Pumpkin Rings and Other Food Preservation on a Colorado Homestead

Making pumpkin rings was an autumn ritual, and was just one of the many ways we preserved food for the winter months.

| Good Old Days

Pumpkin Rings 

The lovely prairie autumn was going swiftly by. The cottonwood trees had changed from their rich green leaves to that autumn yellow, unique to cottonwoods, and all of a sudden they stood naked, their leaves swirling on the ground.

Winter was coming to Baca County, Colorado, where my father and mother, Alfred and Eva Meltabarger, had claimed land in 1913 and where they raised 12 children. Food preservation was crucial to our survival.

Cucumbers in a five-gallon jar of salt brine, strong enough to float an egg, would make delicious pickles – pickled cucumbers – for jaded appetites through the winter. Beets sat red in jars ready for a Sunday dinner. Only two green rows, the upper leaves nipped by frost, showed where plump carrots and fat turnips were waiting their turns to take the monotony from winter meals.

The shuck beans and dried corn hung in sacks in the back room. The corn had been cut from the cob in the roasting-ear state and spread thinly on clean flour sacks to dry on top of the shed. A sheet was stretched over the grain, a large rock on each corner holding it taunt and making a little tent to keep out dust and insects. Every hour or so, my sisters and I were given big spoons and sent to the shed roof to lift the sheet and stir the corn; this continued until it was perfectly dry.

Now it was time to dry pumpkin rings. Earlier my brothers had hauled the pumpkins to a bin where the broomcorn seed was stored, in a rock building where they wouldn't freeze. I lifted the pumpkins from the box, handing them to my sisters. The firm ones were put in tubs for Mother at the house; the ones "going soft" were stacked for my brothers to take to the hogs. We girls broke a couple open for the chickens to pick.

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