkins, and more for 125 years. An hour’s drive south of our kitchen, the farm grows pumpkins just for us.
Pumpkin 5-Spice is a blend of rich roasted Ohio pumpkins (from Hirsch) and grass-grazed milk, spiked with Chinese 5-spice—a warm combination of ginger, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and white pepper. It has the warm, baking spice feel of traditional pumpkin pie, but with a pleasant twist.
This year, our Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream is a blend of two pumpkins: kabocha and buttercup. Kabocha squash is Asian in origin (kabocha means squash in Japanese), and has nutty, sweet flavor. It tastes sort of like a sweet potato married with a pie pumpkin. Buttercup is very similar in look—squat and dark green—but has a round ridge at the bottom. Freshly cut buttercups smell like a fragrant cucumber. But when roasted they become sweet and creamy.
Jeni has been making Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream this way since her early days in the mid-’90s at the North Market (find the recipe on page 108 in Jeni’s first cookbook). Back then, she’d spend her free hours browsing the shelves of the neighboring spice stand searching for inspiration. This is where Jeni smelled Chinese 5-Spice for the first time. It conjured memories of Thanksgiving and her grandmother’s pumpkin pie. At that moment, Jeni knew she had to pair these spices with pumpkin.